Why The Best Fan Vote for the ACM’s Is No Vote At All
The ethics and transparency of the ACM system has been under extra scrutiny this year with the revelation that New Artist of the Year nominee Justin Moore is undeniably ineligible by the ACM’s own stated rules, yet the ACM’s are unwilling to do anything to rectify the situation. With The ACM Awards less than two weeks away and nothing being done about the Justin Moore issue, it sets up an interesting scenario if he ends up winning, with fans and representatives of the other two New Artist nominees–Brett Eldredge and Kip Moore—having a legitimate beef with why their artist was overlooked for a nominee who should have been disqualified.
The ACM’s New Artist of the Year, just like their Entertainer of the Year, is presented to the public as a fan voted award, though the final winner is actually chosen by a combination of fan votes and the “professional membership” of the ACM’s. Unfortunately for fans though, just how much their vote counts is not revealed, the results of the fan votes are never published, and the exact ratio of fan votes to professional votes that is used to choose the eventual winner is not public knowledge, if there is a dedicated formula for picking the winner to begin with.
It must have been that “professional membership” quotient that resulted in Luke Bryan’s shocking win for Entertainer of the Year in 2013, because there’s no way the PR machine of Taylor Swift and legions of team Swifty fans armed with cell phones could ever be out dueled by any other artist, especially Luke Bryan at his prominence in early 2013.
The announcement of Luke Bryan as Entertainer of the Year came as a shock to fans, industry, and media alike. Luke Bryan wasn’t even considered a front runner for the award by most pundits entering the show. It certainly shocked Saving Country Music, and I said as much on the ACM live blog at the time. Today also called it “shocking” and a “huge upset.” If anyone was going to upstage Swift, it should have been the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year, and The Voice personality Blake Shelton. Without sly maneuvering behind-the-scenes, it’s hard to see how Luke Bryan would even have a chance in a vote where fan votes were part of the equation.
Exacerbating the heartbreak for Taylor Swift’s fans was the fact that later on, the ACM’s actually announced Taylor Swift as the winner on their website.
The error (or truth when it came to the popular vote) was discovered on May 12th, 2013 and later changed, but not after it sent conspiracy theories swirling that the ACM’s had given Taylor, and the millions of fans that had taken of their time to vote for her on a daily basis leading up to the awards, a raw deal. Of course the thing about a conspiracy theory is you don’t actually have to prove anything, you just have to create doubt. But that’s exactly what the ACM’s did, and have done in their voting system by ostensibly ruling all of the votes cast by fans irrelevant when they chose Luke Bryan as the eventual Entertainer of the Year winner. If the ACM’s wanted to refute this, they could do so by releasing the 2013 vote tallies through a reputable accounting house showing where Luke Bryan ended up in the standings, or an explanation of how the system declared Luke Bryan the winner. But of course they won’t.
So the next question is, why would any fan vote for the ACM New Artist or Entertainer of the Year this year? Their votes didn’t count for the Entertainer award last year, and this year, the front runner for New Artist of the Year isn’t new, and isn’t qualified to receive votes by the ACM’s rules. The whole fan voted element to the ACM Awards seems to be more about creating attention for the awards, and generating traffic for ACM’s web properties. The nominees make videos prodding the fan bases to vote, even though the results may not matter. Some are also asking why Australia was added this year to the countries eligible for voting. As one of the few artists that has focused on the Australian market, this might work out well for Taylor Swift … if those votes actually count.
Then there is the issue if fans should be voting for the ACM Awards in the first place. Kenny Chesney, who won the ACM’s Entertainer of the Year Award four years straight, had some pretty damming words about the ACM’s allowing fans to vote in 2008—the first year the ACM’s allowed fan voting for Entertainer of the Year, and the last year Kenny Chesney won the distinction. In a press conference after the ceremony, Kenny said:
It is an industry complaint that I have. That’s all. I’m so excited to stand up here tonight, and that’s important for everybody to know. I’ve got to choose my words wisely here. I think it’s important to know that I do think the fans should be a part of this awards show. I really do. But I’m probably one of the guys in the audience that didn’t think it should be for Entertainer of the Year. The Entertainer of the Year trophy is supposed to represent heart and passion and an amazing amount of sacrifice, commitment and focus. That’s the way Garth [Brooks] won it four times. That’s the way I won it. That’s the way [George] Strait won it … and Reba [McEntire] and Alabama all those years.
I think it’s a complete disrespect of the artist — what they’ve lowered us to, to get Entertainer of the Year. … Because of that, it really diminishes the integrity of the music that we’re making and how much work goes into it. That’s what really matters. That’s what Entertainer of the Year really is. It’s not about flying somebody to some shows and giving free songs away — and giving this and that — and seeing how hard you can push people’s buttons on the Internet. As much as I love the ACMs and what they’ve done for my life, that’s how I really feel about it.. And I can say that because I won tonight.
I’m honored to be up here for four years in a row to tie Garth’s record, believe me. I may not ever win it again, but I know I’ve achieved this. I just think we all need to be careful how we give this award away in the future. … If somebody stands up here in the future, they should do it because they sacrificed a tremendous amount.
The lack of transparency in the ACM’s system, the fan voting, and the woeful disregard of the rules they do have in place, is eroding the integrity of the awards not just amongst grumbling, disenfranchised traditional country fans and industry gadflies, but amongst fan bases of big, mainstream names like Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood (whose fans feel like she’s continually snubbed), and Entertainer of the Year alum Kenny Chesney.
The question country music fans, the industry, and the ACM’s themselves should be asking is what will happen first: more transparency and stronger adherence to the rules by the ACM brass, or a lowering of the integrity of the awards to a point where their ultimate relevancy comes into question long term?
And as far as voting for New Artist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year through the ACM system, the best thing a concerned country music fan who wants to put the music first could do is not vote at all, and have their voice tallied as one that desires more transparency, more fairness, and a better adherence to their own rules by the Academy of Country Music.
March 27, 2014 @ 11:09 am
You mentioned a ‘reputable accounting house’ which makes me wonder if they employ one. I assume they do but even beyond the fan vote thing this entire award show just smells of a couple a guys deciding who’s gonna win this year based on shady backroom dealings.
March 27, 2014 @ 11:32 am
I’ve never been carried away with Carrie. I can’t listen to power ballads 24 hours aday, year after year. Every song sounds like loud, pounding screaming in my ear.
The ACM’s are a good representation of everything that is wrong with progressive country.
We listen to painfully terrible songs with a frontman who thinks they’re a musical genius.
Just like a riptide, we get sucked in and pulled along.
March 27, 2014 @ 6:45 pm
Lol you’re just gonna LOVE her duet with Miranda then 😛
March 27, 2014 @ 12:14 pm
While I’ve never liked the vast majority of Kenny Chesney’s back catalog (aside from “You & Tequilla”, “Somewhere With You” and “Lindy” most notably)…….and his image has also long gotten on my nerves as a schism between a watered-down Jimmy Buffett and the schmaltzy nostalgia-dripping crooner…………….his speech at the ACM’s is the single greatest thing I’ve respected and applauded Chesney for.
March 27, 2014 @ 1:12 pm
I agree. I remember hearing about Kenny’s speech and thinking the same thing. I prefer more traditional country music but I do agree with what Kenny said. All someone like Taylor Swift has to do is put a video on YouTube practically begging her fans to vote for her and surprise she wins. The ACM Awards have really shown that it does not matter how much love and integrity an artist shows to country music and the fans or how well someone has promoted country music. Now all it takes is enough young fans(mostly teenagers who are probably on the internet all day anyways) for someone to win an award. I actually wondered last year if the reason Taylor didn’t win was because her fans did not vote enough because they assumed she would win or maybe people were actually getting sick of her. Still I wondered how Luke Bryan could win over Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean. At the time I think Jason Aldean’s cheating scandal hurt his image but it is still strange that Luke Bryan could have a bigger fan base than Taylor Swift or Blake Shelton. To me the only nominee that deserves the award this year is George Strait. Say what you want about him, but he has always been fairly traditional. If the awards are fixed I wonder if they will give George the award as a farewell present. I would hate to see George win and hear people complain that the voting was fixed or that it was sympathy votes that got him the award. In my opinion having seen George this past year he deserves it because there is nobody better right now, but having read Trigger’s articles these past few weeks I have really lost all respect for the ACM’s and do not see what’s the point of voting anymore.
March 27, 2014 @ 1:57 pm
“I would hate to see George win and hear people complain that the voting was fixed or that it was sympathy votes that got him the award.”
See, this is the dilemma the ACM’s are facing more and more each year, where no matter what they do, there’s this little voice in the back of people’s head, including many mainstream, passive consumers of music that say, “This thing’s fixed, so it has no meaning.” Even if all the allegations and conspiracy theories are false, the ACM’s should still try to do more to create integrity and transparency in their system. They shouldn’t to shut naysayers like me up, they should do it for their own integrity.
March 27, 2014 @ 1:36 pm
I’m not a big Chesney fan or anything but I’ve never found him to be too disrespectful or to claim to be something he’s not. But I will say that some of his earlier stuff before he became obsessed with the beach was not that bad. Songs like ‘Tin Man’ and ‘All I Need To Know’ are pretty good and they are from around 1994. I’ve always like this song that reached #2 in 1997 right around when he was breaking big.
‘That’s Why I’m Here’
March 27, 2014 @ 1:20 pm
Exactly, I’m a huge fan of Taylor and Miranda and I’m wondering if I have to waste my time voting for an award that is clearly rigged. No surprise if Blake wins this year, even if Taylor wins the fan vote
March 27, 2014 @ 1:40 pm
There are two Rachels on this site. I’m the first comment. I’m changing my moniker.
March 27, 2014 @ 4:58 pm
The only way for fan votes to be fair is if fans are only allowed to vote once, period, even if it was once per device. There are certainly ways to limit it to one vote per IP address.
When “reality competitions”, and especially “awards” shows, allow someone to vote a million times per each device, it’s no surprise that the person whose fan base has time to sit and push buttons 18+ hours a day is the one who’s going to win. And yes, with Luke Bryan winning that year when “Swifties” are all over the place on things like this, even if they were “limited” to only one vote per day, does make it suspicious. I’d expect Taylor (and her cat) to still be winning every fan-based award …
Sure would be nice if people could win on talent again versus popularity on social media. And Kenny’s speech was spot on.
March 27, 2014 @ 5:47 pm
Well even though I wanted to vote for George Strait this year, your article has basically made my final decision in not doing so, because as a consumer, I’m sick and tired of being fucked in the ass by these Suit and Tyrants.
March 28, 2014 @ 4:42 am
….a lowering of the integrity of the awards to a point where their ultimate relevancy comes into question long term’
This has already happened. Years ago.
March 28, 2014 @ 7:51 am
Sure, but now it is happening amongst Taylor Swift fans. There’s thousands of us. There’s millions of them. That’s why I think what the ACM’s have been doing in the past few years really could start to erode the sentiment behind them in a substantial manner.
March 28, 2014 @ 12:43 pm
You have to vote this year. Haven’t you seen all the awesome, “______votes for Justin Moore” spots all over the youtube. Anyone who’s anyone is doing it… And if that aint enough to make you get out the vote. The absolutely amazing piece of film he did with Brantley Gilbert ought to get anyone to make up their mind… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WQLYj-cN5k …although maybe not about voting. That’s 39 seconds of raw performance that solidified my opinions of both Moore and Gilbert.
March 28, 2014 @ 3:49 pm
As much as it pains me to say, I think Luke Bryan actually may have gotten that many fan votes. The dude is selling out NFL stadiums. Blake Shelton & Jason Aldean aren’t selling out ampitheatres. Kenny Chesney played stadiums last year, and they couldn’t give tickets away. I got an email from the Redskins a few days before the show in DC asking me to take a pair of free tickets just to fill the place up. I declined.
March 28, 2014 @ 8:05 pm
But this all happened a year ago. A year ago Luke Bryan wasn’t selling out stadiums. It was his ACM Entertainer of the Year award that really rocketed him to the top tier of country entertainers, and I think that may have been one of the reasons they gave it to him, because it would christen another huge pop country franchise. If Taylor Swift would have won, it wouldn’t have meant any appreciable greater attention to her. Sure, it would’ve helped, but it wouldn’t have darted her to the next level because she’s already at the top. Same could be said for Blake Shelton. Luke Bryan had the most to gain, and he did.
March 29, 2014 @ 11:50 am
Good point. They were in desperate need of someone to fill the “stadium party sellout” spot.
I guess my question would be does winning the award actually make more people want to go to the show?
March 29, 2014 @ 9:38 am
“…there”™s no way the PR machine of Taylor Swift and legions of team Swifty fans armed with cell phones could ever be out dueled by any other artist…”
I think you’re giving her too much credit here. She really hasn’t won as many country awards as she is perceived to have won. The majority of her fans are in the pop music world and don’t pay much attention to country awards. Don’t forget she’s lost in the fan-voted EOTY category before in 2010 to Carrie. Luke Bryan has been able to build himself a formidable army of fans in the last 2 years. Swift only won in 2011 and 2012 because her competition was Brad, Jason, Blake, Kenny, Miranda, Keith Urban, and Toby Keith – none of whose fan bases are very active.
March 30, 2014 @ 12:17 am
Anyone who thinks Luke Bryan has a fan base as big or even close to Taylor Swift is sadly naive and misinformed. Taylor could lose half of her fan base and still able to eat him alive. Luke Bryan is hardly known outside the US…..unlike Taylor who is world famous. And the fact that her red tour is going to countries like China, Japan, Indonesia etc. says a lot about her fan base.
And to add to my point, Taylor is the current Billboard Music and AMA artist of the year winner. The AMA is 100 percent fan voted…unlike the ACM. And the Billboard Music awards results are driven by sales in music…
I really don’t think Taylor will win anything at the ACM this year. Most of her fans are pop fans. Few of them watch the ACM or even bother to vote. That’s the only way Taylor could lose.
And talking about the ACM, they would have to come out with another “pinnacle award” or something…if not Taylor might not even bother attending the award show, and that is on the assumption that she hasn’t already decided to give the show a miss.
April 1, 2014 @ 10:03 am
Dude, country music by Taylor Swift are the only country music that can appeal to any music listener whether it’s country or pop. Her country music can also attract to other places in the world like Japan. That’s why Taylor Swift can make pop too so that way she can be a crossover artist. Her country music is still country music. This applies to her pop music too. Plus, she won this year’s ACM. So now, Taylor Swift will be working on her first album without any country music, which is her fifth album. Taylor Swift can now tackle new genres for new music to come like rock. So she might retire her country music career later this year and moved on to an even bigger music world that Taylor Swift can tackle. Here, I made an article on why country music was collapsed.
I hope you like it. Trigger will love this one too.
April 6, 2014 @ 3:37 pm
Carrie’s fans think that she’sccontinuously snubbed? Well is not her resume bigger than all the other females every year after year not including Taylor? More in sales, number ones, gigs outside of country music genre like, the Sound of Music, cosmetics ads, endorsements, invited to other events like fund raisers etc? And giving thanks to Nashville / country radio and giving thanks to God in just about every speech? Does Taylor and Miranda do that combined? No. And Carrie’s fans also are fans of others as well. They are not stupid and bias.
April 7, 2014 @ 5:47 am
Well you sound like stupid and bias yourself…
Taylor has given back to the community more than you ever know. And she has sold more albums than any artist inany music for the past 7 or 8 years….and she is also the number one digital artist of all time… do your research before you open your mouth.
Meanwhile Taylor will be enjoying her humongous red tour in countries like China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand etc…
Like they say….haters gonna hate.