by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
Yesterday the 2015 Omaha Entertaining and Arts (OEA) Award nominations were announced. I looked through the nominees list (here) and in addition to not recognizing a lot of the nominees, wondered why three of Omaha’s finest talents — The Faint, Orenda Fink and Conor Oberst — didn’t receive any nominations. All three released well-received full-length albums this year and toured extensively.
I turned to the President of the OEA Board, Emily Engles, for answers. Through a series of e-mails, Engles explained the nomination process:
Me: Any idea why The Faint weren’t nominated for anything?
Engles: They were not in the top 6, nor top 20 even.
Me: So the nominees are determined entirely by popular vote, right?
Engles: We receive the list all the way down to one vote, the music committee then makes sure everyone is in the right category as sometimes a band happens to be in the top for both rock and hard rock or both country and Americana. A committee of board members and voting academy members put the puzzle together using the entire list.
Me: Do you take into consideration things like album sales or is it purely based on public submitted votes? How do you prevent a recording that the committee recognizes to be an inferior recording (but that has a lot of public votes) from being nominated in a “Best of” category?
Engles: It is based on local shows and local affect. We only remove a band or album from a category if it is the wrong genre or album (was) not released within the award season, Sept 1-Aug 31.
Me: Is there any recourse by the board for adding an artist or recording that the board felt was overlooked by the public?
Engles: We do scroll through the events of the major venues (WR, SD, Shamrocks, Hideout, Chrome, Barley, etc.) for release shows to see a somewhat comprehensive list.
Me: So if someone on the board thought a band was overlooked by the public during the nomination process, the board could have added that band as a nominee?
Engles: It is the board and a select few from the voting academy. Yes, if someone was grossly overlooked, they could be added if the vote passed.
Me: Is there any reason why The Faint, Conor Oberst or Orenda Fink couldn’t be nominated?
Engles: The Faint landed at about #50 on this list with two nominations, Orenda at about 80 with one, Conor does not appear. While I understand the national effect they have for Omaha, they did not have the same local effect (Omaha release show, subsequent local shows, etc.) to grab the attention of the OEAs. I am speaking purely on my behalf…Marq Manner is our “indie” expert when it comes to the three you mentioned and may have a better explanation if mine is not sufficient.
I thanked Engles for her comments and pointed out that The Faint obviously had a rather large local effect considering they hosted massive shows at Sokol Auditorium, The Slowdown and The Waiting Room — i.e, more locals saw The Faint perform than any other nominated performer in any category. The same could be said for Conor Oberst.
So I did as Engles suggested and asked my ol’ pal MarQ Manner, who also is an OEA Awards board member. Here’s what Manner said:
MarQ Manner: While we don’t totally go on votes we certainly weigh them and where the public is pointing when debating. We had votes for well over 100 bands and the general vibe was that people were more focused on albums from groups that may not be on the national stage. We did not make any out loud choice to not include Conor, The Faint or Orenda. I think we just looked at 30 albums that were there and looked and researched and found what we thought were the best and most impactful albums in Omaha.
You have to understand that we have people on the committee that are hard rock people. roots rock people, hip hop, jam band, etc. it’s not the indie music awards. One of the biggest complaints about the OEAA’s is that Conor, Cursive, etc., are nominated. I disagree with that and think those nominations just make the award more important for the non-national band who may win in a following year. Is it a perfect process? No. I can’t think of an award organization that has it down. Our goal is to recognize the arts in Omaha that is having and impact and people are excited about.
For what it’s worth…
* * *
Tonight, right back to The Slowdown for Drive By Truckers and Lucero. $30, 8 p.m. show.
* * *
Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.