Before we get to my thoughts on @dovejokes - a little background for those who are unfamiliar with the story (Skip ahead if you know all about the Doves and @DoveJokes):
Last weekend the Dove Awards aired on the Gospel Music Channel. They were actually filmed earlier in the week at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. If you’re not familiar with the Dove Awards at all, they’re basically the Christian music version of the Grammy’s - an award show celebrating Christian music.
As with all award shows, the Doves aren’t without some controversy…. especially when winners are announced. Most fans would never be aware of the drama that swirls around the Doves…. although twitter and the internet have changed that a bit recently.
The most prevalent issue is known as “block voting”. When nominees for a category are announced…. Artist on Label #1 will tend to get the votes of anyone associated with Label #1, and Artist on Label #2 will tend to get the votes of anyone associated with Label #2, and so forth. These people might be label employees, other artists on the label…. etc…. but the key is that nearly every voting member has some sort of label affiliation. That means that any artist on the label with the most voting members (employess, artists, etc). has a decisive advantage…. and that means that artist on the biggest label(s) tend to win. Most complaints about this process revolve around the argument that awards should be based more on achievement than label affiliation.
Annnnnnyways…. On to the story at hand.
Many folks at the Doves have quietly grumbled in the past about the illegitimacy of the Dove awards…. but it’s always been quiet and somewhat behind closed doors. This year, the dissent had a place to go…. and that place was Twitter.
A twitter account called @DoveJokes was created, and the login info was passed around for many artists and label folks to have….. so, during the filming of the Doves, people were cracking jokes in real-time, and anyone else who knew about the account could read them. It was like a realtime rifftrax that people could follow to make sitting through the 5 hour ceremony a little more fun. The account was started the afternoon of the taping, and by the end of the evening it had over 1,000 followers.
Initially the jokes were pretty tame, but as time went on pretty much everyone was getting ripped on. I wasn’t at the Doves, but I sure enjoyed hearing all the little quips about the event. Eventually the block voting issue became the topic of conversation, because it seemed that nearly every award was being won by an artist on a single label. The criticism piled up throughout the night.
Eventually people started getting offended. Some thought the jokes had gone too far, others felt that by making fun of the Doves that the jokesters were disrespecting Christian music as a whole, and still others felt personally attacked for jokes that may have been made in reference to them.
A conversation arose out of the fray, with questions being raised such as….. Are the Dove awards fairly won or not? If not, then why have them in the first place? Do the Doves even matter? If not, why do we still participate in them? Is it appropriate for dissent to take the form of anonymous tweets? Is it hurtful to fans, who are certainly not privy to the issues behind the curtains at the Doves?
And that’s where we are today.
Here are my thoughts:
I think the Dove Awards are a great idea. It’s a night to celebrate what God has done through the power of music, using the artists and industry folks that work in Christian music. I believe the Gospel Music Association is doing the best it knows how to honor that original goal. I think there certainly are some issues with how the winners are decided, but at the end of the day, I don’t really care who wins…. and I can say that as a member of a band who has lost a few times.
In 2005 our album Letters to the President was nominated for Rock Album of the Year. We went to the awards, and we had a blast. Jason caused some commotion when he yelled “I love you Amy Grant!” to Rebecca St. James during a commercial break. Haha… When our category came up, we lost to Day of Fire. I remember being disappointed, but we were really just happy to be there, in the company of so many other people making music.
Sure, we thought “block voting” may have influenced the outcome of that award, but at the end of the day, we didn’t really care. We were stoked to be making music for a living, and we were in the middle of a tour with TobyMac and Audio Adrenaline, so we were really on cloud nine.
I think what it comes down to is validation. That’s what all of this is about.
If you really looked to the Dove Awards for validation, then of course you would be upset about the apparent unfairness in the voting. You would want to be honored by your peers in front of your peers. I’m not saying I wouldn’t want that, or be glad if it came my way, but I guess that simply isn’t where I find my validation.
Hawk Nelson has always first and foremost been a live touring band. Our favorite thing in the world is to play live shows and have rooms full of people yelling our songs back at us. We love hearing stories of how God has used one of our songs to change someone’s life, or sometimes even save it. That kind of stuff is the best! THAT is where we find our validation.
The reality is that the things we really care about as a band are alive and well. So far, we’ve released 5 albums, had so many great shows in amazing places, and connected with so many awesome people along the way. I am so incredibly blessed, and I don’t need a gold dove on my mantle to know that. Some of the artists we’ve lost Doves to are no longer together or making music…. so I count myself doubly blessed. First to be able to make music in the first place, and second that we are continuing to do so in the future!
When it comes to the Doves, I have a hard time getting very worked up either way. The whole thing kind of seems like a vestigial organ of an industry that is evolving and changing…. with some older parts becoming somewhat less relevant as time goes on. For this reason, I’m neither surprised nor disappointed when we aren’t really recognized there.
When it comes to @dovejokes - I think the conversation is good. I love that it’s turned into an outlet for people to express legitimate points about the current system in which Christian music is written, distributed, sold, and celebrated. It’s healthy to be able to look at ourselves critically, and wonder what we could do better. It’s also healthy to be able to laugh at ourselves from time to time!
I like to think that God always has something better in the future. For this reason, I’m not often sad at the end of a tour, recording project, or much else for that matter. I trust and believe that what God has for us tomorrow is even better that what he had for us today - and that’s saying something.
There will always be some who harbor bitterness, but those same people are the ones who will cling to the past, and render themselves irrelevant. Bitterness grows stale with time, and is eventually rejected by anyone who doesn’t want to be left behind. It’s the hopeful that inherit the future… and they don’t need a golden dove on their mantle to know that either.