Country Music’s CMA Fest Canceled for 2021

Chris Willman
·5-min read

To the surprise of few, the CMA Festival planned for downtown Nashville in June has been canceled for a second consecutive year — likely the first of many likely summer festival cancellations to come in the U.S.

The news first came via a lengthy note sent by Country Music Festival CEO Sarah Trahern to CMA members.

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While other festivals are still looking at vaccine rates and mulling their prospects for being able to pull off a large-scale, multi-day gathering before the summer is over, the cards were clearer for the CMA and its festival, which takes place on the earlier side, in June, and which would face enormous difficulties even bumping the proceedings back a month or two, given that CMA Fest takes over a significant chunk of the metropolitan area.

“We know our fans near and far have hoped that the festival could safely return this summer,” the Country Music Association said in a statement, “and while we are encouraged to see COVID-19 vaccines becoming more widely available, we still face several challenges that prevent us from bringing our fans around the world the CMA Fest experience they have come to expect.”

Trahern’s complete letter follows:

“Dear CMA Members,

“I want to personally thank you for your continued engagement with the Country Music Association. As your trade association, we are our industry’s leading voice representing YOU and all professionals making a living in Country Music globally. We recognize how difficult these last 12 months have been for so many of you, especially those in the live touring industry. It is incredibly encouraging to see so much progress being made as we move closer to reopening, but we know we still have a long way to go.

“CMA created its Music Industry COVID Support (MICS) initiative to provide critical resources to music professionals affected by the pandemic. The $3 million long-term commitment continues to fund multiple nonprofit organizations providing critical resources to aid our industry. Whether you or someone you know is experiencing food insecurity, health and wellness concerns, or are in need of career services, I encourage you to visit CMAmics.com and use the chatbot feature to find available resources to suit your specific needs. We are so proud to have already partnered with a number of nonprofit organizations including Music Health Alliance, Musically Fed, MusiCares, Notes for Notes, Porter’s Call, The Store and Touring Professionals Alliance Kitchen, with additional nonprofit partnerships to be announced in the coming weeks.

“This afternoon, we will share the news that after much deliberation, CMA Fest unfortunately will not take place in 2021. We are deeply disappointed that yet another summer will pass without seeing so many of you who help bring Country Music to our fans around the world. While we are optimistic with the pace at which COVID-19 vaccines are becoming more widely available, we still face several challenges that prevent us from bringing our many artists, crew members and fans together safely for the full CMA Fest experience we know everyone has come to expect. I would like to explain some of these challenges with you.

“Unlike many other music festivals that take place from a single location, CMA Fest has a rather large footprint that spans across the entire downtown Nashville area, including Nissan Stadium, Ascend Amphitheater and Music City Center. We know that many of our performers and attendees will ask why we cannot reschedule our event to take place later in 2021, however, to produce CMA Fest at the scale we normally do requires a significant amount of advance planning and production. Given the length of our production window, it was simply impossible to find an available window later this summer or into the fall.

“Additional challenges we face this year are capacity restrictions, not only with brick and mortar venues but at many of our outdoor locations. We are incredibly grateful that the majority of those who purchased four-day passes for CMA Fest 2020 have made the decision to hold onto their seats for the nightly concerts at Nissan Stadium. The last thing we want to do is make a decision that leaves any of our loyal attendees in the dark due to capacity restraints.

“We also took into account travel concerns. In addition to welcoming visitors from all 50 states, 10 percent of 2019 CMA Fest attendees traveled to Nashville from more than 37 foreign countries. With domestic and international travel still significantly impacted, we did not want to disappoint our many participants around the globe.

“I hope you will mark your calendar for CMA Fest June 9-12, 2022. We have already started planning what will be an incredible celebration of Country Music next summer, and we are looking forward to 2023 when we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of CMA Fest! If you or anyone you know has purchased four-day passes for CMA Fest 2020, I encourage you to visit CMAfest.comfor further information about retaining your passes or requesting a full refund.

“From the bottom of my heart, please know you have been in our thoughts every single day this last year. If there is anything we can do to offer further support, please do not hesitate to reach out to CMA’s Membership team.

“With gratitude,
Sarah Trahern
CMA Chief Executive Officer”

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