Awards Show Reality Check

Well, the CMAs were a week ago, and to be honest my body is still recovering from all the late night events. [OLD LADY]. Truly, it was one of the best shows in years…probably simply because of the Timberlake/Stapleton performance which literally BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN in the venue.

If you want an overview, here’s a great article on the night by Grady Smith.

Watch here…the best part of these videos may be Keith, LBT and Lady A JAMMING OUT!!…it’s just SO fun to see artists celebrate each other…


I thought I’d give you a little “behind the veil” look at what it’s actually like to attend an awards show.

1) All artists don’t walk the red carpet.

You must be either a marquee artist  (who may not currently be “active” but is very well known,) or somebody  otherwise “famous”, or you must have a single that is currently on the charts (I think they qualify that as like top 30, maybe top 40). I will say that I’ve never had a single in the top 30 during CMA week which is why I haven’t ever walked the CMA red carpet. I have done the ACM carpet and the CMT Awards carpet.

And there are 2 different ways to “walk” the carpet. You can do just the photo line, or you can do the photos and the interviews. If you’re not a very prominent artist, then you will only do the photo line, but you won’t do the interview line.

Now—these images from the carpet can be very important for an artist’s image, which is why record labels spend thousands (literally thousands) per artist.

Here’s a general breakdown of the costs:

It’s going to be marginally less expensive for guys vs girls, but not always THAT  much less expensive. We did not have a budget from my record label for CMA awards this year because we don’t have an “active single”, so I don’t know what the budgets looked like this year, but from what I understand…here are some round numbers.

-Hair and makeup anywhere from about $750 (on the VERY low end) to $3000 a day.

-Average $1000-1500/ day styling fee for stylists.

-Whatever the cost of the clothing/accessories is (easily several hundred dollars)….which leads me to…

2) Where do the clothes come from?

MOST artists that are walking the red carpet in country, are not wearing gowns from PR firms/prominent designers like the big actresses are for, say, the Oscars. There are a couple of reasons for that…..

a) It’s business, and most REALLY BIG designers do not see the up side in dressing country acts in their clothes. They simply don’t believe it’s as good advertising for them, so they don’t do it. Country is really really off their radar. Even pop musicians (other than say Katy Perry) are really second tier as far as what the designers want when it comes to putting people in their clothes.

b) In order to wear those dresses, you must be sample size. That’s a size 0/maybe 2, and pretty tall. (Those sample size dresses were worn by models on the runway so they are very very long.)

Now there are some PR firms, and more experimental/younger designers who will put country acts in their dresses. This is when having a great, well-connected stylist comes in, because they can talk you up to the PR firms and convince them that you’re THE NEXT BIG THING, so the designer might loan you some dresses.

So, for the most part, you’re buying or renting a gown for the carpets.

Jewelry is kind of another story, but I haven’t had a lot of experience borrowing expensive jewelry, so I can’t speak specifically to that, other than a lot of the same principles are in play that apply to borrowing gowns, etc.)

[Another little reality check: This year I did not have a label budget, so I borrowed a dress (Isabel Marant) from a friend, did my own hair and makeup, and bought some fab Charlotte Olympia shoes from a local designer liquidator. ] I took my gorgeous friend Heather Morgan as my date. Here we are…IMG_3976

Here’s the dress…

Here are my shoes…because SHOES.


3) Security is really tight. They are very careful about how may credentials they give out because there are so many artists and  artist teams backstage. It can get very crowded in the dressing rooms, and backstage in general, so usually if you’re not working (hair/makeup, band, publicly, management, artist who’s performing or presenting) you won’t be going backstage. There are a lot of younger new artists (like me!) Just sitting in the floor seats with industry and fans with everybody just kind of mixed together. And that’s actually pretty fun because fans are more enthusiastic about performances than the industry is, so they loosen us up…

4) TV tracks. This is just a sad reality of producing a live TV show with SOOO many moving parts. Most of the bands are playing to tracks, what are often called “TV tracks,” which is either a pre-recorded “live” version of the band doing the song, or actually the tracks from the album. So yeah…pretty much everyone is fake playing. 🙁 There are usually a couple exceptions to this. For example, I know if Keith [Urban] is doing a guitar solo he is ALWAYS playing that live. And I think some people insist on playing live…but you probably need some leverage to make that kind of demand. And the vocals are always* (OK, ALMOST always) live. I don’t like it, but that’s kind of the way it is….and it makes the production of a show like that far more manageable.

5) When they cut back from commercial break, there’s always applause….that’s because an announcer has just said something like “ Let’s show them how much fun we’re having in Nashville tonight, Applause on three, two….”

6) If you win an award, you go straight to the “press room” to do some interviews and photos.

7) The real party is the after party….There are TONS of after parties. Which are especially fun if one of your friends (or you yourself!!!) have won an award. All of the record labels have their own parties, and the talent agencies, some publishers, and occasionally artists have their own parties. For example, there was a super-exclusive Timberlake party (that I was not invited to, sigh.)

8) OK, Shoot me your questions. There are probably lots of things I don’t know, but if I can answer your questions I will. Xxo

5 Comments on Awards Show Reality Check

  1. Ryan Eddy
    November 12, 2015 at 4:56 am (2 years ago)

    I assume artists like Carrie Underwood are the ones with a bottomless budget?

    • Kelleigh
      November 12, 2015 at 1:37 pm (2 years ago)

      yes, my guess too. But Carrie is a broad enough brand nationwide, and since she’s hosting, I bet at least some of those dresses are borrowed…only a guess.

  2. Jamie Peters
    November 15, 2015 at 7:13 am (2 years ago)

    Is it true that the artists who perform on the CMAs have to pay the CMA to perform or are the CMA Awards paying them to perform? I have heard that each artist who performs pays all of their own expenses.

    • Kelleigh
      November 17, 2015 at 4:11 am (2 years ago)

      I don’t believe that you “pay” to play on the awards shows, but usually you do have to come up with your own production budget. What I mean is, you’re paying the cost of whatever your production is. My guess is that occasionally if the show has a vision for a certain performance that they might come to an artist with some budget themselves, but normally the label is paying the production cost for the artist to appear on an awards show. They justify it under marketing expenses. Now, there might be a nominal sag-aftra or musicians union fee being paid to everyone performing, but that rate would be around $250. Thanks for the question!

      • Pareploy
        February 12, 2016 at 5:10 pm (2 years ago)

        Ive seen this great australian band from when they stretad with Bon Scott twice and every tour since then with both Razors Edge & both Black Ic…


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