Halfway through another fantastic CMA Music Fest and there has already been so much entertainment jammed into two days.
I think one of the biggest lessons I can impart about CMA Fest, whether you are a newbie or a veteran, is to prioritize what you want to see and do most during the week. With all the live performances, the fan club parties, the meet-and-greets and the special events, there is only so much you can fit into one day. Sometimes picking Option A means that you have to miss out on Option B because many events go on at the same time.
Although the best laid plans can easily fall apart, prior to each year my group likes to pick a few performances or meet-and-greets we want to do the most. Although everything at CMA Fest is on a schedule, sometimes those schedules fall behind so you spend a lot of the day waiting for something to happen. Remember that patience is a virtue and often good things come to those who wait.
While we love all the concerts, for my wife and I a huge part is getting a chance to meet some of the artists that we really enjoy. Having a few minutes to share a funny tidbit with them or thank them for all the wonderful music they make is something special for us. This year we decided to attend a few fan club parties and get an experience not every fan gets to have. We have done a few parties over the years and this year got passes to attend fan club parties for a relative newcomer in Cole Swindell and the reigning Entertainer of the Year in Luke Bryan.
Most every fan club party includes some type of performance, a meet-and-greet and some free swag. Some are free to fan club members while others involve attendees having to purchase a ticket; most are limited in the number of fans who can attend (as they are held at relatively small venues), so paying attention to your favorite artist’s website or social media in the weeks and months leading up to CMA Fest is a must so you know when tickets go on sale.
The Cole Swindell Party involved us buying tickets (as his fan club does not have yearly dues), and we were able to see a 45-minute performance and then meet him at the end. Luke Bryan’s party was free (although we do we pay a yearly membership fee to be a part of his fan club – which also gives members exclusive opportunities to pre-sale tickets for concerts during the year) and included a performance and a cool goodie bag (but no meet and greet). Each event was fun in its own way but can easily take a block of two to three hours out of your day (from having to line up to get in the venue, waiting for the event to begin and then the event itself). That can be a big time commitment if you want to do other things but if it means getting up close and personal with your favorite artists then it is probably worth it.
We also want to give a shout out to Thomas Rhett. Even though we were unable to attend his party, he invited his fans to give back to the Nashville community with an event at Second Harvest Food Bank. It is just another example of an artist caring about the community they live in while also having a special event for fans.
There are other ways to get to meet your favorite artists. The CMA holds drawings leading up to the festival for fans to win meet-and-greets and special performances. There are also opportunities at Fan Fair X held inside the Music City Center. These generally involve waiting in some type of line (again back to needing a little patience) for your chance to grab a photo and an autograph.
The great thing is the CMA publishes a list on its website of who will be signing autographs and at what times, so it is easy to plan your strategy. When the legendary Reba McEntire signed autographs a few years ago my wife waited over three hours to meet her, but she said it was worth every minute. For other artists, especially newcomers the wait will not be nearly that long. And sometimes that relative unknown you grab a photo with now will become a superstar in a few years.
Finally it is important to remember you are not the only person who wants to meet your favorite artists. Sometimes the lines are long and it does not work out. But do not despair as there is always another autograph session or special performance to attend in the near future.