With Morgan Wallen’s name being anathema for the moment in the country music industry, it’s not surprising that the biggest star of the moment would be dropped from any performance slot that might have been scheduled for April’s Academy of Country Music Awards telecast. But the ACMs are going beyond that — the scandal-plagued star has been disqualified from even competing for the awards.
The ACM Awards are being held April 18, to be broadcast on CBS in a format yet to be announced. First-round voting for members closed Jan. 26. The second round of balloting opens up Feb. 10, and Wallen’s name will be nowhere to be seen.
“The Academy of Country Music will halt Morgan Wallen’s potential involvement and eligibility for this year’s 56th Academy of Country Music Awards cycle,” the ACM said in a statement Wednesday afternoon, the day after Morgan’s use of the N-word exploded into a major news story. “We have made his management team aware of this decision.”
— ACM Awards (@ACMawards) February 3, 2021
“The Academy does not condone or support intolerance or behavior that doesn’t align with our commitment and dedication to diversity and inclusion,” the statement continued. “In the coming weeks, the Academy will expedite the offering of long-planned diversity training resources for our ACM Membership, Board, Staff and the Country Music artist community, made available through our Diversity + Inclusion Task Force, established in 2018. As a result of this unprecedented situation, the Academy will be reviewing our awards eligibility and submission process, ensuring our nominees consistently reflect the Academy’s integrity.”
The Country Music Association does not hold its CMA Awards until November, so it would seem as if that org has a much longer time to consider whether Wallen — who just won their best new artist award less than three months ago — will be allowed to compete again there. But the tea leaves don’t look good there, based on action the CMA took Wednesday.
“In light of Morgan Wallen’s recent use of a racial slur,” the CMA said in a statement, “CMA is removing his digital content from our platforms. We support our Country Music partners for taking swift action. We will confer further with our Board of Directors to review additional measures and will continue to examine our industry’s inclusivity efforts.”
— CMA Country Music (@CountryMusic) February 3, 2021
Wallen’s airplay took a severe hit Wednesday, as would have been expected with major chains including iHeartRadio, Cumulus and Entercom all having instructed their stations to drop his music late Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
The industry tipsheet Country Aircheck, looking at Mediabase data, reported that airplay for Wallen on country stations had dropped an overall 80% by Wednesday mid-afternoon. The trade further noted that airplay went down as the day progressed, suggesting that the drop might have been even steeper if it didn’t average in periods in the morning when some stations hadn’t made adjustments yet. His current single, “7 Summers,” fell from 701 spins on Tuesday to 168 today, a drop of 76%, “with the decrease… accelerating as the day progressed.” The vast majority of his spins came in the hours prior to 10 a.m. instead of after, Country Aircheck said.
In discussions that took place among radio pros Wednesday, many said that they had not addressed the issue of Wallen’s banishment on the air, preferring to keep their airtime positive and let listeners find out about the news on their own. The closest comparison is when the Dixie Chicks were driven off the air as the result of a political statement in 2003. But many programmers say they were reacting to an angry audience with the Chicks 18 years ago, but in this case, decisions were made before most listeners were even aware of the controversy, and some still might not be.
The tough day for Wallen has included the artist being dropped from the iHeartRadio, Cumulus and Entercom radio chains, among others. CMT, SiriusXM and Pandora have also removed his music. Spotify and Apple Music removed him from spots on their landing pages and in-house playlists, although his music can still be searched and called up by customers on demand.
His Nashville-based label, Big Loud, said it was “suspending” his contract “indefinitely,” with the support of distributor Republic Records.
So far Wallen has only addressed the issue with a statement Tuesday night that said, “I’m embarrassed and sorry. I used an unacceptable and inappropriate racial slur that I wish I could take back. There are no excuses to use this type of language, ever. I want to sincerely apologize for using the word. I promise to do better.” The controversy exploded after TMZ posted video of Wallen shouting the N-word as he said goodbye to friends in front of his house after a night of carousing.