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The business of awards

Country Standard Time Editorial, June 1997

It's easy to get lost in the hoopla of the various music awards shows. The highlights for the country crowd are the ACMs and the CMAs, otherwise known respectively as the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association.

And the Grammys have a slew of country awards as well.

These are big nights for the artists in terms of not only winning the awards, but also gaining recognition from wining or just getting a nomination plus a subsequent boost in record sales.

But the awards leave us scratching our heads for a few reasons. Lyle Lovett's "The Road to Ensenada" certainly was one of the finest country albums of 1996. But a funny thing happened to the long tall Texan on the way to the winner's circle at the Grammys. He hardly received any airplay on country radio at all. MCA made a push to get Lovett heard on radio, but the smart folks at radio decided it wasn't good enough. Never ever accuse radio programmers of having an ear for good country music.

BR5-49 is certainly a breath of fresh air in the current music scene where their lively blend of new and old songs are a most welcome contrast to paint-by-the-numbers music often coming out of Nashville.

BR5-49 received an nomination for best new group (losing out to Ricochet at the ACMs), but they also barely registered any airplay for their album and EP or singles on mainstream country radio.

The biggest joke has to be the ACM nomination of Burnin' Daylight for best new group. The trio had not even released an album yet - only a single had been - when the nominations came out. (And when the record was released, it wasn't earth shaking by anyone's ears.).

In previous years, John and Audrey Wiggins received nominations even though their album had been released a few years before. They probably received the nominations because the categories were so bereft of contenders.

If you're getting the idea, the awards really don't mean that much, you're right.

The bottom line is don't place much credence on any of these awards.They certainly don't always necessarily reflect artistic merit. In fact, many deserving artists don't receive their just due. And when they do, it still leaves you wondering how someone deserving like Lovett got nominated when he received no airplay.

Fortunately, other times, artistic merit, airplay and awards (read "Patty Loveless") go hand in hand.

This all reflects the dichotomy between what radio and those doling out the awards pick as "worthy" country music, only leaving fans shaking their heads about the business of country music.