Editor’s Note: An inordinate number of people have requested comment on the 2022 CMT Awards which took place on April 11. So here are some comments.
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Country music as a genre is unique in that it has its own dedicated award organizations, and two of them in fact, both of which have been around for over 50 years. But neither are the CMT Awards.
The CMA, or Country Music Association, was established as a trade organization in 1958 to help the country music industry cope with the meteoric rise of rock and roll that was driving country music out of the music market. popular. In 1967, the CMA decided to create an awards branch of the organization, awarding annual trophies for achievement in the genre. The first prizes weren’t even televised, it was simply to reward the best talent. 1968 was the first year fans could log on to see CMA awards and performances.
The CMA does more than hand out prizes. The organization advocates for the industry in Congress and government. They organize educational programs for music and charity programs for the community. The Country Music Hall of Fame also grew out of the CMA organization, and a select committee established by the CMA chooses inductees into the Hall of Fame each year. The CMA is not just an award ceremony. It is the de facto governing body of country music.
The Academy of Country Music, or ACM, actually predated the formation of the CMA awards by a year, awarding its first awards in April 1966, although the ACMs were largely a response to the CMAs, much like the CMA Awards were a response to ACM by launching an awards arm. Artists from California and the West Coast – aka Capitol Records in Los Angeles and the “Bakersfield Sound” – felt they were being overlooked by the Nashville-based Country Music Association. Although a more dedicated awards organization, even the ACMs did not televise their awards for the first six years, only adopting television support in 1972.
The first winners of the ACM Awards belonged to the Bakersfield Sound era: Buck Owens, Bonnie Owens, Merle Haggard, Glenn Campbell, etc. But in 1972, the ACMs branched out to showcase all country music and became a staple of the annual awards regimen for both country music and American popular culture in general. Although often considered the other prizes awarded to CMAs, many consider the ACMs to be just as prestigious.
Of course, for many older, more traditional, country music purist fans, these two award-winning organizations have long recognized each other in allowing pop music into their ranks. In fact, in 1974, after Olivia Newton-John won a CMA Award, a host of more traditional country artists met at George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s and formed their own organization called “ACE,” or Association of Country Entertainers. Others involved were Porter Wagoner, Jim Ed Brown, Dottie West, Brenda Lee, Faron Young, Conway Twitty, Hank Snow, Mel Tillis and Dolly Parton.
The ACE didn’t last very long, but it helps illustrate that even among the two country music awards, there are often disputes over who gets awarded, resulting in the splintering, and sometimes again l bursting because groups of musicians have the feeling that they are not. be fairly represented. This is how the ACMs came into being, and later we would see the rise of more independent awards organizations, such as the Americana Music Association or the Dale Watson-founded Ameripolitan Awards.
So where does the CMT or Country Music Television Awards fit into all of this?
In other words, they don’t. The CMT Video Awards are a glorified, fan-voted, network-based infomercial with no significant history, relevance, or importance to the broader context of country music. CMT is a dying network covering the dying medium of non-demand music videos, with 90% of their programming including reruns of one sort or another. This basic understanding that the CMT Awards are only for the CMT Network has always been the approach of most people in the music business. When someone dies, no one quotes the amount of CMT rewards they earned. When articles are written about an artist, or whether or not their career is worthy of the Hall of Fame, CMT awards are not considered.
That’s not to say the CMT Awards are a complete waste of time. Since people are looking at them, they have some semblance of relevance for something. In 2022, the CMT Awards transitioned from airing on CMT to airing on CBS, where the ACM Awards aired before moving exclusively online. CBS and CMT are owned by Viacom. This boosted viewership for the CMT Awards, and significantly, even though it was still lackluster compared to the previous era of awards shows. But what it also illustrated was the irrelevance of CMT. The network is now so forgotten in the cultural zeitgeist that it can’t even legitimately host the one event every year that people could tune into.
Alongside major media such as Billboard, Rolling Stoneand others devoting over-the-top coverage to the CMT Awards in 2022, after the CMT Awards, otherwise critical and skeptical country music fans who may never be taken to death praising a country music awards show – let alone from CMT – offered tempered, but positive on this year’s awards, as artists such as Parker McCollum and Cody Johnson took home awards, along with Maddie & Tae, Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood.
But again, the CMT Awards don’t matter. Just because one of your favorite artists, or artists more sympathetic to the cause of country music, wins these awards doesn’t mean they’re suddenly relevant. It would be hypocritical. This perhaps helps further symbolize that country music is once again relevant in country music, and that more mainstream and substantial artists are on the rise. But again, that’s just the CMT Awards.
Some were delighted that George Strait won a video award this year, the first of his storied Hall of Fame career. But the fact that George Strait had to wait until 2022 and nearly a decade after his retirement on the road to win a CMT Award should tell you everything you need to know about the CMT Awards.
Same goes for the fact that whenever CMT does anything these days, they invite the Nelly, triple accused of rape on set in their feeble attempt to present a “woke” program. It tells you everything you need to know about the symbolism of this woke agenda, just like when the CMT Awards gave their first Equal Play Award to Jennifer Nettles, who was of course part of kick LBGT member Kristen Hall out of Sugarland.
Going after the CMT Awards is like going after the little boy in school. It’s easy to pick, and therefore, it’s not really cool. It also risks somehow legitimizing that third-rail glorified infomercial that even most country fans continue to ignore. Again, let’s not be silly and act like they’re completely immaterial. Like mainstream country radio, some still pay attention. But they are dinosaurs of a dying medium. Switching from CMT to CBS only prolongs the extinction, as the entire TV medium depreciates amid a wave of cord-cutting by young consumers, and people care less about price discounts in general.
Give credit to Leslie Fram and the folks at CMT for doing what they can to keep their flagship program going and lobbying CBS to air it on their flagship network to help keep it alive for a few more years. , and to try to offer something a little more avant-garde in country music.
But somehow, in 2022, a lot of people seemed to lose focus. It’s still the CMT Awards. And ultimately, they just don’t matter.