ACM Awards Will Move From Las Vegas to Nashville for Postponed September Telecast

Chris Willman

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When the Academy of Country Music moved in mid-March to push its annual April awards show back to September, but left the location for the rescheduled telecast noticeably indeterminate, speculation immediately ensued that the show would not take place in its longtime locale of Las Vegas but be moved to Nashville, so participating country stars could stick close to home.

That assumption has now been confirmed, as Nashville mayor John Cooper announced in a morning press briefing that the city will host the Sept. 16 show on CBS, rescheduled from its April 5 Vegas date.

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The telecast will take place from three locations: the Grand Ole Opry House, the Ryman Auditorium (the home of the Opry through the 1970s) and the tiny Bluebird Cafe (made famous by the series “Nashville”). Dick Clark Productions and the ACM did not address the question of whether there will be live audiences at any or all of these venues. At the mayor’s news conference, Damon Whiteside, CEO of the ACM, said that determination would be made further into the nearly five months to come before air date.

In 55 years, the ACM Awards have never been broadcast from Nashville before — a history that might seem counterintuitive to those not running in country music circles, but which reflects the Academy of Country Music’s Los Angeles base, and the fact that the show has always looked to distinguish itself from the rival CMA Awards by setting its own show in Las Vegas or, before that, L.A.

One question raised as speculation led to a move to Nashville for the rescheduled ACMs was whether the show would be able to land a spot at the Bridgestone Arena, coming just two months before the CMAs are set to broadcast from that venue. But by utilizing three small to mid-sized locations, the ACM skirted that potential problem — and also the potential bad visual of superstars playing to an empty arena, something that would loom as a possibility not just in September but possibly even in mid-November, when the CMAs go down.

“While we were disappointed to postpone our April show in Las Vegas, we couldn’t be more thrilled to host the rescheduled 55th ACM Awards in the home of country music for the first time in the Academy’s history,” Whiteside said in a statement. “First and foremost, we want to ensure the safety of our artists and industry, and to ease the burdens of traveling large teams; therefore, we decided to bring the ACM Awards to them this September in Nashville.”

Tennessee’s governor issued a statement as well. “On behalf of all Tennesseans, I want to thank the Academy of Country Music for bringing this event home … Tennessee is honored to be a part of this historic event,” said Bill Lee.

“Country music has been our voice and our companion through so many difficult times and now it is our comfort as we confront and defeat the coronavirus,” said Cooper. “I’m excited to join country music fans worldwide to celebrate with the Academy of Country Music and artists that uplift and inspire us all in these extraordinary times. And I look forward to the day when we can safely welcome visitors back to enjoy all that Music City has to offer, including over 160 live entertainment venues with the best country music shows in the world.”

The ACMs do have a history with the storied Ryman Auditorium — just not for their April awards show. For more than a decade, they’ve produced another show, “ACM Honors,” giving out lifetime achievement awards, from the Ryman every August.

In recent years, the ACMs have been preceded in Las Vegas by a veritable music festival taking place around the city. That seems unlikely to be replicated in the move to Nashville, with the coronavirus pandemic likely to still be a factor affecting mass gatherings into the fall, although Tennessee’s governor has made it clear he’s eager to reopen the state for business sooner rather than later.

The ACM Awards — to be hosted, as always scheduled, by last year’s entertainer of the year winner, Keith Urban — will air live at 8 p.m. ET and tape-delayed on the west coast in the same prime time slot, on CBS, and also stream on demand on the network’s All Access service.

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