CMT Has ‘Artists of the Year’ and ‘CMT Awards’ Trade Places, Shifts Focus for June ‘Artists’ Special to Pandemic Heroes

Thomas Rhett, Miranda Lambert and Florida Georgia Line are among the artists slated for the June 3 special.

Little Big Town - Kimberly Schlapman, Thomas Rhett, Karen FairchildCMT Music Awards, Show, Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, USA - 05 Jun 2019
Andrew H. Walker/Shutterstock

CMT is having its two biggest annual franchises trade places. After it was previously announced that “The CMT Music Awards” would move from its usual June berth to October 14, the yearly “Artists of the Year” special that normally would have taken place around then is being bumped up to June 3 — retooled to have the participating stars celebrating frontline heroes of the pandemic rather than being honored themselves.

The 2020 edition of the special has been rebranded “CMT Celebrates Our Heroes: An Artists of the Year Special.” Thomas Rhett, Miranda Lambert, Florida Georgia Line, Brothers Osborne, Kelsea Ballerini, Lady Antebellum and Little Big Town are the artists named for this year’s telecast, which, like all other music specials for the foreseeable future, will feature at-home performances without the usual live audience.

The show is set for Wednesday, June 3 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CMT.

“The ‘CMT Artists of the Year’ franchise has always been reflective of the important issues of our time, and this year, we all felt it necessary to shift our focus to honoring the real heroes during these unprecedented times,” said Leslie Fram, CMT’s senior VP of music and talent. “From the first responders and healthcare workers to members of the military, our educators, food industry workers and so many more, the country music community will come together to honor these heroic men and women. The evening of unity will feature incredible performances, uplifting tributes and a salute to those risking their lives on the frontlines of this crisis.”

Typically the “Artists of the Year” franchise goes out live and has the honored artists collaborating with or being feted with speeches by other artists. Rhett repeats as an artist of the year; the other honorees last October were Carrie Underwood, Dan + Shay, Kane Brown and Luke Combs. The show doesn’t usually have a theme, but in 2018, CMT did go with an all-female honoree bill because of the ongoing gender disparity controversy over airplay in the genre.

The figures being collectively celebrated by Rhett, Lambert and this year’s other stars will include healthcare workers, the food industry, members of the military, business owners, educators and crisis innovators, CMT says.