When the Detroit Music Awards arrive this weekend, the show will mark its third straight year as an online-only program. And it’s possible that will become the permanent status for the long-running event.
The 31st edition of the DMAs will roll out at 8 p.m. Sunday, this time on the streaming service Mandolin, which launched two years ago and quickly became an industry leader.
The 75-minute, prerecorded program will include performances by Greta Van Fleet, classically trained crossover pianist BLKBOK, rising rock band Mac Saturn and country songwriting phenom J.T. Harding. Also featured will be the inaugural performance of Johnny Bee & the Murder Hornets, a gospel tribute to Aretha Franklin’s “Amazing Grace” album and a clip from the cast of “Ain’t Too Proud,” the Temptations musical that hits the Fisher Theater this August.
Award presenters are under wraps, but if the past two years are any indication, the lineup could include names from across Detroit’s music, culture and sports worlds.
Access to the streaming program is $5, with a portion of proceeds earmarked for Music Saves UA, a humanitarian project launched by the All-Ukrainian Association of Music Events. Ticket buyers have an option to increase their donation upon purchase.
Having gone virtual in 2020 — a stream hastily arranged during the early pandemic shutdown — the DMAs stuck with the format last spring, as its longtime Fillmore Detroit home remained sidelined.
The success of those digital shows has organizers “in discussions” to stick with online-only going forward, says entertainment attorney Howard Hertz, president of the Detroit Music Awards Foundation. While the DMAs would continue to stage regular artist showcases and other events on the year-round calendar, it would mean the end of the annual spring ceremony at the Fillmore.
“The advantage of virtual is we’re spreading the word and getting people tuning in from literally all over the world,” says Hertz. “That’s a benefit to the artists and to the city by exposing Detroit music to more and more people.”
This year brings another notable DMAs change, in line with moves made by the Grammys: The number of award categories has been reduced to 50, down from 70-plus in recent years, with some fields now combined. And the nominees count in many categories has dramatically expanded — now up to a dozen in some cases.
“We’re not eliminating anyone,” says Hertz. “We’ve just changed the way it’s arranged. It’s another opportunity for younger artists, by expanding the number who can make it to final round.”
Multiple nominees this year include Jill Jack (six), Tino Gross (four) and Laith Al-Saadi (three). In the national categories, contenders include a host of heavyweight names, including Eminem, Jack White, Stevie Wonder and Big Sean.
Winners are the culmination of a three-phase process that includes two rounds of voting by the music professionals who are active members of the DMAs organization.
The move to Mandolin, meanwhile, promises to be a boon for the virtual show. The service, which made a timely debut early in the pandemic, has become a bustling, genre-spanning hub of live music. It won best streaming platform at last year’s Pollstar Awards.
The DMAs made the jump after mixed results webcasting on social media: While the organization secured all its assorted song-licensing rights ahead of airing, that didn’t stop the copyright robots of Facebook and YouTube from cutting off the show at times.
“That’s one of the reasons we went to Mandolin — it’s a private service that won’t be controlled by YouTube or Facebook searching for (ostensible) copyright violations,” says Hertz. “We had to look for a way that’s cleaner and safer. This will remedy those concerns.”
Contact Detroit Free Press music writer Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
8 p.m. Sun.
Detroit Music Awards online afterparty
9:15 p.m. Sun.