A blog post here raised questions last week about country star Justin Moore’s eligibility for the ACM Award for New Artist Of The Year based on the fact that Moore has two albums that had sold 550k and 577k respectively as of 9/18/13 and the ACM’s voting criteria specifically (and still) say:
Any solo artist that has sold 500,000 copies of a previously released album, according to Nielsen Soundscan, are not eligible for this category.
The blog came after Justin Moore’s label Valory Records (which is part of Big Machine Label Group) told Country 92.5 FM in Hartford to pull audio of me making this point on air, and the Saving Country Music blog picked up the mantle of asking exactly what was going on. Well, we have our answer.
Today, Justin Moore was named 1 of the 3 finalists for the New Artist award, along with Brett Eldredge and Kip Moore. CEO of the Academy Of Country Music Bob Romeo specifically addressed Justin Moore’s New Artist eligibility in a statement to Music Row:
“The Academy of Country Music Board of Directors – which I have been a part of for 25+ years – has a long history of supporting new country music acts. The Board finds that being in step with trends and acknowledging the country music landscape has improved our process and guaranteed the best candidates over the years. This decision is in line with our criteria, and the Board’s right to be flexible in our efforts to be inclusive vs. exclusive of a young artist who has had budding success. We have to remember that Justin is a new face to mainstream music fans, media, and the like. He has earned this nomination and we congratulate him and all ACM Award nominees, and look forward to celebrating their work at the Awards in April.
This reads as an admission that Justin Moore was not eligible according to the letter of the ACM voting criteria. It also implies the rules are there to be negotiated away and/or ignored when inconvenient. Good to know!
Let’s be clear: this is not about being anti-Justin Moore. I devoted a major portion of my previous post on this issue to explaining how Justin Moore had arguably been overlooked by country awards shows based on his sales and the fact that he’s made several trips to #1 since his 1st in 2009. I get that he lacks in name recognition to match his commercial success. I get that putting him in the New Artist category is a way to guarantee him a performance slot at April’s ACM Awards, to help put him on the road to more name recognition. But…what about the newer act who might’ve been that 8th semifinalist if Justin weren’t in the category, and what about the newer act who might’ve been the 3rd finalist if Justin weren’t in the category?
Too, Romeo’s response sure makes it clear how the ACM treats its own rules, doesn’t it? For me, it actually raises more questions. Is this a case where the ACM got caught not doing proper factchecking and just doesn’t want to take away a nomination from a guy already in the mix? Is the “right to be flexible” true for the rules across all categories, and if so, doesn’t that leave a lot of room for labels and other power brokers to influence eligibility and potentially, inclusion at any stage of the nomination and voting process?
If nothing else, this has proven to be a window into how these industry organizations work when it comes to awards, and it’s more reason than ever to see awards not as merit stamps but as nothing more than promotional platforms.