Here are the categories as defined by the Country Music Association:
- Modern Era-An artist becomes eligible for induction in this category 20 years after they first achieve national prominence. They will remain eligible for that category for the next 25 years.
- Veterans Era-An artist becomes eligible in this category 40 years after they first achieve national prominence.
- Rotating Categories-The third slot is a rotating category, with each group in the spotlight every third year. The three rotating categories are Non-Performer, Songwriter and Recording and/or Touring Musician.
The Modern Era Nominating Committee also oversees the Rotating Categories.
Final nominations are then submitted to two separate Panels of Electors, made up of historians and industry professionals that have a historical perspective on Country Music. One Panel votes for both the Modern Era and the Rotating Categories, while a second Panel votes for the Veterans Era category. Both Panels are updated annually by the CMA Awards and Recognition Committee. Individuals can serve on both Panels. All panelists remain anonymous and are appointed by the CMA Board of Directors.
So who are these Panel of Electors? Again, from the CMA:
- A panel of at least 100 Hall of Fame electors will be charged with responsibility of selecting Hall of Fame winners.
- Electors will serve for life so long as they are in compliance with items 7 and 8 below.
- Additional appointments may be made to the Panel of Electors as deemed necessary by the Board to maintain a sufficient number of Electors.
- Appointment to the Panel of Electors will be made by the CMA Board of Directors by a majority vote from a roster of recommended names prepared by the Awards and Recognition Committee. Any Board member may suggest additional names for consideration. Electors will be appointed on an individual basis, not as a panel.
- The 12 members of the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee will also serve as Electors.
- Members of the CMA Board of Directors may also serve as Electors, but his role is not automatic.
- Electors must have participated actively in Country Music for at least 10 years and must themselves merit respect and recognition for their accomplishments and/or knowledge in one or more aspects of Country Music. Electors must be members of the Country Music Association.
- Electors failing to vote two consecutive years will automatically be considered incapacitated and their names dropped from the Panel. Written request will be required for reinstatement.
Finally, candidates for the Hall of Fame will be appraised by CMA's Hall of Fame Panels of Electors, which consist of anonymous voters appointed by the CMA Board of Directors, in accordance with the criteria below:
- 1. Basic Standard-A candidate basically is be be judged on the degree of his or her contribution to the advancement of Country Music and on the indelibility of his/her impact.
- Individual Candidacy-Only individuals my be elected to the Hall of Fame. Companies, publications, radio stations and other groups-many of which significantly foster Country Music-are not eligible for Hall of Fame recognition.
- Scope of Activity-Flexible authority is vested in the Electors in identifying the scope of a candidate's activity in Country Music. The individual may have excelled in a narrow, specific sphere, such as songwriting, publishing, musician, recording artist, etc., or may have been active in several areas. In any event, a candidate must have achieved definitive leadership in his/own field of Country Music activity. However, it is definitely not mandatory to honor the leaders in every activity related to Country Music. A candidate truly must compete with all candidates in all field, as well as with all candidates in his/her own field.
- Span of Influence-The time factor of a candidate's impact on Country Music is completely flexible. It may cover an uninterrupted span of many years or it may cover two or more distinct and separate time cycles. Conceivably, a candidate may earn Hall of Fame recognition by one transient act, momentary in time, providing the impact on Country Music is deemed significant enough. Longevity of involvement with Country Music, therefore, will not in itself warrant recognition in the Hall of Fame.
- Influence on Others-A most significant criterion in evaluating a candidate will be his/her inspirational effect on others; the degree to which he/she multiplies his influence through others to create impact on Country Music far beyond his/her own direct individual contribution.
- Quantity vs Quality-A candidate's ability to expand the popularity of Country Music is a quantitative virtue.The professionalism of his/her activity is a "qualitative" one. Both quantitative and qualitative criteria are to be considered equally and separately important; conceivably, one may be present without the other.
- Devotion to Others-Furthering Country Music by selfless devotion to the interests of others may enhance the candidacy of an individual, but it is not essential to winning. The activities of a candidate may be completely self-devoted and still be considered significant enough to warrant recognition.
- Professional Conduct and Image-A candidate is expected to have practiced the highest caliber of professional conduct in order to enhance the public image of both himself/herself and Country Music.
- Professional Morals and Behavior-The selection process is not a judgement of personal morals and behavior, providing the latter does not negatively affect the professional conduct of the candidate and the public image of Country Music.
That is a lot of information there and I hope it answers some questions. So this year the categories are Modern Era, Veterans Era, and the Rotating Category, which this year is the Non-Performer. In 2013, the last year that a Non-Performer was elected, it was Cowboy Jack Clement.
As usual, there will be lots of thoughts and debate on who should be elected to the Hall. Many are the same names that have been considered in the past. Veterans such as Dottie West and Jerry Reed come to mind, while in the Modern Era names such as Alan Jackson, Ricky Skaggs and Randy Travis are mentioned. The last time a Non-Performer was elected, other names mentioned included Sam Lovullo and Irving Waugh. There are a dozen other names that could be mentioned in each category.
One of the issues I have with the nominees and finalists for the Country Music Hall of Fame is that the list is never made public. You never know who is being considered and I think that the Hall of Fame is losing a great opportunity for fans to debate and discuss the merits of the candidates being considered. For example, the Baseball Hall of Fame lists those who are on the ballot in last fall, with the actual announcement in early January. The Pro Football Hall of Fame names their initial ballot in the early spring, the finalists in early winter, with the actual voting in February at the Super Bowl. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame released their ballot a few months ago, with the election results to be announced soon. I just think the Country Music Hall of Fame is missing the boat on this.
As usual, the actual announcement will be made in late winter/early spring.