The Surprising Reason Why “Fan Fair” Changed Its Name To “CMA Music Festival” In 2004

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CMA Fest is known as the longest-running country festival in the world, but it didn’t always go by that name.

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to attend CMA Fest, you’ll understand why it has endured for so long and why it’s incredibly popular. If you haven’t had the chance, you should definitely go and also discover more about the festival below! (Including the reasons behind its multiple name changes).

About CMA Fest

Beginning in 1972, the annual four-day music festival used to be named Fan Fair, until its name was changed to CMA Music Festival in 2004. And since 2018, it has been widely known as CMA Fest.

The Country Music Association (CMA) hosts the event every June in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Each year, the festival’s profits go towards music education in public schools through CMA’s charity, the CMA Foundation.

The Transformation of Fan Fair to CMA Musical Festival

The decision to change the name Fan Fair to CMA Music Festival in 2004 was due to several factors.

It turns out that the choice was primarily aimed at changing some negative perceptions that fans seemed to have about the festival. After experiencing “low pre-sales in the Nashville region,” the event needed a major attendance boost if it was going to succeed.

The festival used to be held at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, but when it was moved to downtown Nashville, the CMA figured that the word “festival” would be more appealing to fans, considering the event took place in a more “urban” setting.

Ed Benson, Executive Director of the Country Music Association, revealed to at the time, “Research we’ve got tells us that the word ‘fair’ was a problem because it [describes] how people feel about something that is more rural, more agricultural, more like a state fair.”

The change was also accompanied by the event being televised by the ABC Network as a two-hour special known as CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night To Rock. The very first special, broadcast on July 14, 2004, attracted an estimated 9 million viewers.

These changes were also part of an effort to modernize and enhance the event’s images and reach a broader audience.

The shift from Fan Fair to CMA Music Festival was a big deal for the country music event.

It seems that the Country Music Association wanted to modernize the festival and make it more inclusive to a wider range of music lovers while still keeping that intimate bond between artists and fans that Fan Fair characterized.

“Don’t expect to see a rap or hip-hop star any time soon appearing at Fan Fair because that would be too far away from our musical center,” Benson shared back when the name was changing. “But I do believe and know for a fact that our fans who come here from all over the world are not just simply fans of country music and country artists. A lot of them are interested in music in a broader sense, so music that is compatible with what we do is fair game in looking to the future. But a majority of what we do is going to be country music.”

All About The 2024 CMA Fest

This year’s CMA Fest is celebrating its 51st anniversary, and you can bet that it will be the music event of the year!

Held from June 6-9, the event promises a stellar lineup of country stars who will be performing at multiple venues across the city. A few big names coming to town are Jelly Roll, Cody Johnson, Keith Urban, Lainey Wilson, Luke Bryan, and many more!

This year’s three-hour primetime concert special will air on Tuesday, June 25, on ABC and stream on Hulu the next day.

On Monday, June 3, it was announced that Jelly Roll and Ashley McBryde will be hosting the TV special, which will showcase “never-before-seen performances and special collaborations” from country music’s biggest and brightest stars.


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Based on a recent press release from CMA Fest, this year’s televised event will be the 21st consecutive year that they have aired the summer program. Don’t forget to tune in!