The 24-hour period beginning at 8 p.m. on Aug. 19 saw a wealth of country events in Nashville: No. 1 parties for Jake Owen, Brad Paisley and Tim McGraw, and a dinner/listening party for Keith Urban’s forthcoming album “Fuse.”
There’s a reason all those events took place during a short span: The second round of online balloting in the 47th annual Country Music Assn. (CMA) Awards opened Aug. 20 and runs through August 30. One or more of those celebrations might have been timed for other reasons, but Big Machine Label Group president/-CEO Scott Borchetta made it quite clear that the awards were forefront in his mind when he addressed the audience at the No. 1 party for McGraw’s track “Highway Don’t Care.”
“Song, single, video,” he said, dropping not-so-subtle hints about categories where “Highway” could be recognized. “There’s a little awards show coming up.”
The actual show date is still a few months away—Nov. 6 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, to be exact—but the zealous promotion has begun for a reason. Those awards mean a lot to an artist’s career, and it’s in the second round that the final ballot takes shape.
“Whenever that show airs, record sales go up, different things happen,” CMA senior manager for membership and balloting Brandi Simms says. “You look at all these different acts, whenever they’re on the CMA Awards, they get a whole new fan base and they really get to elevate their success.”
Unlike the first and last rounds, in which the electorate can select only one entry in each category, the second round allows CMA members to tab up to five finalists. But while there are more names and titles to sift through, the voting period is actually a scant eight days. That’s by design, to allow the independent accounting firm, Deloitte & Touche, to scrutinize the votes for any irregularities and still have time to prep the ballot for its announcement on Sept. 10. Sheryl Crow and Florida Georgia Line will unveil the nominees during the ABC telecast of “Good Morning America” exactly one month before the final ballots are sent on Oct. 10.
The voting in this round has a big effect on the storylines that the public and consumer media will generate once the finalists are revealed, and every sector of the industry—radio, labels, publishing, touring, etc.—has a stake.
“It’s the biggest reason that people become members of CMA, is to have their voice heard,” Simms says. “So if you’re a member of CMA, you should want to do it. You can’t complain about the winners if you didn’t participate.”
To assist with the current round of CMA Awards nominations, Billboard has compiled chart data reflecting the eligibility period’s most successful charting country artists and titles. (below). While the CMA has already chosen semi-finalists, these charts are meant to provide context to help voters choose from among those lists. Our rankings are based on Billboard chart performance for the issue dates that correspond with the CMA Awards eligibility period (July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013). Each of the rankings represents cumulative sales or airplay, according to Nielsen SoundScan and Nielsen BDS, for titles and artists in the weeks that they appeared on the respective chart during the eligibility period.