Behind the Ballot: How Artists Make the Cut and Other Doves Facts You May Not Know

By Deborah Evans Price | senior editor,
Posted: Wed, 03/09/2011 - 14:40

Dove Awards online coverage is sponsored by Soul Surfer, the movie, in theaters April 8.

It almost goes without saying: the first step in winning a Dove Award is creating great music. But in between getting that music to the masses and collecting that prestigious trophy, there is a process. This year's 42 Annual GMA Dove Awards will take place April 20, live at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, but for those artists who received nominations, the road to the Doves actually began months ago.

Read full Dove Awards coverage

"The Dove Awards is one of the Gospel Music Association's main ways to accomplish its goal of exposing, promoting and celebrating the Gospel of Jesus Christ through music," says GMA Chairman of the Board Ed Leonard. "Any audio or video recording with national distribution released during the eligibility period each year is eligible."
When exactly is that? The eligibility period is 12 months beginning on the 1st day of November and ending on the 31st day of October prior to the presentation of the Dove Awards, thus product released between November 1, 2009 and October 31, 2010 are eligible for a 2011 Dove. To be considered, the product must be submitted by a GMA professional member or an approved record label/print publisher.

Doves Go Digital
This is the very first year the entire Dove Awards voting process has been online with no paper ballots. Record company online entries were due September 20, 2010, and professional member online entries were due on October 27. To be considered for a Dove nomination, the GMA requires actual physical copies of the CDs to be submitted to the GMA office in Nashville, Tenn.

Once the digital ballots and CDs have been received, the Dove Awards Screening Committee, which is made up of approximately 80 industry leaders representing all musical genres, meets and verifies the eligibility of the nominees. During the screening process, submissions are checked to see if they were released during the eligibility period and to see if they are listed in the correct categories for which they've been nominated.
After this list is compiled, the first online ballot is emailed to GMA professional members. After the results of the first ballot have been tabulated, the final nominees are announced at a press conference.
Who Gets to Vote?
To vote for the Dove Awards, you must be a GMA member and there are several categories for membership: Individual Professional, Lifetime, Associate and Student GMA members. If you're interested in joining the GMA, visit
Professional members, who pay $95 membership fee yearly, are able to vote in all 43 Dove categories. Associate and student members are able to vote on the final ballot in the Artist, New Artist, Song, Male Vocalist, Female Vocalist and Group categories only.
Interested parties have a new way to become involved in the Dove process. "The GMA has a new membership category called iMember," says Leonard, "which costs $25 per year and has a boatload of benefits, including the ability to vote in up to four categories in the Dove Awards."
For the third consecutive year, gmc viewers will have the opportunity to cast their votes in two Dove categories – Artist and New Artist of the Year. "We were looking for a way to get the great fans of our music involved in the Dove Awards," says Leonard. "These categories made the most sense to open up to the fans."
This year's Artist of the Year nominees are Francesca Battistelli, Jason Crabb, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Natalie Grant, Marvin Sapp, TobyMac and Chris Tomlin. New Artist nominees are Audrey Assad, Chris August, forever JONES, John Mark McMillan, No Other Name, Kerrie Roberts and Kristian Stanfill.
Does the ‘Block Vote’ Exist?
The GMA leadership is vigilant in maintaining the integrity of the Dove Awards voting. Occasionally, there will be grumbling in the industry about major companies exerting their power and influencing the process. "Block voting" is a term often heard when people are discussing any industry awards process from the Grammys to the CMA Awards to the Doves. "Block voting is when you use your vote in collaboration with others to support a nominated entry regardless of the quality of the nominated entry, for the purposes of getting a final nomination or a win," explains Leonard. "It is manipulating a process that is supposed to be about recognizing the best work in a particular category of consideration. I think it shows itself sometimes, but the balance of memberships limits its impact most of the time."
With any awards show, there's always concern that a large company will have their employees vote exclusively for their artists and affect the votes, but individual, associate and student members who vote help maintain the integrity of the process.
When the Ballot’s Up and Who’s Keeping Score?
The second ballot voting opened on March 5 and will close March 26. The winners will be announced April 20.

Just who is responsible for tabulating results and keeping the winners a secret until the big night? "Only our accountant, Barbara Kinkead, knows the results of the voting," says Leonard. "The voting this year is being done electronically for the first time in our history.  It is audited by Barbara's firm, which does an incredible job."
Every vote counts and now is the time.

For more information visit Fans, cast your votes online at

Copyright 2011, For permission to repost or reprint, click here.


About the Writer

Deborah Evans Price has covered Christian/Gospel music for Billboard magazine since 1994. She also contributes regularly to CountryWeekly, CMA Close Up, Devo’Zine, Christian Single, HomeLife, BMI Music World, and other publications.

A Nashville resident since 1983, Deborah has held editorial posts at Radio & Records, Country News, American Songwriter and Billboard. Amy Grant, Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley, Charlie Daniels, 3 Doors Down, Third Day, Don Henley, Bon Jovi, Chris Rice, Sandra Bullock, Mercy Me, Alan Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood and Steven Curtis Chapman are among her many interviews. Additionally, she's a sought-after music industry analyst who has been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, TNN, The Today Show, and ABC PrimeTime Live, among other outlets.

Deborah is a member of the Gospel Music Association's board of directors and a graduate of Leadership Music. She resides south of Nashville with her husband, Gary, and son Trey.

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