Motif Music Awards

Motif Music Awards Process

People often ask us about the nomination process for the Music Awards. Here’s how we do it, spelled out in as much detail as we can muster:

First, we contact every booking entity we know of in the area. This includes everyone who has sent us music related press releases, been in our listings, been covered as a venue, podcast, producer or label over the years, or that any of our editorial team and music writers are aware of. Our contact list is not always as up-to-date as we would like, but most of them are people we correspond with periodically, so it’s pretty fresh. We also ask our salespeople to contribute contact information (they know everybody), and our writers contribute contacts, then our admin staff (with the help of intrepid interns) try to chase everyone down to get their suggestions. In 2021, coming out of lockdown, a lot of venues were still shuttered and we had no interns, so everything has had an added level of randomness. Everyone participating is sent a list of suggested categories, but also open-ended questions.

Our outreach protocol is 1. Send email. 2. Send to alternate email addresses if we have them in sales, accounting or among the writers. 3. Remind/nudge/reach out on social media. 4. Call. 5. Repeat the emails. Go to the venues we still haven’t reached, if possible. To all of these contacts, we send a list of probable categories and ask the open-ended questions: What were your favorite acts?

Once we have everyone’s nominations in, we put them all in a giant spreadsheet. There are several people working on the data entry, because it’s a lot.

Many of the nominations we receive don’t specify what category. We’re okay with that – we want the input and feedback, and we’d rather sort through the details ourselves than have people not respond because it’s too much work. But it does leave a lot of parsing, as we try to figure out how to categorize act. We know some of the results are a bit forced, and of course every performer has their own unique sound. But without categories, it’s hard to do the voting part.

From that spreadsheet, we do straight math – if something or someone received five or six nods from nominators, it gets on the nominee list over something that got one or two. We pick the top 4 – 8 entries in each category, and remove categories that had fewer than 4 nominees.

Unfortunately, straight math alone can’t do the whole trick – we frequently end up with ties. And, of course, we need to filter out the bands that are inactive, aren’t really local or are in the wrong category.

For that part of the process, we have meetings. Usually two, inviting all our music writers and any other people we think have in-depth knowledge of particular parts of the community and can help answer those questions. The goal is to break the ties and settle on a final set of nominees.

Winners are chosen by the public, with over 6,600 voters participating in 2019. We require each voter to enter a unique email address, and we have technology to block vote fraud, detecting AI patterns, duplicate IP addresses, etc. We know some people can vote a couple of times (at work, at home for example) but with that many voters, it’s incredibly rare that any selection comes down to just a few votes, and we’ve taken all possible precautions, including review by humans, to prevent bots and the like.

It’s certainly true that you have an advantage if you get out there on social media, and you have advantages if lots of people saw a show. We WANT the widespread participation – one of our fundamental goals is to get people to realize how robust the music scene is, and how many shows and bands are out there and how much more activity there is than the average voter may have realized. If bands scare up votes, it still helps us all.

Suggestions for improvement are always welcomed, and we tweak our process a little bit every year, so if you want to reach out, send us a FB message, tweet or IG message or email Mike at