The Country Music Association (CMA) was created in Nashville in 1958. According to the association’s CEO Sarah Trahern, it was the ‘first trade association dedicated to any genre.’ But it was only in 1967 that the organization started giving out awards. Their first award presentation happened at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium in an untelevised ceremony where Eddy Arnold took home the Entertainer of the Year award. The second annual CMA was taped and televised by NBC, then CBS took over in 1972, and it was finally turned over to ABC in 2006.
And throughout its 56 years of tradition, the CMA Awards stage has been home to some of the most unforgettable moments in the genre and witness to controversial ones. It has also become an image of what success looked like in country music. Trahern shared that artists often speak growing up watching the Awards, practicing their acceptance speeches in front of the bathroom mirror, and coming in a full circle to be the ones on stage inspiring the next generation.
The Advantages of Winning a CMA Award
Recognition of the art.
One of the main benefits of winning a CMA is industry-level recognition of your art.
The CMA has 7,300 plus members from more than 30 countries, all employed full-time in the country music industry, who determine the winners in each category. All eligible entries in individual artist categories are qualified through musical performance and the artist’s overall contribution to country music. On the other hand, track awards are initially evaluated by their chart performance. But for the highly regarded Entertainer of the Year, the artist must display the greatest competence in all aspects of the entertainment field. That includes recorded and in-person performance, public acceptance, leadership, and overall contribution to country music. And the voting is done through three rounds of balloting. So, it’s definitely a strict process of filtering which ones deserve to be nominated and ultimately to win.
More importantly, CMA is the very first organization of its kind and has a long-established reputation in the industry, so it’s a big deal to be acknowledged.
Getting your name within the radar of listeners.
According to Jocelyn R. Neal, professor of music at the University of North Carolina and author of Country Music: A Cultural and Stylistic History, the viewership for the CMAs reaches a little less than half of the Grammys, and a third of that of Oscars. And in the 2022 CMA Awards night, the CMA recorded 7.57 million viewers, with an 11% gain from their all-time low 6.83 million viewership the year before.
For rising country artists, this is an avenue for country music fans (and even non-fans) to get to know their music. Usually, these awards shows generate enough curiosity for people to check out new sounds and see what the hype is all about. And not only that, it also helps introduce your name to industry members – artists, musicians, directors, and producers.
Cementing your name in the industry.
For those who have been in the industry for quite some time, winning a CMA award helps in legitimizing your name and cementing your position. Winning in any category, especially the Entertainer of the Year, can definitely boost your status and even put you into an entirely new level.
Collaborations within and beyond the genre.
And last but not the least, winning a CMA award opens more doors to opportunities within the genre, such as artist collaborations. There are also a number of opportunities to write or record songs for other things, just like in movies or series.