top of page

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

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

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, 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 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 to cast your vote when polls are open.

The Billboard Music Awards

Billboard is the top chart to track radio and streaming success for a song or album. These chart positions are what they base nominees and eventual winners off of, leaving little to manipulation. These awards base finalists off fan interactions with music, including album and digital singles sales, radio play, touring, streaming and social media interactions through platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, VEVO, Spotify and other popular online music hubs. By basing winners off the numbers accumulated over time, it helps to eliminate a closed curtain voting process, as well as limit fandoms from flooding general public voting. Knowing fans want to feel directly involved with selecting winners, Billboard opens online voting to fans for both the “Social Media Award” and “Chart Achievement Award.” To vote online, go to where you can vote up to 100 times per day per Award via the voting website. For Twitter voting, you can either click the “Share on Twitter” link that will present you with a pre-written Tweet announcing your online vote, publishing this tweet will count as another vote. You can also change the name of the nominee that is originally written, exchanging it for another nominee's name, casting now what will be considered a new vote. You can also just type the full name of your desired nominee as it appears under the “Top Social Artist” and/or “Chart Achievement” categories with the matching hashtag: #BBMAsAchievement, #BBMAsTopSocial. Sharing to Facebook does not count as a vote.

The iHeartRadio Music Awards

There is not much information on how nominees are selected for the iHeartRadio Music Awards. It might be assumed they decide the nominations based on radio analytics but considering they have categories outside the platform of radio this cannot be confirmed. What is known is that the fans can vote for at least 8 categories this year. One less category than last year's 2019 awards. The fans can vote on Best Lyrics, Best Music Video, Best Cover Song, Favorite Tour Photographer, Best Fan Army, Best Remix, Social Star Award, and Favorite Music Choreography. Fans can cast their votes online at or on Twitter using the applicable nominee’s hashtag or Twitter handle, applicable category hashtag, and the hashtag #iHeartAwards. Their example: I'm voting for #badguy for #BestLyrics at the #iHeartAwards. RT to vote too! Fans can vote up to 50 times per day, per category, per method of voting, and if you vote through the iHeartRadio app then you’ll receive two times the votes. Voting opened January 8th and closes March 27th at 12 P.M. ET/ 9 A.M. PT for the 2020 Awards. Eligibility is open to all ages and locations.

The ACM Awards (The Academy of Country Music Awards)

The Academy of Country Music has recently changed its voting process. The ACM Awards are similar to the CMAs when it comes to membership qualifications, except all memberships are subject to the total discretion of the ACM Board of Directors. As with other award shows, only members can vote for category nominations. Artists eligible for nominations have to have submitted their work during the set submission period but also they are judged on their airplay, chart placement, number of albums sold, and more statistics to measure their success. The ACM Awards used to use Billboard Country Airplay to determine nominations, but they have recently switched to using Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart because it tracks radio play as well as streaming and sales. In the categories voted on by ACM members, the top 20 voted artists will go before a review committee to ensure they meet all eligibility criteria. Additionally, those top 20 voted artists must also have achieved a minimum of 2 percent of the vote within their respective category. In the second round, each voting ACM member could cast up to two votes in each category. The five nominees who receive the most votes in each category will be placed on the third ballot for the final round. For the final round, each ACM member can only cast one vote in each category, deciding the winners. Read The Boot's article on "How Does ACM Awards Voting Work" for more information.

The CMT Music Awards

This is another fan-voted award show. CMT Music Awards open their voting to individuals that are 13+ and are legal residents of one of the fifty states, District of Columbia, or Canada. CMT opens voting for an extended period of time, as specified on their website. For the 2019 awards, the first round of voting ran from May 7th to June 4th, giving people plenty of time to cast their ballots. After that round of voting is closed and the votes are tallied, the top five nominees in each category move on to the final round of voting. Only for the “Video of the Year” category, does voting take place on Show Day starting at 8 A.M. going through 10 P.M. During this time people can vote as much as they’d like. Fans can vote either on or through Twitter by tweeting #CMTawards and #VOTE[ARTIST’S FIRST NAME].

If you want to get more involved in fan communities,

join a Fan Crew or our awesome weekly newsletter!


bottom of page