A Beginner’s Guide to Music Awards

by Dylan Looney

These days, it seems like every major (and every other minor) network has its own music awards show. While it’s always fun to get some musical performances on TV, the awards themselves often take a backseat, appearing as an afterthought. To help clear up this swirling mass of bright lights and teary-eyed speeches, I have highlighted the major award shows, as well as a few of the less-popular ones.

  • Grammys (1959)

Network: CBS

Who Votes: Submitted by record companies and individuals for nomination, voted for by members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS)

The Grammys (short for Gramophone Awards) are considered the granddaddy of all music awards and are typically the most high-profile. While the selections of the NARAS are often controversial, much prestige comes with a Grammy win or even a nomination. For this year’s awards, a 30-second advertisement cost one million dollars, even though ratings have been declining for the past few years.


  • Academy of Country Music Awards (1966)

Network: CBS

Who Votes: Members of the Academy of Country Music Awards

As the oldest of the several country music awards, the ACMs are the genre’s equivalent to the Grammys. Shortly after its creation in 1966, the ACMs were followed by the similarly-named CMAs (which are voted by broadcasters) in 1968. Afterwards came the CMT Music Awards (country’s version of the VMAs) and recently, the American Country Awards in 2010 (Now the American Country Countdown Awards). While all these claim to be the biggest night for country music, the ACM awards remain the most prestigious, especially the coveted “Entertainer of the Year Award.”


  • Dove Awards (1969)

Network: Up

Who Votes: The Gospel Music Association (GMA)

Founded by famous gospel singer Bill Gaither, the Dove Awards recognize accomplishments in the world of Christian music. Awards are given in a wide variety of genres, from pop to country and from rock to Southern gospel. Even Christmas and Instrumental performance awards are given. Although the awards have been hit with some controversy, particularly with the GMA’s definition of what qualifies as “gospel music,” the awards have been taking place almost as long as its secular equivalent, the Grammys.


  • Juno Awards (1970)

Network: CTV (Canada)

Who Votes: Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS)/Expert Panel

The Juno Awards is the Grammys to our friends north of the border in Canada. They keep it almost exclusively Canadian too; only Canadian citizens who have also lived in Canada for the last six months of the eligibility period are eligible (This rule is lifted for the aptly-named “International Album of the Year” award.) The Juno Awards also doubles as the induction ceremony for the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. No word yet on how many awards were won by Robin Sparkles for her smash hit, “Let’s Go to the Mall.”


  • American Music Awards (1973)

Network: ABC

Who Votes: A poll of the public and music-buyers

Created by Dick Clark for ABC after losing their contract with the Grammys, the AMAs differ from the Grammys by selecting winners based on public opinion.  Because of this, the AMAs have less categories and do not focus on less mainstream genres such as classical, jazz, world music, or heavy metal.

  • MTV Video Music Awards (1984)

Network: MTV

Who Votes: Fans via online polls

While the Grammys may be the most established awards program, the VMAs are certainly just as prolific. The VMA ceremonies are often less of a black-tie affair and are more geared to the youth demographic. The wild events have often led to iconic moments, such as Madonna’s wedding dress-clad performance of “Like a Virgin,” as well as conflict and controversy (Miley, anyone?) Another unique feature of the VMA is that the awards go towards music videos instead of the music itself, making it the only awards show of its kind.


  • Billboard Music Awards (1990)

Network: ABC

Who Votes: No one. Winners are decided based on Nielsen data for album sales, downloads, and airplay.

Originally airing on the Fox network, the awards were cancelled in 2007 before being resurrected in 2011 on ABC. The new version of the BBMAs brought a new statuette and award name changes from “____ of the Year” to “Top ____.” What makes the Billboard Awards stand out is their use of cold, hard statistics to determine winners instead of votes of fans or academy members. To quote an Adidas shirt, “Stats Don’t Lie.”

  • Revolver Golden Gods Awards (2009)

Network: VH1 Classic

Who Votes: Fans via web polls

Fans of hard rock and heavy metal have always felt spurned by mainstream awards shows. Many claim the voters are ignorant of the genre, citing controversial wins in the Grammys “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance” category by flute-rockers Jethro Tull in 1989, as well as last year’s victory by comedy-metal group Tenacious D’s performance of Dio’s “The Last in Line.” The Golden Gods Awards is the only awards show centered on hard rock and metal, featuring extended performances by some of the biggest names in classic and modern metal. However, some fans still claim the show focuses too much on classic metal and metalcore artists. Go figure.


  • iHeartRadio Music Awards (2014)

Network: NBC

Who Votes: Fans on iHeartRadio.com, except the Instagram Award, in which voting takes place on, well, Instagram.

The iHeartRadio Music Awards is a newcomer to the awards show scene. The show primarily focuses on pop music, although some country artists, such as Luke Bryan and Brantley Gilbert, have been nominated and won awards as well. The awards have unique categories, like “Best Lyrics” and “Best Fan Army.” The show is the lone music awards show on the NBC network and can be seen as NBC’s attempts to compete with monsters like the Grammys and the AMAs.


Well, there you have it. I hope this shed some light on your awards season. I’m sorry if I missed any important awards shows (as well as the How I Met Your Mother reference).

By the way, if you have any suggestions for albums, songs, etc. for me to review, feel free to put it in the comment section. See you all next week!


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