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Does Your Vote Count? (How Award Shows Decide Winners)

Updated: Jun 30, 2022

Written by: Savannah Alday


More and more award shows are catching flack for a lack of diversity. This has opened up the conversation on how award shows decide winners. Some award shows let fans decide, while others leave us in the dark as to how nominees are selected. To help, we’ve researched some of the major music award shows, to pull back the curtain and show you how these award shows decide their winners.


The GRAMMY Awards

The GRAMMYs are put on by The Recording Academy. The Recording Academy “celebrates artistic excellence through the GRAMMY Awards — music's only peer-recognized accolade and highest achievement.” They have an extensive voting process for the GRAMMY Awards. First, artists have to submit their music to the Recording Academy. Then a committee organizes all the entries into categories. The Recording Academy members then submit their first-round votes on the artists' submissions. These voters are people with creative or technical credits on at least twelve released songs. This includes songwriters, producers, label CEOs, etc. Their votes decide who will be the top nominated for the awards. The votes are then organized by the Nominations Review Committee. The Review Committee will send out the list of final nominees to the voters who then cast their final ballots, deciding the winners. Read more about the Grammy Awards voting process here.


The CMA Awards (The Country Music Association Awards)

The CMA Awards are decided by CMA members. To be a CMA member, you must work in the music industry and make the majority of your income from country music. Members are required to pay an annual membership fee. The first CMA Awards ballot is for nominations. CMA members are allowed to nominate one artist per category who has released music in the past 12 months. The top 20 nominees in each category advance to the second round of voting. The only exception is the "Entertainer of the Year" award. Only the top 15 nominees advance and every nominee must have a minimum of 10 votes.


Next, round two of voting begins with voters voting on one of the top nominations in each category. The results are organized by an independent accounting firm, Deloitte & Touche LLP, and the top five nominees in each category move on to the final round of nominations. In the final ballot, CMA members vote for only one nominee in each category. The Deloitte & Touche agents who calculate the votes are the only individuals who know the results before the CMA Awards. Throughout the voting, process members are not required to vote in every category. Read The Boot's article on "Everything You Need to Know About the Awards Voting Process" for more information.


The American Music Awards (The AMAs)

“The world’s largest fan-voted award show,” as they like to be known. The AMAs is the biggest fan-voted award show that happens every year, where the fans indirectly decide the nominees. Nominees are selected by fan interactions reflected in Billboard Magazine and on Billboard.com, including physical album and digital song sales, radio play, streaming services, social media activity, and touring. Billboard and its data partners Nielsen Music and Next Big Sound gage these measurements. Voting is then totally left in fans' hands. When the AMA’s open voting, fans just need a Google account to vote! Visit goo.gle/AMAsVote to cast your ballots. You can vote up to 30 times per day, per Google account and voting is open for an extended period, with the 2019 voting taking place from October 24th to November 20th.


The Video Music Awards (MTV/VMA)


Out of all awards shows, the VMAs are the most secretive with their selection/voting process, even though they advertise themselves as being the awards of the people. The VMA’s like the AMA’s want fans to believe that they are deciding the winners, but there's a lot of “in case” terms in their official voting rules. There is almost no public information on how the VMA’s select nominations, However, there is a specialized voting committee for what the VMA’s consider ‘Professional’ categories, like Best Direction, Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography, Best Choreography, and Best Editing. Unlike the Grammys who openly state the qualifications of voting members, the VMAs don’t have any information on committee members, so it is not clear who is actually voting for these ‘professional’ categories.

For all other categories, fans do decide the winner. MTV tallies the votes and declares the winner. But if the voting process is interrupted, tampered with the VMAs reserve the right to select the winners themselves. Their voting rules continue by stating that the VMAs “reserve all rights to cancel, terminate, amend, modify, extend or suspend the voting process and reserves the right in its sole discretion to determine the winners,” restating that at the end of the day voting is really determined by MTV/VMAs. We do not say this to deter you from participating or watching the VMAs. There is no record that they have ever utilized these clauses to override fan votes. You can go to www.mtv.com/vma/vote/ to cast your vote when polls are open.