Each year, the Country Music Association, composed of country music industry professionals, presents the County Music Association Awards – more succinctly known as Country Music Awards or CMAs – to recognize excellence among the latest in country music. In 1958, the Country Music Association formed and became the first trade association for a single musical genre, with the mission to provide a professional and educational resources that would contribute to advancements within the country music industry. Their first Country Music Awards banquet took place in 1967, introduced as a vehicle for furthering the organization's mission and providing honor and recognition to outstanding contributions to the genre and the industry during the past year.
The first ceremony took place in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Municipal Auditorium, with Eddy Arnold taking home the CMA's very first honor for Entertainer of the Year. The first two years' banquets were not televised; 1969 was the first year that the awards ceremony was broadcast live on television for all the viewing public to see. Beginning in 1978, the awards have been broadcast live nationwide on both television and radio stations.
The twelve awards distributed each year include:
• Entertainer of the Year
• Single of the Year
• Album of the Year
• Song of the Year
• Female Vocalist of the Year
• Male Vocalist of the Year
• Vocal Group of the Year
• Vocal Duo of the Year
• Musical Event of the Year
• Musician of the Year
• Music Video of the Year
• New Artist of the Year
In order to qualify as a nominee, Music singles, albums, and videos must have been released during the given year eligibility period, usually from the 1st of July of the previous year through the 30th of June of the ceremony year. Country music charts harts used to determine eligibility for certain categories include Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks Chart, Music Row Country Breakout Chart, and Country Aircheck Chart.
The voting process that determines each year winners involves all Country Music Association industry professional members and consists of three rounds, all supervised by Deloitte and Touche, an international accounting firm. During the first round, members may nominate a single act in each category. From those selections, the top twenty qualifiers are compiled as official nominees for the next round of voting. During the second round, members may select up to five nominees in each category – and the top five nominees selected in each category after the votes have been tabulated become the official nominees for the final ballot. During the third and final round of voting, members choose one nominee in each category as their picks for the winners.
The trophy that Country Music Award winners receive was designed in 1967, made of walnut and marble, signifying the genre's warmth, strength, and durability, constructed to resemble a chart bullet, and decorated with a music note labeled by the caption, "Best Liked World Wide. " Since 1982, fine Italian crystal has been used in place of walnut due to the wood's limited supply. Constructed of hand-blown crystal in Florence, Italy, then assembled in Nashville, TN by Francis & Lusky, the trophy in its finished form is now a crystal obelisk award that stands at fifteen inches tall and weighs seven and a half pounds, with the Country Music Association logo engraved on a die-struck medallion with three levels in polished bronze. After winners are announced, a satin brass nameplate displaying the name of the winner and category is added to each winner's trophy.
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