A trio of young acts with bicultural appeal and formidable online followings are the leading contenders for the inaugural Billboard Mexican Music Awards (Premios Billboard de la Musica Mexicana), which will air Oct. 27 on Telemundo.

The awards mark the first time a major U.S. TV network has produced and aired a show dedicated to regional Mexican music, the top-selling genre of Latin music in the United States.

Leading the charge is Gerardo Ortiz (Del Records/Sony), who didn't debut on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart until JuneJuly 2010, but is a finalist in 10 categories. The narcocorridos singer, who narrowly survived an ambush in Colima, Mexico, in March, is a contender for artist, new artist, album (for Ni Hoy Ni Manana) and download artist of the year, among other categories. In the norteño album of the year category, Ortiz's 2011 album Morir y Existir: En Vivo and 2010's Ni Hoy Ni Manana are two of the four finalists.

Up for nine awards each are Larry Hernandez (Mendieta/Fonovisa), who like Ortiz sings highly engaging narcocorridos in a "progressive" norteño format, and Espinoza Paz (Fonovisa/UMLE), a romantic banda singer who has also established himself as a leading songwriter in regional Mexican music. The two artists will compete for artist, male artist and songs artist of the year.

Yet another new act, Julion Alvarez y Su Norteño Banda (Disa/UMLE), is up for eight awards, while tops among veteran artists is La Arrolladora Banda el Limon (Disa/UMLE), up for six awards. Intocable and Vicente Fernandez (Sony) are each up for five awards, while El Trono de Mexico, Jenni Rivera (Fonovisa/UMLE), Voz de Mando (Disa/UMLE) and Los Bukis (Fonovisa) are vying in four categories each.

The list of finalists reflects the recent success of new artists in regional Mexican (see Latin Notas, above). And underscoring the growing importance of digital distribution and promotion to the genre, digital track sales are being factored into the formula for determining the finalists for all artist and song of the year categories, a first for a Billboard awards show on Telemundo.

Billboard Mexican Music Award finalists are determined by chart performance as chronicled in Billboard magazine and on Billboard.com during the eligibility period of Aug. 28, 2010, through Aug. 20, 2011. Award categories are based on sales data provided by Nielsen SoundScan and radio airplay monitored by Nielsen BDS.

Reflecting the wide range of regional Mexican music, awards will be given in 32 categories, including overall artist of the year, song of the year and album of the year categories, as well as categories in the banda, norteño, mariachi/ranchera and duranguense/grupero subgenres. In addition, Billboard will also honor the top labels, publishers, producers and songwriters of the year.

The awards, presented by State Farm, will take place at Los Angeles' Orpheum Theatre. For a complete list of finalists, go to billboard.com/mma.