On November 14, the 52nd CMA Awards were broadcast live from downtown Nashville on ABC. This year’s Country Music Association celebration featured surprise artist pairings, touching sentiment, and challenging production elements. Emcees Carrie Underwood – winner of Female Vocalist of the Year – and Brad Paisley returned, marking their 11th straight year co-hosting the CMAs.
After an opening moment of silence, Luke Bryan kicked the show into gear with a rendition of “What Makes You Country,” sharing the stage with a half-dozen other artists. That set the tone for an evening of great performances, over half of which were performed on Shure Axient Digital wireless systems.
Audio producer Tom Davis and his team returned intact, with J. Mark King as broadcast production mixer, working with wireless expert James Stoffo as RF coordinator. Broadcast music mixes were done by Jay Vicari and John Harris of Music Mix Mobile, while Rick Shimer and Pat Baltzell mixed live for the Bridgestone Arena crowd. Monitor mixers Tom Pesa and Jason Spence used 24 channels – and 100 P10R bodypacks – of Shure PSM 1000 for all artist in-ear mixes.
One notable change this year was the production’s choice of Axient Digital as its primary wireless system. While all artists use their accustomed systems, its RF stability and fidelity made Axient Digital the default for the majority of the evening’s performances.
From his monitoring perspective, engineer Jason Spence was pleased. “With Axient Digital, I noticed the lower noise floor right away, and no compression. Regardless of the capsule, I am not doing nearly as much EQ as before because of the improved audio quality,” he reports.
Unsurprisingly, many artists used the classic SM58 capsule on their AD2 handhelds, including Bryan, Entertainer of the Year winner Keith Urban, Vocal Duo of the Year Brothers Osborne, plus Garth Brooks, Maren Morris, Jon Pardi, Ashley McBryde, Eric Church, and special guest Mavis Staples. Other Shure choices included the KSM8 for Miranda Lambert, KSM9 for endorsers Brett Young and Dan + Shay, and BETA58A for Dierks Bentley.
RF coordinator James Stoffo notes, “Axient Digital systems are now my ‘go-to’ for many music and corporate events. With solid RF stability, it’s no surprise so many artists and engineers are comfortable using it.”
AD1 bodypacks were also in use, including Luke Bryan’s band and the acoustic guitars of Garth Brooks and Kacey Musgraves. Musgraves opted for a hardwired BETA58 for her performance of “Slow Burn,” from her Album of the Year winner, “Golden Hour.” Pistol Annies also opted for an old-school look with their cabled 5575LE vocal microphones.
After a week of preparation, Shure’s artist relations manager in Nashville, Ryan Smith, was able to enjoy the awards from backstage. “Attending awards shows is a wonderful reunion with the artists, engineers, and fantastic crews who make the magic happen, both behind the scenes and on stage. It is an honor to support and work alongside the best in the business.”