What Are The Spirit Awards?
It’s early morning and the sun has yet to make itself known in the eastern sky. It may be Friday, but that is not why I am excited for this day to begin.
With a bounce in my step, I get up and begin my day as usual. With my morning tasks done and coffee in hand, I head to my office. I’ve got my favorite jeans and t-shirt on. It may be January, but I’m walking around the office barefoot. This is one of my favorite days…
Spirit Award winner notification day!
Those entertainers who know about the Spirit Awards eagerly stand by their telephones and computers. They are waiting for the telephone call, the text, the e-mail and or instant message telling them to give me a call.
This is the day that can make their year and for some, their career. For many entertainers this is validation of their work, not by the music industry, but by those who truly matter—the fans.
Very few things in the music industry warm my heart than hearing the first hand response by the entertainer about their Spirit Award win. I have listened to screams from a band, while they were waiting in line for a ride at Disney World. I have heard the humbleness and gratitude by an entertainer who thought that their work would never get recognized. I have seen the joy and happiness as they realize the honor, that is bestowed upon them by the fans.
On the flip side, I have endured the usual music industry rubbish by the uninterested...
How many people voted?
What are your numbers?
What the heck are the Spirit Awards, anyway?
There are times that I get so discouraged by the music industry people, especially those who believe that they know the industry. In reality, they don’t even know who Johnny Cash was! These are the people who spend so much time developing their client through social media, radio and large publications that they don’t allow the entertainer to cultivate their own craft. In the end the client fails, due to the fictitious commercialism that the industry focuses on. In the music industry it’s about numbers and product; not about the music.
It’s very easy to call something a fraud
that you don’t understand or want to understand.
- Rob MacGregor
So what are the Spirit Awards?
Simply stated, the Spirit Awards are an annual fan voted awards ceremony.
So you want more information? Well, okay…
It was in 1995, that the staff and I gathered to watch one of the major awards shows. I cannot remember if it was the CMAs or the ACMs? I do remember that all of us were quite upset with who won.
How could she win that award, she’s not even touring! Who the heck is that? Why didn’t they give that award to so and so? These are the questions that were tossed around the room as we watched.
Then it dawned on me…
Why don’t we create our own awards show?
The notebooks came out as ideas started flowing. What should we call them? What will the award look like? Who could we nominate? Who will vote? Questions developed into ideas and then into what we call the Annual Spirit Awards.
From the time of Strictly Country’s inception, we have always honored a 360 degree view of country music. With this view we consider all music that falls under the country music umbrella; including traditional country, Western, Texan, Country Rock, Country Gospel, Country-rap, modern, alternative, Bluegrass, Hillbilly, Rock-A-Billy, Americana, Southern Rock, Christmas, and Folk. Country music did not arrive just yesterday with today’s Top 10. This genre of music has a long legacy and many of those entertainers still tour today.
The fact is, the major award shows are quite limited. Even the secondary, non-commercialized awards are severely restricted. We knew from the very beginning that The Spirit Awards were going to consist of very few limitations.
Perhaps the most substantial stipulation is how an entertainer is nominated. In order for an entertainer in country music to earn a nomination for the Annual Spirit Awards, they must have performed and or made a public appearance within the seven counties that make up the Twin Cities metro area of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, as well as two counties in Western Wisconsin. This confined area consists of over one hundred venues, fairs and festivals for entertainers to perform at and earn nominations.
Another way for an entertainer to get nominated is through their music. Every piece of music that is sent to us for review, is carefully taken into consideration for categories of Song of The Year, Album of The Year, Spirit of America Award, and Spirit of Christmas Award. Again, we commemorate the artistry in music and not the financially endorsed commercial product.
The fundamental intention of the Spirit Awards is to give the entertainers, that fall under the country music umbrella, an impartial opportunity for recognition. This recognition is bestowed upon by the fans and followers of country music through the use of balloting.
The core of the music industry believes that it is exclusively operated by radio, record labels, publishing companies, managers, publicists and other minor personnel. Rightfully so, there would be no product with out those people. However, it is the fans and listeners who are the main infrastructure for this industry. Without them, we don’t have an industry.
Other award shows are disconnected from the core belief of the fans. At one time, radio was open and exclusive to the fans and listeners. Today, the industry has closed those doors and turned a blind eye to those who truly matter.
Artistry has stepped aside to allow commercialism to take over. Music that once was considered an expression of one’s soul, is now a byproduct of industrialism. Today, the industry honors and celebrates characterless mediocre performers that the true followers of country music dislike.
The fans want Reba McEntire, not Miranda Lambert. Listeners crave The Oak Ridge Boys and not Florida-Georgia Line. They demand Vince Gill and wish they could ignore Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt. They long for Sylvia as they are forced to listen to Marin Morris. If only we could bring back Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, George Jones and Kitty Wells… If you truly want to know what the fans and listeners of country music desire, then look no further than the Annual Spirit Awards.
What are the Spirit Awards? They are the voice of the authentic country music fan.
Excuse me, I need to make a phone call to another winner and share some exciting news with them…
Welcome to the…
Annual Spirit Awards...
The Spirit Awards began in 1995, by Strictly Country Magazine. These awards were designed to give entertainers, under the country music umbrella, a fair opportunity to win an award(s) voted by their fans, music industry personnel and peers. The awards were also designed to give the fans of the country music umbrella* an event to voice their opinion with the opportunity to vote for their favorite entertainers.
How To Get Nominated:
Through the Spirit Awards, entertainers are nominated by performing and or making a live public appearance within the designated areas set by Strictly Country. The designated areas contain the nine counties that make up the Twin Cities metro area of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Western Wisconsin. Entertainers are not limited to the number of awards received.
Each year the staff at Strictly Country provides a list of all nominees. (Click here to see who is currently nominated.) The ballot is available to any person online, on this website. Voting begins December 10th and ends December 15th of each year.
Who Can Vote:
Any person who enjoys music as much as we do is eligible to vote. Each person can only vote once in a voting year, no matter what device they use.
Notifying The Winners:
All winners of the Spirit Awards, will be notified by the Editor of Strictly Country via telephone and or e-mail no later than January 5th of the following year. At the time of notification, we ask the winner to record an MP3 reaction of their win to be played live during the official Spirit Awards Show.
The Awards Show:
Strictly Country hosts the Annual Spirit Awards Show on our Friday Night Radio Show – Around The Campfire on January 15th of each year. Winning entertainers are requested to make a statement about their award win during the show. The show is hosted, played and available to listen to right here on our radio show page as well as under the designated year.
Presenting The Awards:
All winners of the Spirit Awards, will be notified by the Editor of Strictly Country via telephone and or e-mail no later than January 5th of the following year. During notification, negotiations of award presentations will be held. It is against Spirit Award policy to present the award to any other person other than said winner, unless the winner has passed away. At that point the awards will be housed at Strictly Country offices until they can be presented to the next of kin. Each presentation must be conducted live; therefore no award shall be mailed and or shipped to official winner. All award presentations will be made live at a later date.
Spirit Award History:
In 2000, Strictly Country changed the design of the Spirit Awards. The awards went through an extreme change and finally received a logo that will forever represent the Spirit Awards. The new logo features a black capped chickadee landing on a 1950's style microphone. The logo represents the spirit of the bird and the song that it sings. The microphone pays tribute to the legends that set the pace of what music has become today.
The Year 2006, marked the first year in which fans were able to vote for "Song of the Year." Nominees for this category must meet certain requirements. Songs are chosen, by the staff at Strictly Country, from albums or singles that were shipped, by the people in the music industry, to the offices of Strictly Country for review with in the voting year. The staff judges each song to meet certain requirements that include quality of original recording, vocal quality, lyrics, and the use of instruments. Please note that some songs may be previously released songs from live, tribute, collection, and or greatest hits albums.
In 2013, Strictly Country added two new categories to the Annual Spirit Awards. The first new category is for "The Spirit of Christmas" Award. Nominees for this award must meet certain requirements. In this category, the staff at Strictly Country chooses the best Christmas songs released in the voting year. Like the Song of The Year Award, songs are chosen by the staff at Strictly Country from Christmas albums or singles that was shipped, by the people in the music industry, to the offices of Strictly Country for review with in the voting year. The staff judges each song to meet certain requirements that include quality of original recording, vocal quality, lyrics, and the use of instruments. Please note that some songs may be previously released songs from concept albums.
The second new category added to the Spirit Awards is "Album of The Year Award." Like the previous two categories, albums are chosen by the staff at Strictly Country from all the albums that were shipped, by the people in the music industry, to the offices of Strictly Country for review with in the voting year. The staff judges each album to meet certain requirements that include quality of original recording, vocal quality, lyrics, and the use of instruments.
In 2016, The Spirit Awards added another category with “The Spirit of America Award.” In this category, the staff at Strictly Country chooses the best songs about soldiers released in the voting year. Like the previous three categories, songs are chosen by the staff at Strictly Country from albums or singles that were shipped, by the people in the music industry, to the offices of Strictly Country for review with in the voting year. The staff judges each song to meet certain requirements that include quality of original recording, vocal quality, lyrics, and the use of instruments. Please note that some songs may be previously released songs from live, tribute, collection, and or greatest hits albums.
* The Country Music Umbrella
Country music has grown to include a wide variety of styles. These styles include traditional country, Western, Texan, Country Rock, Country Gospel, Country-rap, modern, alternative, Bluegrass, Hillbilly, Rock-A-Billy, Americana, Southern Rock, Christmas and Folk. We call this the country music umbrella.
In 2006, Strictly Country began compiling a list of the Top Songs of the year. These songs were then nominated for the Spirit Award's Song of The Year Award.
That same year, 2006, we also released our list of The Worst Albums & Songs of the year. These songs and albums were then nominated for the CD Coaster Award...
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