No. 34

June 01, 2016

Last year, in May 2015, Maryland experienced the first official Maryland Music Awards held at Ramshead Live. The event came under scrutiny for its lack of diversity in covering all genres of music, focusing on mainstream genres and excluding the genres of heavy metal which make up a large portion of Maryland's music scene. When asked about this by the local media, the promoters made clear that the genres of heavy metal did not fit with their agenda of targeting a mainstream audience and presenting a televised medium. This ignited a controversy in claims the awards were biased and not a true representation of the Maryland music scene, opening up discussions on the subject. I was glad to see that in the nomination process for this years second annual awards, the category of "Best Heavy Metal Artist" was a new addition.

The second annual Maryland Music Awards was held on Friday May 13th, 2016 at Kraushaar Auditorium at Goucher College. Tickets for the all ages event were $45 for general admission and $75 for V.I.P. Again like the first awards ceremony, the event was filmed to be televised at a later date on the Fox45 channel. The open online nomination process for music artists took place in a small window between June 2015 and September 2016, after which this years winners were decided by a large panel of 70 judges considered Maryland's finest in the local music industry. This years winners were as followed :

Best Gospel Artist-Madison Copelad
Best Live Performer-Kix
Best Funk Band-Higher Hands
Largest Contributor Award-Kevin Hock
Best R&B/Hip Hop-Area 301
Best Country Band-Dean Crawford & the Dunn's River Band
Best Rock Artist-Kix
Best Jazz Artist-David Bach
Maryland Music Icon Award-Dennis Chambers
Best EDM Artist-Electric Love Machine
Best Heavy Metal Artist-Silvertung
Best Regge Artist-Jah Works
Best Song Writer-(first tie in Maryland Music Awards history) Richard Fields and Julian Russo
Best Blues Artist-Kelly Bell Band
Breakout Artist of the Year-Silvertung
Best Cover Band-New Romance

Proceeds from the Maryland Music Awards went to the Nicole Van Horn Trust, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to raising money to help terminally sick children through the John Hopkins Pediatric Oncology Center and the Believe in Tomorrow Children's Foundation.

Maryland Best Songwriter 2016 : Richie Fields ( Tied )

Now that the Second Annual Maryland Music Awards has past, I find myself again for the second year feeling disappointed in this event. On its website at the event is described as "an event that will highlight some of the great musicians in Maryland to help raise money for children with cancer." While it is promoted as an event which "supports local musicians and the local music scene." , I find the MMA Awards to be just what it describes, an event that is first and foremost dedicated to soliciting donations for a charity, the musicians and celebrities come second simply donating their time to the cause, with very little which is supporting local musicians or the local music scene. The event is not inclusive to all genres of music, it is exclusive and thus biased, pandering to those local musicians and genres which have the greatest means to draw charitable donations. As such I cannot consider this a true music awards for the scope of Maryland. Not much has changed from last year. If you go to the official website, its hardly been updated, still describing last years event in 2015. If you go to the official Facebook page, its promoting the charity, Radio Sheffield, local celebrities, with its only coverage of the 2016 MMA coming mostly from outside posts. After the winners were announced at the awards event on May 13th, no announcements were made on the official website or its Facebook page. One person commented asking if they were going to announce the winners or if the awards were even real. On May 16th they finally made a post on the official Facebook page listing the winners in each category, but still as of June 2016 the official website states nothing. Photos from the event which have since been posted on the MMA Facebook page lack any description of who the people in the photos even are. The whole thing is just poorly presented.

This years addition of a category for "Best Heavy Metal Artist" seems more a rouse to appease those who complained about a lack of diversity with that genre last year. The final nominees were at best crossover bands that were more "Hard Rock" than "Heavy Metal" with cover bands whose entire sets were hard rock songs, playing a single Metallica song, and being considered a heavy metal act in the nomination. This years first winner of "Best Heavy Metal Artist" was Silvertung, who were also deservedly winner of "Breakout Artist of 2016". Even the band questioned their nomination for "Best Heavy Metal Artist" as Skoot, bassist for Silvertung. stated ďI donít view us as a Heavy Metal band, to me itís all just rock and roll." Of the list of nominees in the category there were certainly other bands that would have qualified more as heavy metal, Great bands such as Ghost of War, Silence the Blind, Periphery, Clutch, Bag of Humans, The Electric Prophets, to name just a few. Is it even fair to these musicians to label such a large diverse genre as heavy metal all under one category without at least dividing it between a few sub-genres such as progressive, thrash, grindcore, death metal, which the differences can surely be related ? Should a potential bias be considered with many of the final nominees being featured artists on Radio Sheffield prior to the selection process ?

You have to ask yourself how is this awards event benefiting the local artists and local music scene ? What exactly are the winners receiving ? Are they winning cash prizes, gift cards, recording studio time, manufacturing of their products, merchandise, real tangible winnings that would benefit the artists ? No, they are receiving a faux silver record award in a frame and the ability to have a winners title that is more or less meaningless due to its exclusiveness and bias. The creaters of this music award event are owners of Sheffield Recording Studios, one of the biggest studios in Maryland. They couldn't offer some free recording or mixing time to the winners as a prize ? I see little benefit to the artists. or the music scene, and more benefit for the charitable organization this appears to be a front for. That brings me to the last point here.

After seeing local music artists basically taken advantage of in providing free services to charity event after charity event, all year long, one might reach the conclusion that the music artists are the ones who are poor, struggling, and in need of charity. My experience reporting on the Rock Harvest charity event in past years which turned ot to be a scam and ultimately a scandal, has left a very bitter taste in my mouth regarding these types of events. Here we have a charitable organization, the Nicole Van Horn Foundation, which was created by the owner of Sheffield Studios, also the creater of Radio Sheffield and the creater of the Maryland Music Awards. There is certainly a potential for bias and conflict of interest. They provide links to view the website for the Nicole Van Horn Foundation, where there is no doubt that the Van Horn's suffered a terrible loss in their daughter's battle with cancer and admirably created the foundation to keep her memory alive while helping other children battling cancer. There is however a huge lack of transparency involving this organization and its operations. After reading through the site and its material one can see the foundation is collecting donations in the form of gifts which are presented to children battling cancer, but where is the money that is being collected going ? Despite being a non-profit charitable organization since 1999, the charities site presents no summaries or examples of individuals battling cancer who have been helped by the charity, money given towards cancer research, etc. There is no mention of how much money was raised by the Maryland Music Awards or where it was ultimately put to use. The only mention is that all proceeds from the charity were to go to the John Hopkins Pediatric Oncology Center and the Believe in Tomorrow Children's Foundation, but neither organization's official sites list any relationship with the Nicole Van Horn Foundation. There are no mentions of sponsorship, no mention of good deeds, not even a blog post that any money was donated to these organizations by the Nicole Van Horn Trust. Is that not odd or questionable ? If one is attempting to solicite donations to help cancer patients, wouldn't it be beneficial to post documented cases showing where your charity has made a difference ? I would think this would lend to more credibility and more donations being received. In the case of the Nicole Van Horn Foundation, they are holding an event for this charity in April each year, now a second event in May each year with the Maryland Music Awards, charging $50-$75 per person in admission, accepting donations, and never disclosing the amounts collected or dispersed. More transparency is certainly needed to give clarity to the validity of this charitable organization.

In conclusion, there is a vast amount of work that needs to be done to keep the related sites updated, show transparency with the charity, make the Music Awards the priority focus, and in actually offering winnings that will truly benefit the local music artist and music scene. Right now I see it as no more than hype, an event for people to play celebrity, and less than legitimate.

Maryland Music Award Winners 2016

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