54th Annual CMA Awards face unprecedented changes during pandemic


NASHVILLE, Tenn., (WKRN) — It’s country music’s biggest night to shine, but officials with the CMA Awards are dealing with some of the biggest changes in the awards show’s history.

For the first time in its 54 years, the CMA Awards will be held at the Music City Center and it won’t be open to a public audience.

“This is not a forever change. This is a COVID change,” CEO Sarah Trahern said. “We love being at Bridgestone with so many fans in our business, so many people in our business, but certainly we have all had to pivot repeatedly in this year of COVID.”

With tickets closed to the public, Butch Spyridon with the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. said the city is counting on the national broadcast.

“We need it, and we need it to be good, and we are really looking forward to it,” he said.

Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker will host the live CMA Awards show unlike any other.

“It will certainly be different than being at Bridgestone, but I think they are going to set the bar high to try and make it a great experience for the fans,” Trahern added. 

There may be a few zooms or remote performances, but Trahern said there will be three stages inside the MCC and as many artists live in the room as possible with hopes that fans at home can feel the renowned intimate country music engagement.

“Anytime Nashville can put something out that is kind of above the noise in terms of what we are all dealing with, from the election to COVID to economy, it’s exponentially more important than in a normal year,” Spyridon proclaimed.

“The MCC will give the awards show a sense of place,” he continued. “It is important as the show usually brings $15-20 million in direct spending to the city.”

CMA officials visited about a dozen venues before settling with the move across the street. As for audience size and configuration, the CEO said they have at least five scenarios they can put into place depending on where the city is regarding COVID protocols.

“All year long we’ve had the idea that if the awards show can bring the music to people all around the country in what’s been such a difficult year and really be as live as possible and really feel like we are all in this together the night of Nov. 11 would be wonderful,” Spyridon said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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