Editorial: The Dove Awards, What To Think?

As many editorials do these days, this started off as a Twitter dialogue with my followers @cmzine.  This is GMA week, with the Dove Awards happening Wednesday and airing on Sunday.  This brings up so many questions that I can’t possibly tackle all of them in an easy flow of conversation, but I’ll try to cover as much ground as possible, then see what you think about the award show and the topics that it brings up.

Who or what is the GMA?

To start, let us take a closer look at the organization that is the Gospel Music Association.  What do they consider themselves to be?  Well, let’s start with their mission statement:

To expose, promote and celebrate the Gospel through music.

Founded in 1964, the Gospel Music Association serves as the face and voice for the Christian/Gospel music community and is dedicated to exposing, promoting and celebrating the gospel through music of all styles including pop, rock, praise & worship, black gospel, R&B, hip hop, southern gospel, country, and more.

The GMA community consists of 4,000 members includes agents, artists, church leaders, managers, promoters, radio personnel, record company executives, retailers, songwriters, and other industry visionaries.

The GMA produces the GMA Dove Awards, GMA Music Week and IMMERSE: GMA’s Music Training Experience.

So that is what they say they are.  Sounds about right, doesn’t it?  I mean, besides that some of those genres are rather out of date and one somewhat racially related (as if race has anything to do with the body of Christ).

But who are they really?  They are people with a vested interest in seeing certain artists find their way onto the podium.  There are two types of members, “Professional” and “iMember”, depending on their direct involvement in the industry.  Either way, you pay your way in for a rather nominal fee.

What is more telling is what each type of member gets:

GMA MEMBER BENEFITS Your browser may not support display of this image.
GMA EVENTS  Professional iMember
Voting Rights – GMA Dove Awards – Members receive the exclusive opportunity to determine who the Dove, Christian music’s biggest award, is given to. All Categories 4 Categories
Advanced & Discounted Ticket Purchase – GMA Dove Awards – Members will have the opportunity to purchase tickets for the GMA Dove Awards before tickets go on sale to the public. Seating is a first come, first serve basis. Included Included
Complimentary Nominee Ticket – GMA Dove Awards –Nominmated members receive one (1) complimentary ticket to the awards show. Included N/A
Production Submission – Dove Awards – Professional members have opportunity to submit considerations for Dove Awards voting process Included N/A
Perfromance Opportunity – Dove Awards – Members are given priority on Dove Award performance slots. Included N/A
Sound Heathcare- GMA offers an opportunity for all domestic Individual GMA members to obtain comprehensive health insurance coverage. Included N/A
Billboard Magazine – One Year Print Subscription with Online Access to Billboard.biz – GMA members save 44% off the annual cover price, and get full online access to Billboard.biz, the Billboard Bulletin and over 50 years of article and charts Archives (a $240 retail value!) Included Included
Homecoming Magazine is offering all GMA Members a subscription price of $10 a year, a 50% discount! So instead of getting six issues a year at $21.95, GMA Members receive it for only $10 – that is a 54% discount Included Included
Abenity Discounts – Access to over $4000 in savings a year on daily items- The GMA has teamed up with Abenity to offer our members discounts of over $4000 on daily items! Click here for a list of some sample savings!

What we have there is evidence that those that are directly involved in making sure that certain artists get exposure are also the ones who are voting on the ones who get that exposure.  This would be like the marketing director of the New York Yankees getting a significant vote in who gets to be in the annual All Star game.

What it also means is that artists that are associated with larger labels have a stronger influence than bands with independent labels, generally.  Think about it, if you are in charge of a large label with hundreds of employees, are you not going to make sure that all of your employees are GMA members?  That way, they will all get a significant vote and influence for your artists.  A band on a small, independent label has no chance, even if they are more popular, sold more albums and/or created a better piece of art that year.

Knowing all that, do we still care?

Now that we know who is in charge of the Dove Awards and a little bit about why these are the artists nominated, do we still care?  There is a way to look at it and say yes and there is another way to say no.  I want to look at the “yes” answer first, to show that there is a good reason for these award shows to exist.

Let’s look back at their mission. “To expose, promote and celebrate the Gospel through music.”  Does the Dove Awards, in some way, accomplish this mission?  Are we only interested in the music, or in what the music is accomplishing?  The nominated artists have absolutely in an overall sense edified the body of Christ and reached some group or another with the Gospel of Christ.  Say what you will about the music, we all have differing tastes in music, but these people love Jesus Christ (we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, though there are wolves among sheep in every part among the body of Christ) and are doing more than most of us to share that with their gifts.

On the other hand, I don’t care at all.  Here at CMZ, we cover a wide variety of genres (not all, but many), even some that I don’t particularly care much for.  However, I am biased.  If you don’t think that reviewers are biased, you must think that they are robots.  I like alternative and punk rock more than anything and my reviews generally show that.  When was the last time a band like House of Heroes was nominated for something besides album art (packaging)?  That is a throw away nomination.  Sure, Switchfoot might get nominated some years because of their popularity, but they are more the exception than the rule.  So, I don’t care because I don’t really have a rooting interest.  It is like asking me to pick which Spanish league basketball team I want to root for.  I don’t care about Spanish basketball.  I care about the NBA.  I don’t care about the GMA Dove Awards overall because I don’t regularly listen to 9 out of 10 artists that are nominated from year to year.

So what do we get out of this?  Do we care that this thing is basically rigged?  Do we care that Arcade Fire won the Grammy’s, but Anberlin will never get a sniff out of the Dove Awards?  Does it depend on if you are a bigger fan of CCM or of indie rock?  Will it ever change?  Does it need to change?  I’ve given you the evidence I could find regarding what goes into the GMA Dove Awards, but it is up to each one of us to decide its importance.


17 responses to “Editorial: The Dove Awards, What To Think?

  1. Jay April 19, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    The whole Dove Awards thing is so disgusting to me. Of course, I am biased toward my favorite artists, but it seems that only if an artist is played on national contemporary Christian radio will they ever get a Dove Award. There are so many good artists that never get their song played on national radio, and therefore never get nominated for a Dove. It is really sad to me, especially this year. Practically the only artists I care for in the entire list is Group1Crew and Beckah Shae. All the rest are so typical, or won’t win because nobody knows who they are.

    Sorry for ranting here… I pretty much don’t like the Dove Awards anymore, because they are so biased.

  2. Anthony April 19, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Nice editorial man. I for one don’t care at all about the Grammys or Dove Awards. They need to clearly state that they’re catering to the CCM crowd ONLY but in fact their name speaks that for itself: The “Dove” Awards. I take that more as an adjective of contemporary music rather than having much association with love, peace, or even the Holy Spirit. Now what I really want to see is a more independent award show for the lesser-known genres that are apparently too much for the Doves to handle. Maybe what I’m most upset about is the fact Casting Crowns won the “Group of the Year” award 5 times in a row. Even the more ardent fans of the ‘Crowns didn’t see why they won so many times consecutively, but I guess now I know why.

    Thanks Tyler for bringing more light to the situation and asking these questions publicly =)

  3. Tyler Hess April 19, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    yea that is another issue, many artists win sooo many years in a row and that does not help it make it more legit. its like a sports league where the same guy wins MVP every year. they didnt give it to Jordan every year, even though he was the best player, because they realize other guys are worthy of attention as well.

    and there are things like where Carmen wins best rap/hip hop song of the year and you scratch your head and wonder just how exactly that happens.

  4. idontactuallyexist April 19, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    All award shows are biased. As you stated, all critics are biased, and critics are what vote for every awards show. It’s for whatever industry to clap themselves on the back and congratulate their favorite sons and daughters.

    The Christian music industry as a whole needs to be revamped. Why is Christian music the only genre based on lyrical content? You know why there’s no Christian Country genre? Because Country music IS Christian music (sort of). Country has no problem playing a song like “Jesus Take the Wheel” followed by “Redneck Woman.” Why can’t rock be the same? I want to hear Red followed by Thre Days Grace followed by Abandon Kansas followed by Kansas. Is the general public so afraid of the Word of God? Heaven forbid people be exposed to something that might better their lives.

  5. Tyler Hess April 19, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    It is different because people on both sides want it to be different. Unbelievers don’t want to be preached to and believers want something of their own. That isn’t followed strictly, of course, but it is why the “Christian” genre exists. Darkness and Light cannot exist in the same space.

  6. Anthony April 19, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    What saddens me more is the fact that some bands that start out more creative become part of the CCM transformation. Perfect examples off the top of my head: Sanctus Real, The Afters, & even Brandon Heath (but that’s more changing his style from acoustic to straight-up pop). They made good music until their later on the decided to become more contemporary and lost what they started out. Yes, their new albums have 1 song that brings me back to the golden days (Take Over Me & We Won’t Give Up) but for the most part it’s sad really.

  7. Travis G April 19, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    The funny part is that a lot of bands on tooth and nail are more popular than most ccm bands. I mean rebecca s. James didn’t even debut in the top 200, but House of heroes dubuted at 49 (yea I know they’re not tooth and nail) and emery at 73.

  8. KCUZ April 19, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Nicely written, Mr. Hess, and a good explanation of why I’ve never followed nor gotten into the awards. I was raised on ‘Christian Radio’, and it took me years to realize that I couldn’t stand what I was listening to because it wasn’t ‘Christian Music’, as in music by and/or for Christians, but ‘Religious Easy Listening’. For those who love their smooooooth jazz stations and continuous ballads, great! For those who want to rock, or headbang, or shoegaze, or swing, or . . . . you get the idea! Just as light and darkness can’t coexist, I doubt we’ll ever really have many (if any) ‘Christian’ bands who are both a) of such fine quality that amazing millions of people, Christian and otherwise can’t help but love them and b) of such integrity that their lifestyle and lyrical content, even if not evangelical, totally convinces all people without a doubt they are followers of Christ, without alienating so many listeners. I’ve learned to come to terms with the fact that I’ll need to either a) enjoy the amazing ‘Christian’ bands I discover, no matter how obscure they are in the ‘Mainstream’ and ‘CCM’ markets, and/or b) enjoy those bands, ‘Christian’ or otherwise who make it in the spotlight without sounding predictable and homogenized . . . Fortunately there’s enough good music out there I think I can settle . . .
    Sorry for rambling, thanks again Tyler!

  9. Tyler Hess April 19, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    well…to answer that…I guess it all depends on how you classify U2 or J Cash haha

  10. Andy K April 20, 2011 at 6:54 am

    I found it wierd that The Dove Awards moved from Nashville to Atlanta this year. I can’t imagine that Atlanta has a bigger CCM crowd than Nashville. Oh, and the Dove Awards haven’t been good since DC Talk performed on it back in the 90’s.

  11. david April 20, 2011 at 9:39 am

    This reminds me of people complaining the Grammy aren’t about “real” music, when all the awards go to radio friendly acts.
    Every now and then they get thrown a bone and Mumford & the Avett Bros. get to play a quick song, but for the most part, it’s for the industry crowd that’s centered around radio.
    The problem exists when it’s marketed as the best in music, or best in Christian music.
    Which it isn’t (according to some people’s opinions).
    I think you have to look at these shows for what they truly are, not a snapshot of all music, but popular radio-friendly tunes.

    Would it make you happy if they had a pre-show like the Grammys and awarded best punk, best metal, best country, etc.?

  12. Tyler Hess April 20, 2011 at 9:57 am

    it would make me happy if it werent so rigged and it wasnt made to impress my mom. there’s a reason why it barely even makes TV, its because they havent learned how to reach the younger audience.

  13. Tyler Hess April 20, 2011 at 10:02 am

    It is bigger than you think, just ask David, he knows about a million artists in the Atlanta area.

  14. Micah April 20, 2011 at 10:23 am

    After last year, I lost all faith in the Dove Awards. Skillet had one of the biggest breakthrough crossover years ever, and they failed to bring home any of their rightly deserved six nominations (they were nominated twice for short form video of the year, and let’s face it…their video for Monster was so much better than Francesca Battistelli’s video).

    It’s a shame that Children 18:3 will never win a Dove Award despite all the raw talent, art, and devotion that they pour into their music. When Children 18:3 wins (or even gets nominated) that’s when I’ll start caring again.

  15. Brody April 22, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Here’s my thing.
    I work for MercyMe, Natalie Grant, and a ton of other artists, so I am biased toward those that I work with, but I’d like to just focus on MercyMe for a moment.

    This year they were recognized as iTunes #1 Christian song (All Of Creation), Billboard’s Artist Of The Year, Billboard’s Band of the Decade, Billboard’s Song of the decade (Word Of God Speak), debuted at #3 on Billboard with “The Generous Mr. Lovewell, won the American Music Award for Christian Artist Of The Year, and still couldn’t come away with one Dove Award.

    What’s the difference? All of these things that they did win, happened to be either based off of fan votes, sales or radio. None of which it seems the Dove Awards pay attention to.

    Again, I don’t think it’s a bitter thing, or even a jealous thing at all. Just a flawed system that needs to be looked into.

    Just my 2 cents, and no, I’m not @DoveJokes either.

  16. Tom Kelly June 28, 2011 at 3:48 am

    Just curious, Do you guys sponsor/have an annual award called “artist of the year” beginning in 2010 as in:
    “Steve Pasch was named artist of the year, on Thursday August 4th, 2010. Christian Muzic is honoring Steve Pasch for all of his work in the community as well as for his great Worship Music.
    Steve will receive the 1st annual CMZ AWARD AS ARTIST OF THE YEAR.”
    (link to site page I read this on: http://www.christianmuzic.org/20100805-steve-pasch-named-artist-of-the-year/)

    Or is this an example of someone trading on the acronym “CMZ” whereby anyone reading the press release would assume it would be referring to Christian Music Zine?

    My lame, initial research looks like ChristianMuzic.org, where this claim is made, is owned by Pasch, (at the bottom of their website it indicates the site was built by a company I understand his brother owns, PCG Strategic Digital Marketing


  17. Tyler Hess June 28, 2011 at 8:41 am

    That is definitely not us…but I doubt that anyone goes to that website, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it…and we don’t have an artist of the year, just a top 10 albums list…thanks for looking out for us, I don’t think it is too big of a deal though :)

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