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OUR GAL IN TEXAS: A REPORT FROM THE ACMS

BroCo, Girl Crushes and Other Country Matters

See the list of ACM winners here.

It was big. BIG BIG! Jerry Jones BIG! Mongers said 90,000. The Associated Press offered upwards of 60,000. Backstage, where the number count counted, the count was 70,252 for the 50th Anniversary of the Academy of Country Music Awards. A Guinness Book of World Records listing was sought—and certified—for Largest Award Show Audience.

The other talk was how Garth would win Entertainer of the Year—despite numbers no industry insider can do the math on. Perhaps the unstoppable Miranda Lambert, who won Four ACMs (Female, Album/Album producer and Song), would take it on momentum. Or Florida Georgia Line, a top-downloading critical punchline, might dominate by the strength of their socials.

In spite of unrest, the ACMs followed the obvious trajectory: host Luke Bryan was Entertainer, Jason Aldean won Male and industry faves Little Big Town took Group after a stunning “Girl Crush.” The story wasn’t the winners, but the identity crisis presented for the sensation-craving masses.

Universal honcho Mike Dungan and prexy Cindy Mabe (the latter pictured at right with Darius Rucker) dominated. Beyond Bryan’s Entertainer, their longtime faith in LBT and the controversial “Girl Crush” (along with that of Sandbox manager Jason Owen, of course) was rewarded. Also, Dierks Bentley won Video for “Drunk on a Plane.”

Also, ShopkeepersMarion Kraft beamed, having stewarded Lambert’s growth into a true superstar. With Sony in transition, Lambert and Milestone winner Kenny Chesney offer Doug Morris’ Nashville outpost a solid foundation for the future.

Fire, though, was the operative trick, starting with Scott Borchetta’s to-the-hilt FGL; pyro also punctuated the perf by Broken Bow’s powerhouse Aldean (whose manager, Clarence Spalding, also has fire—in the belly).

Big Machine's Matthew Hargis, label chief Scott Borchetta, Sandi Spika Borchetta, Jimmy Harnen and George Briner.

Trotting out the tried and true: Reba, Brooks & Dunn and Garth Brooks, as well classics with Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning” and Martina McBride’s “Independence Day,” suggest country’s new era is not launching future icons.            

Don’t kid yourself: Reba is bringing it hard. Team Borchetta notched almost 70k street week; her tour de force performance may maintain numbers for second week.

Taylor Swift, adorable doing her signature Taylor-in-the-audience sing-along ’n’ dance, graciously accepted a Milestone Award from her mother—another massive ratings prong. Using the moment, she thanked the genre for allowing her to move on to more creative pastures:  “When I told you I had made a pop album and that I wanted to explore other genres, you showed me who you are with the grace you accepted me with. I will never forget it.”

With an $8m stage, cross-promoting presenters included Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon (a movie), Masters Champ Jordan Speith, Troy Aikman (the ultimate Dallas Cowboy) and Steven Tyler (making a country album), made the intended reach larger and the show far-flung. Does this reflect country music’s true broad-spectrum platform, versus urban/pop’s hipness?            

Network prime time remains mainstream America’s ultimate exposure zone. CBS devoted 3 ½ hours to what many believed would either ratify the dominance of BroCo—FGL as Entertainer! Aldean for Album! Bryan for Male Vocalist!—or the Lambert freight train finally proving people wanted meat with their radio happy.            

After all the quick cuts, crowd shots, Garth’s obvious patriotism grab with red, white and blue fireworks and flags on the screens, then actual soldiers in salute (is he the new Lee Greenwood?) and the AT& T Stadium money shots, where did the music fit? There was certainly plenty, but how many performances moved the needle?

Well, let's look at the numbers. Miranda got a 411% boost on iTunes for her album, while “Little Red Wagon” bounced 200%. Little Big Town jumped 330% on the album side and 188% for “Girl Crush.” FGL moved up 84%, Reba 60% and Eric Church 61%. Sam Hunt, who’s been on fire even without benefit of awards shows, is up 81% on the album chart and 114% for single “Take Your Time.”

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