How Are the 2020 CMA Awards Keeping Attendees Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
The 2020 CMA Awards will, as is customary, air live from Nashville on Wednesday night (Nov. 11), with many of fans' favorite stars performing and vying for awards throughout the night. The Country Music Association has dozens of artists scheduled to take the stage and be at the event in person, as they are year after year — but behind the scenes and at the event, things will look much different than they usually do.
The CMA has instituted a number of changes to its annual awards show in 2020, to keep attendees (artists, their guests and staff) safe during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Fans usually fill up Bridgestone Arena for Country Music's Biggest Night, too, but not this year. Heck, the show isn't even happening at that Nashville venue!
How are the 2020 CMA Awards happening in person during a pandemic, when mask-wearing and social distancing are the name of the game? Are red carpet arrivals happening like always? What the heck will this whole thing look like on TV? Keep reading for some more details:
So the 2020 CMA Awards Are Happening Live and in Person, Like Always?
Yes ... sort of. Artists and their guests will assemble on Wednesday night, as they usually would for a CMA Awards ceremony, but fans aren't invited this year. Back in September, when nominees for this year's event were announced, the Country Music Association shared in a letter to its members that fan tickets would not be sold in 2020.
"We understand this news is disappointing," CMA CEO Sarah Trahern wrote, "but know the adjustment is necessary in order to provide the safest possible environment for all involved."
All winner announcements will take place live, as will about 60 percent of the night's 20 performances, longtime CMA Awards producer Robert Deaton tells the Tennessean. (He did not specify which performances will not be live.)
Doesn't That Mean Bridgestone Arena Is Going to Be Pretty Empty?
No, because the 2020 CMA Awards aren't happening at Bridgestone Arena. This year, the show has been moved across the street, to the smaller Music City Center.
“It's not going to be the huge spectacle of the CMA Awards at Bridgestone,” Deaton tells the Tennessean of the change. “But we could make something that's unique and heartfelt, and that means something to the artist and the fans.”
But There's Still Going to Be a Red Carpet, Right?
Unfortunately, no — gathering artists, their handlers, media members and all of the other people who make a red carpet run in such a busy, small space would be unwise during this pandemic. We may still see some photos from when artists and their guests arrive to the event, like we did before the 2020 ACM Awards in September, but don't expect the traditional glitzy welcome.
How Will They Keep the Audience Socially Distanced?
The 2020 CMA Awards will use banquet-style seating, per the Tennessean. According to the newspaper, tables on the floor of the awards show area will be spaced eight feet apart, with only one artist and their guest occupying each table.
It'll be a new look for modern-era CMA Awards shows, but not a first in the show's history: At the first-ever CMA Awards, in 1967 — dubbed a "Banquet and Show" — artists and industry members sat at tables inside Nashville's Municipal Auditorium.
What About During Performances and Acceptance Speeches?
According to the Tennessean, the 2020 CMA Awards set includes a stage dedicated solely to awards presentations. As is customary, there will also be multiple stages for performances, a setup that gives the show's crew the ability to quickly move from performance to performance, as is necessary during a busy, live event, but still have enough time to re-set for each artist's performance.
However, in 2020, showrunners are paying extra attention to that downtime. According to Deaton, deep cleaning protocols will also be in place in between performances; therefore, it will take 15-20 minutes to change over each stage. Perhaps as a result, about 40 percent of the 2020 CMA Awards' 20 performances have been pre-recorded.
... and Backstage?
ACM Awards showrunners set up a one-way walkway system at the Grand Ole Opry House as part of their efforts to keep everyone distanced during the 2020 ACM Awards. The CMA has not revealed the full extent of their COVID-19 social distancing protocols, but CMA CEO Trahern does tell the Tennessean that artists will be asked to stay spaced apart as much as possible.
"Robert is going to have to remind people, when your friend wins, you can elbow them, but don't throw yourself all around them," she says. "It's going to be a little different, but I actually am so excited about the fact that all of the awards are going to be live, and the people have that experience of being together and celebrating the best of music, in a year that certainly wasn't normal for any of us."
They Must Be Doing a Lot of COVID-19 Testing, Huh?
Sure seems like it! The CMA hasn't explained its full testing procedure, but we do know that artists needed to be tested before coming to rehearsals and other pre-show activities.
"We have been extremely diligent with our testing process in advance of anyone entering our footprint," a Monday (Nov. 9) statement from the CMA shares. "Every single person has been tested, and many will be tested repeatedly throughout the week. This is in addition to wearing PPE and of course practicing social and physical distancing."
In fact, Lee Brice had to drop out of the 2020 CMA Awards because he tested positive for COVID-19, his team shared on Sunday (Nov. 8). Fortunately, though, he is feeling well despite his diagnosis. The "Rumor" singer was scheduled to perform with Carly Pearce and is nominated for two awards this year. In his place, Lady A member Charles Kelley will sing with Pearce.
Florida Georgia Line member Tyler Hubbard, too, tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of Wednesday's awards show, he shared on Monday. He and duo partner Brian Kelley were scheduled to perform at the event, though further details as to how their performance will be handled are not yet available.
"Although this is incredibly disappointing, not only for the show but also for CMA personally as we care deeply for these artists and only want the best for them and their families, it does reassure us that our protocols are working," the statement from the CMA reads. "Our process enabled us to manage each situation immediately and before either artist ever entered our set. Most importantly, it prevented anyone else from being exposed."
See Which Artists Have the Most 2020 CMA Awards Nominations: