Every year, the About.com Readers' Choice Awards showcase the best products, people, organizations, and services in multiple categories, from technology to hobbies, parenting to religion. The readers of About.com make the nominations; the nominees (up to five) are chosen in each category; and the readers and others vote to choose one of the finalists as the best in the category for that year.
2013 marks the Second Annual World Music Readers' Choice Awards, a program within the larger RCAs focusing on -- what else? -- world music! The 2012 winners (and the fantastic slate of nominees) represented a broad spectrum of artists and professional world music organizations (presenting agencies, radio shows, and more), with nominees from around the world, and thousands upon thousands of voters cast their ballots. In 2013, we expect even bigger and better things, so join in the fun!
It should be noted that for the purposes of these awards, our definition of world music is a very non-specific one. Basically, we're looking at traditional genres of music from anywhere in the world (including the United States), and contemporary music from any non-Mainstream American culture that contains any elements of the traditional musics of that culture. If that definition sounds intentionally vague or broad-spectrum, that's because it is. We're not looking to draw boundaries here, we're just trying to have some fun, and for that reason, inclusivity is the name of the game. Please keep these ultra-loose guidelines in mind in both the nomination and voting phases of the awards.
1/14 - 2/11: Nomination Phase
2/19 - 3/19: Voting Phase
3/27: Winners Announced
And now, for this year's categories!
This award, one of two artist categories, is focused on artists or groups who work within a framework of traditional music. Nominees can be instrumentalists or vocalists, big bands or solo artists, composers or performers, or any of the above, but their music should be part of a deeply-focused cultural tradition; any deeply-focused cultural tradition -- as we mentioned before, these awards cover the broadest possible definition of the "what is world music" question.
The World Music Trailblazer Award, the second artist-focused category in this year's awards, looks at the music-makers who are working within a contemporary context. Perhaps that means a group of traditional artists who are creating something brand-new through fusion. Perhaps that means a singer who is taking the traditional music of her people and turning into something pop-friendly. Perhaps it means a DJ who is creating entirely new sounds out of pieces of older recorded works. Perhaps it's something else entirely -- that's part of the fun of this wide-open category.
The first of three categories awarded to those organizations that promote live world music, the Best World Music Club or Venue category encompasses a broad range of places to see music: large-scale sit-down venues that regularly host international superstars, tiny clubs where traditional music jam sessions happen every night, and everything in between. Nominees can be located anywhere in the world.
The Best World Music Concert Series category focuses on seasonal events who are focused on (but need not only present) international or regional roots music: free "Concerts on the Lawn"-style series, subscription series at major concert halls, large-scale seasonal multi-venue festivals, and anything else in that vein, and can be located anywhere in the world.
Nominees in the Best World Music Festival category need to meet a few simple criteria: they should present multiple bands, artists, or performance groups (at least four) over a stretch of time that spans anywhere from one day to two weeks. (Longer events should be entered in the Best World Music Concert Series category.) They should include a substantial lineup of international or regional roots musicians, though need not exclusively program world music. Their focus can be broadly-based, covering a huge number of artists from around the world, or it can be homed in on a hyper-specific genre of international music, with just a few key artists represented, or it can fall anywhere in between those two extremes. Nominated festivals can be either indoors or outdoors, free or ticketed, and located anywhere on the planet.
The Best World Music Radio Show category is a fairly straightforward one. Nominees must present a regular program consisting primarily of world music, either with a broad focus or a micro-regional focus or anything in between. The show can be broadcast over the airwaves or over the web, and can have a listenership that falls anywhere in between a tiny regional audience or a massive international syndicate.
The Best World Music Record Label is another fairly straightforward one: nominees need to be a named label that releases at least two albums annually that focus primarily on international music, either broadly-based or of a specific genre or region. Releases can be either all new recordings, multi-artist collections, or re-releases of archival material, and can appear on any format (vinyl, CD, MP3, etc.).
The internet is fast becoming the best way to learn about world music, and has increased access to lesser-known genres and artists in a way that seemed impossible just a generation ago. The variety of websites is truly astounding, and this category can include basically anything world music focused that has a URL: blogs, massive content sites, tiny sites that focus on a single genre, really excellent label or artist websites, or anything else we haven't thought of.