NILES, IL. June 22, 2017—The start of summer in Nashville includes a week that celebrates country music even more than usual in Music City. This year, on each night of CMA Fest, June 8-11, high-profile artists performed at Nissan Stadium, while the daylight hours featured free stages scattered throughout the downtown area, and the Xfinity Fan Fair X occupied the Music City Center convention facility.
The unofficial start of it all, though, is the CMT Music Awards, presented Wednesday night in the Karl F. Dean Grand Ballroom at Music City Center and broadcast live on Country Music Television (CMT). In celebration of the event, an outdoor stage augmented the main ballroom performances.
Setting the tone for the week, the awards show was dominated by Shure microphones and wireless systems. While all performers were encouraged to use their favorite microphones, Audio Producer Tom Davis reports that 55 channels of Shure UHF-R wireless were in use, including UR2 handhelds for vocals and UR1 bodypacks for instruments and lavalier mics. In-ear monitors were powered by 24 channels of Shure PSM 1000 wireless systems.
The night’s big winner was Keith Urban, who took home four awards, including Video of the Year and Male Video of the Year for “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” Collaborative Video of the Year along with Carrie Underwood for “The Fighter,” as well as being named Social Superstar of the Year. Underwood also snagged multiple awards, adding Female Video of the Year award for her song, “Church Bells,” extending her record total to 17 CMT wins.
But as always, live performances were the show’s highlight, and Shure microphones were a common denominator for many of them. The opening tribute to Gregg Allman featured Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley on UR2/Beta 58 transmitters, while Miranda Lambert opted for the KSM8 for her stunning performance of “Pink Sunglasses.” The classic SM58® was spotted on lead vocals by Keith Urban, Brothers Osborne with Peter Frampton, The Chainsmokers, and Shure endorsers Luke Bryan and Kelsea Ballerini. Little Big Town employed their standard mix of SM58, Beta® 58, and Beta 87 capsules for a perfect vocal blend.
Shure microphones were also a staple for the Nissan Stadium concerts at CMA Fest, where headlining performances by Trace Adkins, Miranda Lambert, and Luke Bryan used Shure Axient wireless on lead vocals. But it was the recently announced Axient Digital wireless that captured the most attention.
The next-generation upgrade to the acclaimed Axient Wireless Management Network was put to the test by Jason Glass, the event’s RF coordinator and President of Clean Wireless Audio, who coordinated 1,084 wireless frequencies over the course of the week. Glass was extremely impressed with the sound quality and reliability of Axient Digital under the difficult RF conditions at Nissan Stadium.
“Any new wireless we use has to play well with our distributed antenna system,” he reports. “When my tech walked the Axient Digital handhelds out, well past our furthest point where we would have any performers, with his hand cupped tightly around the antenna, the system would not drop out. It passed the test.”
With that approval in place, Axient Digital was used nightly by stadium co-host Kelsea Ballerini, with her preferred KSM9 mic element. It was also used for the national anthem performances by Brooke Eden (SM58) and Restless Heart (three Beta 58 capsules), and in performances by Shure endorser Brett Young (KSM9) and lead singer Matthew Ramsey with Old Dominion (Beta 58).
As impressive as Axient Digital’s wireless quality was, Jason Glass may have been more impressed with its sound quality, saying, "I've used SM58 and Beta 58 on cables for 25 years of touring and mixing. I know what they sound like. The Axient Digital sound is absolutely like a cable. It was flawless.”
CMA Audio Producer Tom Davis of Seismic Sound, who worked the CMA Fest and CMT Awards shows, was in total agreement. "The level of support from Shure is always appreciated and consistent,” he says. “The new Axient Digital system performed flawlessly, and it sounds great. Better than a hard wire, which is no easy feat!”
Another key player who had a busy week was Ryan Smith of Shure Artist Relations, moving from event to event to ensure that everything was going smoothly for artists and engineers throughout the events. A fixture in the Nashville music community for nearly a decade, Smith was exhausted and energized by week’s end.
“It was an electrifying week in Nashville,” he reports. “Not only did we have tons of country music fans in town, we had a hockey team in the Stanley Cup playoffs. I met with many artists and their crews to show off Axient Digital, and they all were very impressed with this new advanced system. I look forward to these shows every year, and it’s always exciting to see so many Shure systems in use.”