A Trip to the ACM Awards

Vegas went country again this year at the 52nd American Country Music Awards, and for several years President Gene Lungdren has been one of the buyer judges. This year was no exception. So what is it like to judge the ACM Awards? Lungdren spills on what it’s like to judge, what goes on behind-the-scenes and more!

What does being an ACM Award judge entail? First, you must be nominated by other producers, agents and managers. Nomination criteria includes years of industry experience— including live concerts (Gene’s specialty) and passion for music! It is a top honor being included as a judge. Judges must listen to a ton of music, especially in new artist categories where they might be hearing the artist and song for the first time.

Judging begins in November with nomination rounds. All judges are expected to nominate an artist in each respective category to win the award. Categories range from best new male and female artist and best new vocal group to entertainer of the year and song of the year. So many categories! This is the most challenging part of the judging experience. These days, judges are provided protected link downloads that must be accessed from an authorized computer. In the past, judges were sent 150 CDs—which were great because judges could cruise in the car and review. The process has become more restricted and protected than in the past, making judging slightly more difficult.

Speaking of the difficulty, judges aren’t provided a list of artists to pick from for nominating. Each judge must listen to all the provided music and think about who each individual artist is. That’s a lot of memory and recall!

It gets a little easier in round two. The second round of voting is due in January. Basically, judges are provided a drop down menu of all nominations. We’re talking about a VERY large group. This round narrows the nomination list down to 5–10 choices.

The final round of voting occurs in February. This year voting closed on March 6. After that, all the judges learn who won at the show itself—along with the rest of the world. As you can imagine, this process is sensitive and must be handled with care. Nobody wants an Academy Awards repeat.

What happens next? Showtime, baby. The live show is a 3-hour television spectacular. This year it held was at new T-Mobile Arena. The show is played live on the East Coast, so everyone must be seated by 4:30 p.m. This is an ENORMOUS production, and complicated to coordinate with many top stars performing at least one song.

What could be better than that? We’ll tell you: pre-show and after-show parties. This year Gene attended events at The Joint in the Hard Rock hotel. Saturday night entertainers were Lady Antebellum and Kelsea Ballerini to name a few. The after show party, which started at 9 p.m. following the show, featured Walker Hayes, LANco, Scotty McCreery and others.

Everything is sold out and it really is Country comes to Las Vegas.

The ACM Awards is a spectacular production with many moving parts. We’re thrilled to play a crucial role in such show. Bravo, ACM Awards! See you next year.

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