Rock the (Dove) Vote

By Andy_Argyrakis
Posted: Wed, 03/25/2009 - 15:26

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By Andy Argyrakis, senior music editor,

With the Dove Awards right around the corner (coming live on Gospel Music Channel, April 23rd, 8pm ET), the music industry is buzzing with predictions. But just because the famed winged trophy is considered a peer award -- think the Christian equivalent of a Grammy -- fans have an incredibly unique opportunity to participate this year. In a groundbreaking collaborative move between the Gospel Music Association (GMA) and Gospel Music Channel, fans will now be able to cast their votes in two major categories, "Artist of the Year" and "New Artist of the Year," with those results carrying one third weight against industry totals.

To cast your vote, go to

In other words, the audience collective will serve as an important component in the equation normally reserved for record label executives, producers, critics and music industry insiders who operate behind the scenes. Beyond it being a significant first in the ceremony's 40-year history, here are 10 reasons why you should cast those ballots and be a part of history in the making.

Exercise your voice

Freedom is one of America's greatest qualities, and in chatting with "New Artist of the Year" nominee Steve Fee, front man of the worship band Fee, it's clear he's a patriotic guy. In fact, he looks to this year's Doves as a chance for fans to exercise their ultimate liberties of vote casting and equates it with the United States' political process.

"The people have a voice," he offers with a blend of seriousness and a light-hearted nature (cheekily adding we should supplement his comment with some patriotic music). "It's kinda like watching history unfold as the GMA Dove Awards embrace the freedom-building philosophy of popular vote under a free electoral system, by which all members of society enjoy equal vote casting opportunities afforded to them under the rule of democracy.Or at least 1/3, but we're moving in the right direction.God Bless America!"

Share your favorite star

Ever wonder how 'under the radar' acts blow up to the big time? Though radio airplay and sales at retail or iTunes helps, most artists give credit to grassroots fan efforts, which include sharing the news about a particular act with friends and even strangers who might be into similar music.

"It's really exciting for us, especially knowing we have such an active fan base," says Dawn Richardson, lead singer for "Artist of the Year" nominees Fireflight. "It was our fans that voted us to the top of Taco Bell's 'Feed The Beat' competition, so to have our fans in the mix of helping possibly determine the winner was great news!"

Celebrate diversity

Back in the day, the Dove Awards were primarily a southern gospel ceremony, though the genre pool has since widened to include everything from pop to rock to rap and urban gospel. "The first year was just 11 categories, and they were all southern gospel," confirms Gospel Music Association president John W. Styll. "We've had 40 years worth of growth and expansion, plus people love award shows in general. People love the music, they love the Gospel, and when you put them together, I think you have a message that doesn't really change over time, but the music does and stays current." Your vote celebrates the diversity that is Gospel music, and underscores – for anyone who might have doubts – that it's more relevant than ever.

Realty show appeal

For those of you who can't get enough of reality show-styled talent competitions like "American Idol" and "Gospel Dream," Dove Awards voting provides the perfect text or internet click fix. In fact, if you follow the aforementioned programs, you are probably already seasoned professionals when it comes to letting your fingers do the talking, so here's yet another extension of that always enjoyable thought process.

"It sort of feels like 'American Idol,' and I love voting for my favorite people because I actually believe my vote counts," affirms Jenny Simmons, vocalist/guitarist for "New Artist of the Year" nominees Addison Road. "Every fan's vote and voice will count. You get a chance to really get behind the people that you love and believe in!"

Social networking

Let's face it. People love to talk about what they love. And in a world where social networking is spreading faster than actual telecommunication, it's a great way to reach a captive audience with the click of a mouse. Fans really hoping their favorites will win can simply send a message to their entire address book and post blogs on their profile, leading to lots of pleasant chatter amongst web dwellers and possibly even a witnessing opportunity or two.

"We are very active with current social networks such as MySpace and Facebook," adds Richardson. "Also, Twitter is a great resource to getting the word out. These are just a few of the ways that we keep in touch with our fans."

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Ownership and empowerment

Those who rally behind a band will also feel greater empowerment in helping their favorite artist achieve that highly coveted Dove goal. And since all the bands we chatted with admit fans are a primary focus of each individual music ministry, the feeling of ownership is certainly mutual.

"I think people will be more excited to be part of the awards because they can take more ownership of who is recognized, at least in these two categories," observes David Zach, vocalist/keyboardist/guitarist for "New Artist of the Year" nominees Remedy Drive. "Music for me has always been about the listener and less about industry -- a great song brings out emotion and connects us to something that we're not quite sure of. From what I've seen, it seems like people are always more inclined to get excited about something if they can be part of it, from an election to a rock concert to Dove voting."

Members only no more

For the first time, those who aren't members of the GMA can have their say. Of course, membership has its perks like industry insider news and various functions throughout the year, but this is still a participatory opportunity for those who can't afford the fees.

"Well, it's obviously relying part of the voting on people who aren't necessarily part of the Gospel Music Association," echoes "New Artist of the Year" nominee Chris Sligh. "I think it's huge for opening up the GMA to a new audience and hopefully will involve more people in watching the Doves this year."

Break a tie

Though some may wonder why the fan vote only counts for 1/3 of the final verdict, it actually plays a major part in the program. Styll in particular notes that several categories each and every year are extremely close and a particularly active fan club could genuinely influence the end result to profound degrees.

"Sometimes the vote between professional members is very close and fan voting can really tip the scale," he verifies. "I don't want people to get the idea that only having a third doesn't count all that much because it can definitely have an impact!"

In other words, you – power to the people! – are the official tie breaker.

It's all live

When the cameras start rolling and the red light is on, there's no turning back for attendees packed into the gorgeous Grand Ole Opry or those following along at home. Absolutely anything can happen and there's no safety net, which means surprises in both the performance and actual awards divisions can pop up at any time throughout the night!

"I think the live aspect of a show like this makes it so much more exciting," adds "New Artist of the Year" nominee Francesca Battistelli. "I can't wait to sit in my seat at the Grand Ole Opry, and watch it all unfold."

And since voting continues all the way up through showtime, those of us watching at home can be in on the excitement, too.

Support Gospel Music Channel

For those who are regular viewers to the network or are even tuning in for the first time, your vote helps ensure quality programming like the Dove Awards will continue well into the future. "We are thrilled to help give the millions of passionate gospel/Christian music fans a voice in the Dove Awards," sums up Gospel Music Channel founder and president Charles Humbard. "Now for the first time ever, fans can vote with their ears by listening, vote with their eyes by watching GMC and vote with their fingers on"


About the Writer

Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, Illinois Entertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, and He's also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel's very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).

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