What’s the Difference Between CMT Music Awards, ACM Awards and CMA Awards? A Guide to Country Music’s Viral Award Show Moments, Red Carpets & More

It couldn’t be further from the truth. It can be easy to assume that all given country music award shows are interchangeable. However, it is not exactly simple to remember the differences between the three big music country award shows. Fans of country music have no shortage of yearly award shows to celebrate their favorite songs and artists in the genre.

Rewritten: The show-stopping fashion is an excuse to never have another night like this, where top artists perform their hit songs throughout the night. Exciting things are constantly happening. It guarantees that your favorite artist will sweep the same category at all three celebrations, and winning in a particular category at one show doesn’t hurt. The prestige of each award show, whether it’s the Grammys for country music or the general music or film awards, may differ based on the number of award categories. The order of these letters can make a difference between a fan-focused casual show and the country music Grammys. However, these shows are largely named with the same letters.

Regardless, if you’re a fan of country music, it’s important to have some basic knowledge about the history of the genre. Along the way, it would be beneficial to learn a little bit about each of the three major music awards shows – the CMA Awards, ACM Awards, and CMT Music Awards. Deciphering the differences between these awards shows can be challenging, but with the upcoming CMT Music Awards airing on April 11th at 8 p.M., It’s a great opportunity to read up and familiarize yourself with what the show is all about.

The CMT Music Awards, held in Nashville every year, is a show that centers largely around music videos, with the Video of the Year being the biggest award of the night. The show is a contest that measures talent and popularity, with some videos being critiqued and winners being selected by fans through online voting and text messages. Essentially, the winners of the CMT Music Awards are chosen by viewers who are fans of country music. Although the show is hosted by CMT, which is a country music television channel, the title of this particular awards show is slightly redundant.


Carrie Underwood is the most awarded artist in the history of the show, with a staggering 23 wins. The award show will be broadcasted for the first time on CBS, however, the CMT Music Awards are held yearly in Nashville. The CMT Music Awards are predictably aired on CMT, and can be traced back to 1967 when they were known as the News City Music Awards, eventually hosted by the fan-voted concept show. Some argue that the CMT Music Awards can be traced back to 1967 when they were known as the News City Music Awards, eventually hosted by the fan-voted concept show. The CMT Music Awards officially aired for the first time in 2001, although the fan-voted country music award show had been passed around to many country music outlets since 1988. The first Television Music Country Awards were created in 1983 during the famous ’80s music video boom.

Iconic Moments

In 2006, Keith Urban’s homage to Hurricane Katrina victims, in which he performed alongside displaced survivors of the storm, stands out as one of the notable highlights in the relatively brief chronicle of the CMT Music Awards. Perhaps, the most legendary rendition to emerge from the show’s past is Willie Nelson’s star-studded partnership with Toby Keith, the Zac Brown Band, Darius Rucker, and Jamey Johnson in 2012.

Noteworthy Fashion Statements

The most recent striking ensemble from the 2021 CMT Music Awards is the hot pink leather outfit worn by Kelsea Ballerini, which is not responsible for any uber-viral fashion moments. In contrast to the CMAs and the ACMs, which typically feature more casual red carpet fashion, the CMT Music Awards have a low-key general theme. Other memorable outfits from previous CMTs include Nicole Kidman’s edgy black lace see-through dress from 2017 and Carrie Underwood’s bejeweled yellow lemon mini dress from 2018.

see-through lace dress, Keith Urban, left, and Nicole Kidman arrive at the CMT Music Awards at Music City Center on Wednesday, June 7, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Sanford Myers/Invision/AP)
Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman arrive at the CMT Music Awards at Music City Center on Wednesday, June 7, 2017, in Nashville.Sanford Myers/Invision/AP

Academy of Country Music Awards

The biggest award of the night is the entertainer of the year. The show itself is noted for its memorable entertainment, with country music superstars B&R and popular pop artists crossing genres for standout performances. The ACM Awards are voted on by the prestigious members of the country music Academy, which is a recognized club. Although the ACM Awards feature unique achievements like the Triple Crown and Decade Artist recognition, they are specifically known for their special focus on staying power in the country music industry and recognizing musical achievements. The Academy of Country Music Awards, or ACM Awards, are noted for their recognition in the country music industry, with a special emphasis on musical achievements.


In 2022, it shifted to Amazon Prime Video, although the series had consistently been accessible on network cable during its broadcasted past. With a crowd of 70,000 participants, the show’s 50th-anniversary awards ceremony established a Guinness World Record for the most-attended live awards show ever. Around five years after the CMAs started being televised, the show, nevertheless, was initially broadcasted in 1972. Consequently, it is the longest-running awards show in the realm of country music, as the ACM Awards originated in 1966.

The ACM Award ceremony, which was originally scheduled to take place in Las Vegas in March 2020 and 2021, was not held in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, it was moved to Nashville and Texas for brief periods before returning to Las Vegas in 2003. Prior to that, the show was held in Los Angeles, which served as a country music hub in the 60s and 70s.

The ACM Awards are notably the only country music awards show to present an Artist of the Decade award, and it has been awarded to Jason Aldean (2010s), George Strait (2000s), Garth Brooks (1990s), Alabama (1970s), Loretta Lynn (1960s), and Marty Robbins.

Introduced in 2005, the program additionally showcases a Triple Crown accolade, which acknowledges performances that achieve victory in all three principal ACM awards at least once in the course of their professional journey. Top New Artist, Top Vocalist, and Entertainer of the Year represent these esteemed awards. Merle Haggard, Mickey Gilley, Barbara Mandrell, Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, and Jason Aldean stand as the exclusive seven acts who have triumphed in all three categories, thereby attaining Triple Crown distinction.

Iconic Moments

Notable performances in recent ACM Award history include Dolly Parton and Katy Perry showcasing Parton’s legendary songs in 2016. In 2012, Rascal Flatts and Steve Martin paid homage to Earl Scruggs with a tribute performance. Carrie Underwood and Steven Tyler teamed up in 2011 to deliver a rendition of “Walk This Way”. Taylor Swift, in 2007, had a memorable moment when she sang “Tim McGraw” in the presence of the actual Tim McGraw, whom she had just met for the first time. These are just a few of the standout performances that have taken place at the ACM Awards in recent years.

Jackson “performed” his drummer without using sticks and wore a cut-off shirt when he came on stage for his performance. When asked to play a track for the show award, Jackson responded by wearing a muscle shirt, which was a different reason for his dressy otherwise event. Another reason noted for Jackson’s protest at the 1994 ACMs performance is Alan.

The War, previously known as Dixie Chicks, didn’t win a single award that night, although they were nominated for Group Vocal of the Year and Album of the Year. This was due to the Dixie Chicks’ recent remarks about George W. Bush and the Iraq War, which were famously booed by the audience at the ACM in 2003.

Noteworthy Fashion Statements

Reba McEntire, wearing cozy slippers, wore a version of the crimson dress that garnered significant attention and admiration 25 years later at the ACMs, when she initially wore it at the 1993 CMAs. In 2018, Reba McEntire also notably strolled the ACM red carpet in a somewhat viral revealing red dress. Kasey Musgraves’ 2019 pastel rainbow pantsuit, Carrie Underwood’s bold sparkling nude gown from 2017, and Taylor Swift’s stunning light blue gown from 2015 are some of the notable fashion moments from the ACMs over the years. Shania Twain’s leopard print wrap dress from 1999 is also featured.

red dress see-through, slippers, Reba McEntire poses in the press room at the 53rd annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, April 15, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Reba McEntire poses in the press room at the 53rd annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, April 15, 2018, in Las Vegas.Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Country Music Association Awards

The night of the ACMs is widely considered to be the biggest award show of the year for entertainers in the country music industry. The winners of the CMA Awards are selected by more than 7,300 members consisting of professionals in the industry. The show’s awards are traditionally held in November, with the award show for the previous year’s songs and albums being released between July 1st and June 30th of the following year. Country music historian Neal R. Jocelyn stated that the CMA Awards is like the third Oscars and has slightly less viewership than the Grammys. The CMAs are known for having the largest ratings among all country music award shows, bringing in around 7 million viewers every year. The CMA Awards are widely considered by industry tastemakers as the most prestigious ceremony in country music.


Gill Vince and Dunn & Brooks are tied for the most wins at the CMA Awards, each with 18. The show was held at Nashville’s Center City Music due to COVID-19 in 2020, but throughout its history, the CMAs have hopped venues in Nashville, with the Bridgestone Arena being the main location since 2006. The show in 2005 was held at Madison Square Garden in New York, except for the Nashville-held award ceremony. The program has aired on several affiliate networks throughout the years, with ABC recently signing a contract to air it through 2026. It is the longest-running annual music awards program on television. The CMA Awards began in 1967 as a non-televised event but quickly became a televised event the following year.

Iconic Moments

At the ceremony in 2016, Beyoncé famously performed “Daddy Lessons” from her album Lemonade with The Chicks (previously known as Dixie Chicks). In 1975, when presenting Entertainer of the Year, Charlie Rich infamously burned the envelope revealing John Denver as the winner, ironically referring to him as a “friend” when announcing Denver’s name. Other noteworthy instances throughout the past of country music’s most significant night include Loretta Lynn becoming the first woman to win Entertainer of the Year in 1972 and Taylor Swift becoming the youngest ever Entertainer of the Year, achieving the recognition at only 19 in 2009. With the 2001 ceremony just weeks following 9/11, Alan Jackson premiered his song “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” which many regard as one of the most significant moments in modern CMA history.

Noteworthy Fashion Statements

Throughout the years, Twain would proceed to don more remarkable appearances to the CMAs. The appearance became iconic, although Twain also created a commotion in 2002 by wearing a lace catsuit to perform at the CMAs. In fact, the notorious attire didn’t come across as inappropriate when she wore the gown 25 years later to the 2018 ACMs (with fluffy matching slippers). However, it probably wouldn’t generate nearly as much of a commotion today. In 1993, Reba McEntire wore a revealing red dress to the CMAs that instantly gained fame for its daringness. She concealed the wardrobe malfunction on stage by draping a shawl to deliver her speech. Alongside Dolly Parton’s dress splitting incident right before her Entertainer of the Year win in 1978, there have been numerous memorable fashion moments in CMA history.