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What Are the CMT Music Awards?

by Scott Kacsmar
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What Are the CMT Music Awards

The CMT Music Awards just wrapped up their 23rd ceremony on April 7, 2024, with Jelly Roll taking home 3 awards as the big winner of the night.

It may feel like there are a ton of country music award shows each year, and you would not be wrong about that feeling. However, the CMT Music Awards are unique in that they honor country music videos and TV performances. They’re not the country version of the Grammy Awards. They’re more like the country version of the MTV Video Music Awards.

The CMT Music Awards are also unique in that they are voted on squarely by fans instead of critics, journalists, artists or a panel of such. This is all about fan love for the visual medium, which is the music video.

Before heading to the top-rated sportsbooks to see this year’s results, we have included a history of the CMT Music Awards, which goes back much longer than you imagine. In fact, it predates the popularity of the music video itself.

The Origins of the CMT Music Awards

Long before video killed the radio star, the now-defunct Music City News magazine started the Music City News Awards in 1967 to honor the best in country music.

The first award show in 1967 honored more traditional categories such as Artist of the Year for male and female nominees, the song of the year and the songwriter of the year. They even started adding a TV Show of the Year award with Hee Haw winning an absurd 11 times.

It was not until 1985 when Video of the Year became an official award at the show, which came at a time when MTV was getting all the credit for playing music videos such as “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. In 1988, The Nashville Network (TNN) debuted the Viewers’ Choice Awards, which was a fan-vote-based awards show. In 1990, these award shows merged into the TNN Music City News Country Awards.

The 1990s were a pivotal decade for country music in the mainstream as artists gained significant popularity, including Garth Brooks, Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and The Dixie Chicks.

At the end of the decade, in 1999, TNN’s contract with Music City News ended. Country Weekly took over as the new sponsor of the awards show in 2000. But TNN was transitioning away from country music at the turn of the century, and it shipped the awards show to sister network CMT, the Country Music Television station.

In permanently moving the awards show to CMT, they cut ties with Country Weekly and renamed the show in 2002 the CMT Flameworthy Video Music Awards. That is an objectively terrible name for an award show even if the context is the idea of a big crowd waving lighters to a song they enjoy.

But 2002 was when the award show shifted away from standard award categories like Entertainer of the Year and Album of the Year and focused solely on music videos for country artists.

This was still at a time when MTV played actual music videos instead of reality TV series and a reboot of Teen Wolf. Total Request Live (TRL) was a popular show at this time, and kids were still into music videos before social media took over in a few years. But CMT was for country music videos, and starting in 2005, they finally ditched the “Flamethrower” title and went with the simple, effective title of the CMT Music Awards.

It has been an annual ceremony ever since with awards for country music videos voted on by the fans. It also has been known to include bluegrass artists.

In 2022, the broadcast rights to the CMT Music Awards went to CBS and the show was aired in April instead of the traditional June. After spending more than 20 years in Nashville, the 2023 edition of the CMT Music Awards was held at the Moody Center in Austin, Texas, which was also the host site in 2024.

Award Categories at the CMT Music Awards

Starting with the revamped show in 2002, the CMT Music Awards have stayed consistent with a key group of major awards handed out each year. Those major awards include:

  • Video of the Year
  • Male Video of the Year
  • Female Video of the Year
  • Breakthrough Video of the Year (Female and Male)

There have been some discontinued awards that used to honor achievements in comedy like the “LOL (Laugh Out Loud) Video of the Year” or patriotic videos like the “Love Your Country Video of the Year.” It was shortly after 9/11 happened, so patriotic videos were a big deal at the time.

In addition to the 4 major awards, these were the other award categories that were handed out to winners at the 2024 CMT Music Awards:

  • Duo/Group Video of the Year
  • Collaborative Video of the Year
  • CMT Digital-First Performance of the Year
  • CMT Performance of the Year

Starting in 2024, a June Carter Cash Humanitarian Award was also introduced as a non-competitive award named after the country legend and famous wife of Johnny Cash. The purpose of the award is to “recognize an artist, duo/group or industry veteran who demonstrates an exceptional dedication to the community and their fellow artists as Cash did.” Trisha Yearwood was the inaugural winner in 2024.

The Most Prolific Winner in CMT Music Awards History

Finally, we wanted to note that one artist has clearly dominated the CMT Music Awards for the 21st century since it was rebranded as such in 2005.

Carrie Underwood has been an instant sensation since she won American Idol, and her countless music videos over the years have always connected well with the fans who vote on these awards.

She is a dynasty of her own making. Underwood has won a staggering 25 CMT Music Awards, giving her the most wins in several categories:

  • Underwood has won Video of the Year, the top prize, an incredible 10 times in her career.
  • Underwood has won Female Video of the Year 8 times, taking the record from Miranda Lambert, who won it 6 times, including a 5-year run in 2010-14.
  • Underwood won Female Video of the Year 6 years in a row in 2015-20.
  • Underwood has won Collaborative Video of the Year 4 times, which is another record.
  • Underwood, Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean are tied with 2 wins each for CMT Performance of the Year.

As for the most successful male artist in CMT Music Awards history, Kenny Chesney won a record 5 times for Male Video of the Year, though he only won once for Video of the Year with “Young” in 2002.

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Scott Kacsmar
NFL football picks are Scott Kacsmar's expertise, serving as his main focus. He has contributed to various sports websites and blogs, such as NBC Sports, ESPN Insider, FiveThirtyEight, and, JoeWager. Originating from Pittsburgh, Scott maintains a love-hate connection with the Pirates.

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