Damon Whiteside

- Lyndsay Cruz

“‘Pivot and innovate’ has definitely been our theme for the past year,” says Whiteside. In March, the ACM Awards became the first major awards show to exclusivel­y livestream, shown globally on Amazon’s Prime Video. Last August, the academy held its ACM Party for a Cause concert in Nashville for the first time to benefit its philanthro­pic division, ACM Lifting Lives, guided by Cruz. This fall, the academy will open its new headquarte­rs in Nashville after nearly 60 years in Los Angeles. Whiteside is most proud of the fact that the ACM Lifting Lives COVID-19 Response Fund distribute­d nearly $4 million to those in need since the pandemic’s start. He took the time to expand on some other big changes at the academy.

Why are you moving to Nashville?

It was a difficult decision, being that the foundation of the academy has always been West Coast. However, the core reasons that the ACM was founded there do not really exist anymore. Our board, artists and members are mostly Nashville-based, and it is more effective and efficient that we be located here in the heart of country music.

How do you measure the success of the 2022 ACM Awards since traditiona­l broadcast viewership metrics don’t apply?

We measure success the same way every

other show does in a changing media landscape, which is to evaluate how it impacts the performers and nominees in a positive way, be it streaming, social, merch, etcetera. We also look to the fans directly, across digital and social platforms. Also quantitati­ve stats: Our social engagement numbers were up dramatical­ly year on year. We also look to streaming performanc­e across [digital service providers] in response to live performanc­es.

This year marked the ACM Awards’ return to Las Vegas after two years in Nashville. Does the show work better for you there?

After two years of more heartfelt, emotional and poignant shows, we were thrilled to be back in Vegas and somewhat return to our “Country’s party of the year” positionin­g, which is a huge part of the

show’s history and heritage. While it was a fun, upbeat and colorful show, there were still heavy COVID-19 protocols we had to adhere to, so we couldn’t freely party like we had originally hoped. As we plan for 2023, we will look to bring as much of the party back as we can, but also embrace our new tag line of “This is how we country!”

What are the plans for the ACM Honors in August?

This year’s ACM Honors are special because it’s the 15th anniversar­y. We

had to take a year off due to the pandemic, and we are thrilled to be back again, especially on the historic Ryman [Auditorium] stage. We are working now on a distributi­on plan so that this special show can be seen more widely. Miranda Lambert, unfortunat­ely, was unable to physically join us [at the ACM Awards] in March for her triumphant entertaine­r of the year win, and so we’re particular­ly excited to celebrate her as our triple-crown honoree [reflecting her awards for top new female vocalist, female vocalist and entertaine­r of the year]. We want to give her that special moment. —PAUL GREIN

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Whiteside and Parton

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