The CMAA Golden Guitar Awards Information
How they work and why they’re fair.
Any artist that is a CMAA member can nominate or be nominated for the awards. Different categories have different requirements, and all entries are subject to eligibility date criteria (ie release dates).
For most categories, artists or their representatives are required to upload music, images and biographical info. This is to allow and encourage judges to make an informed decision based on artistic merit, rather than simply voting on reputation.
There is a first and a second round of judging.
The first round of judging narrows the field to five finalists in each category.
There are fifty first round judges and they are invited by the CMAA. These judges are chosen from all areas of the industry – they include established and emerging artists, radio hosts, music writers, general media, label reps, publishers, producers, musicians, promoters, retailers, distributors etc. Label involvement in this round is small, and we are careful to ensure that particular interests (ie. major labels, promoters and managements teams) are not over-represented. This is challenging – but we do work hard to ensure that the system is fair for independents.
Voting in this first round is quite a commitment. We ask the judges to spend time on every entry in every category and vote on artistic merit.
For specialist awards (such as Bush Ballad of the Year, Alternative Country Album and Bluegrass Recording) we use small advisory panels from within these sub-genres communities to make sure that the artists that have nominated themselves do in fact fit the description of that music style. Sometimes members of the wider ‘alt’, ‘bluegrass’ or ‘bush ballad’ communities might disagree with some of the artists that make it through, but we do put our faith in these panels to rule out inappropriate entrants. It should be noted that these panels don’t choose the finalists or the winners.
Once the top five finalists of each category are announced, the whole CMAA membership has the opportunity to vote, along with the first round judges should they so wish. It is these votes that determine the winners, which are announced at The Golden Guitar Awards each January. Each member can vote once in each category.
The voting platform for both rounds is handled by an independent awards software company AwardForce, whose clientele include Google, Dell, NSW Government, Australian Government, and many more organisations both nationally and internationally. Deadlines for nominations are strict. Members of the board cannot influence results and no board member is allowed to be a first round judge.
The CMAA has worked hard to make the Golden Guitar Awards as fair as possible. Inevitably, some great music slips through the cracks – but we do give it every opportunity to be heard. And of course, artists that achieve widespread commercial success and acclaim tend to win awards – just like at the ARIAs, Oscars or Grammys. It takes a great deal of talent, perseverance, commitment and audience-connection to reach the top of any field, and it is hardly surprising that this gets rewarded and recognised in peer-voted awards.
The CMAA is proud of its 2016 winners and finalists – and proud of its members for exercising their voting rights with diligence and thoughtfulness.
Who’s on the board?
There are ten people on the board, including five artists (four are independent, one is signed to a major). There’s also a lawyer, a journalist, an indie label owner and a publisher amongst the board’s ranks.
One board member won a Golden Guitar this year. His name is Alan Caswell and he has won seven GGs all up. This was his first since joining the board.
Another board member (Lachlan Bryan) was a finalist but didn’t win (though he’s won one previous – again it was before he joined the board).
All board members are volunteers that believe in building and strengthening a strong and inclusive country music community. The board meets once a month (over skype – to save travel costs).
Is anyone in the country music under-represented on the board?
We try and stand up for all parties, but if anything it is probably the major labels that are under-represented. We’d definitely like to change that over time.
Can the awards be rigged?
No. The voting is managed by an external company and artists or representatives can ask for an audit. Furthermore, the structure of our voting system makes it difficult to campaign for votes whilst the make-up of our membership makes it almost impossible for artists and their teams to ‘gang up’.
Why do you need to be a paid-up member to nominate and/or vote?
It costs money to make the awards happen. Along with the generous support of the Tamworth Regional Council, the CMAA relies upon revenue from memberships to run the nomination and voting process, have the trophies made, update the website etc.
Why can’t everyone vote in the first round?
As mentioned above, voting in the first round is a huge commitment. Some categories have in excess of one hundred entries, and first round voters are asked to give time and consideration to each one. In having just fifty first round judges, each of whom has agreed to make this large commitment, we are trying to avoid a ‘popularity contest’ situation, where votes are cast based on reputation and profile rather than merit. The awards platform includes technology to track whether each judge opened each song/album/bio – those that chose to vote without doing so are unlikely to be part of the first round next year. We believe that to expect the entire membership to consider all of this first round content would be unrealistic – and would result in the profile/popularity contest we’re all trying to avoid. Furthermore, a whole-membership vote in the first round would be likely encourage entrants to campaign heavily for votes – which is not what these awards are about!
Is the CMAA willing to take correspondence and suggestions from its members?
Of course! If you have something to say please click here or contact a board member directly. All correspondence is discussed at board meetings and you will always get a reply.