Behind the CMT Music Awards’ Move to Austin’s Moody Center

Nashville ceremony was “in need of a new venue”

Carrie Underwood (l) and Kelsea Ballerini at the Moody Center announcement in November (Courtesy of CMT)

In Margaret Comeaux’s 20-plus years of producing the CMT Music Awards, the country music celebration has always called Nashville home.

In fact, the entirely fan-voted ceremony has been held in Music City since its inception. That streak is set to be broken this spring with a takeover of the Moody Center on April 2, marking Austin’s first major televised awards ceremony.

“It’s the first time the awards show has moved outside of Nashville, so it's a big deal for us,” says Comeaux. “I think it's going to be a real breath of fresh air for new opportunities.”

At Carrie Underwood’s Moody Center tour stop last fall, the top all-time winner in CMT Music Awards history was announced to perform at the 2023 awards show, with country-pop chart-topper Kelsea Ballerini joining as host. The full lineup and ticket sales have yet to be announced.

A combination of timing and venue availability in Nashville played a crucial role in the decision to take the ceremony on the road. Last year, the show left its longtime Bridgestone Arena home to try out the 60-year-old Nashville Municipal Auditorium. After also shifting the show’s broadcast from its original CMT home station to CBS in 2022, as well as bumping production up from mid-summer to early spring, scheduling conflicts arose in the country music hotspot.

“The folks from the Moody Center reached out to us, and we were off to the races.” – CMT Executive Producer Margaret Comeaux

“We came into a bit of a quandary about venues,” explains Comeaux. “Nashville's a busy place, as Austin is. We found ourselves really in need of a new venue because we didn't have the availability here in Nashville.”

The allure of Austin’s shiny new Moody Center didn’t hurt in the decision-making process. Representatives from the 15,000-capacity venue caught the attention of the award show’s producers, and a partnership quickly followed. Comeaux adds: “The folks from the Moody Center reached out to us, and we were off to the races. They were so excited about the prospect of us wanting to be in a different place, and our conversations just took off from there.

“One thing led to another, and here we come!”

The executive producer cites Austin’s culture of music appreciation as a key reason for the move. In addition to the main awards ceremony, she says, fans should expect a series of pre-show ancillary performances at iconic locations across Austin. Alongside those activation announcements, some tickets to the awards will be made available to the public at a later date.

“We want to be in a place that celebrates and loves all kinds of music,” she says. “That's the basis of all that we do at the CMT Music Awards – it's where you see collaborations of all kinds in country, rock, and pop. Everyone's welcome at the table or on the stage, and I think going to be a real natural fit with the fans in Austin.”

Does this year’s move amount to a one-off vacation, or is Austin the new home of the CMT awards show? Comeaux diplomatically leaves her answer open-ended.

“You know, you never say never! We’ll just have to wait and see. We’re all about making the best show possible, so I think that always leaves room for conversation.”

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the CMT Awards first began in 1967; in fact, the event debuted in 2002, then called the CMT Flameworthy Awards.

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CMT Music Awards, Carrie Underwood, The Moody Center, Margaret Comeaux

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