The New Mexico Music Awards judging process has evolved over the past 30 years to become one of the most consistent and evenhanded of any event of its kind in the U.S. today. Our judging process conforms to strict guidelines in order to ensure fairness while maintaining a high standard for our winners.

The process begins at the entry level. Entries are recorded and cataloged as they are received and entry information is verified. Samples of each entry are played, to ensure that audio is exists and to make certain that the entry is the one listed on the entry form. Entrants are notified if a problem exists with their entry.

Past reasons for disqualification include:

  • Entry into the wrong category, (i.e, a full length entry entered into a single length category).
  • Attempts to enter entries from previous years.
  • Previously released material showing up in a category for original compositions
  • Projects recorded and/or produced outside of the state of New Mexico.
  • Non-payment of entry fees.

In every instance,the entrant is given an opportunity to correct a problem entry. With unresolved issues, entry fees are returned.

From this point on the judging process the NMMA judge chair handles the judging process. The chair is not allowed to vote on the entries. Each entry is recorded as an audio file and placed in the category specific to the entry. All entry categories are uploaded to a server to provide access to preliminary judges. Each entry is assigned a number to ensure anonymity during the judging process so as not to influence judges through familiarity with any particular artist.

Preliminary judging is done by invited New Mexico music industry professionals that may include program and music directors, on air talent, sound engineers, producers, working musicians, marketing directors, club owners, managers and booking agents. No one with an interest in any category, financial, actual, or familial, past or present is allowed to judge that category. The names of the preliminary judges are not published so as to avoid any undue influence by anyone related to the entry process.

Judging is based primarily on production, performance and composition unless other criteria have been established for the category. Only the entries with the top 5 scores make the finals unless a tie for 5th place occurs, in which case, 6 entries may be declared as finalists. The decision of the judges is final.

Once the preliminary judging is completed, final entries in each category are made available online for review by judges outside of New Mexico. Judges may choose to judge in any category and may judge more than one group of finalists. For instance, a country music producer may choose to judge both the Country Western category and the Engineering category.

Each judge is chosen for her or his involvement in the music industry on a national scale. Past judges have included nationally and internationally notable songwriters, performers, producers, record company executives, music reviewers, engineers, graphic design artists, music magazine editors, booking agents, road managers and music educators. The names of the finals judges are published in the NMMA banquet program after the judging process is completed and the awards have been presented. The categories that each national judge participated in are not made public so as to keep their judging decisions appropriately private. The decision of these judges is final.