February 12, 2009
A Peter Cooper article in today’s edition of the Tennessean:
The album of the year nominees are … as yet unannounced. That’s because the Academy re-thought its prerequisite that album contenders sell at least 300,000 copies. Several of last year’s most acclaimed country albums, including Jamey Johnson’s That Lonesome Song, did not meet the sales requirement, and ACM officials held a board meeting, waved the prerequisite and mandated a re-vote. Results of the re-vote will be announced in March.
Album rule was outdated
Romeo said it became clear during the voting process that the sales requirement in the album category had become antiquated due to changes in the way people consume music. The ACM normally uses an initial vote to take the field of album nominees down to 20, from which five finalists will be chosen. But only nine albums this year survived the 300,000 minimum.
“Does this mean country music isn’t doing business?” Romeo asked rhetorically. “No. But it means that the kind of business we’re doing is changing. It may not be albums anymore; it may be singles downloads and ring tones.”
There had been ongoing discussion and dissention centering around the ACM’s album category rules, with many holding up That Lonesome Song as a case in point. Though it has not been a slam-dunk sales success, the album helped Johnson to two Grammy nominations, and it was Music Row’s most critically acclaimed album of 2008. Thus, Johnson’s record company argued, the album would appear to merit consideration.
“We want to be inclusive and fair, and I think this change shows that if we feel something’s not right, we’re not afraid to change it,” Romeo said.
The Academy of Country Music membership clearly made the right decision. In the last two years, the academy has shown a willingness to look beyond the charts in the Single of the Year category. Miranda Lambert’s “Famous in a Small Town,” which peaked at No. 14 in November 2007, was a losing nominee in last year’s race; this year, two No. 1 singles (“Waitin’ on a Woman” and “You’re Gonna Miss This”) are matched with Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead” (No. 7), Jamey Johnson’s “In Color” (No. 10) and Heidi Newfield’s “Johnny & June” (No. 11). The Album of the Year category should recognize the most essential album released during the year, and a little technicality shouldn’t squash an album’s chance of being nominated. With the current buzz building around his career, expect Johnson to be celebrating a gold record sometime in 2009.