The 2020 ACM Awards were a history-making show in a number of ways — including, the Academy of Country Music has shared, who had knowledge of this year's winners ahead of time.

In a new story from Billboard, the ACM explains that, for the first time ever, the organization's CEO, Damon Whiteside, was given the winners list in advance. The move, a representative explains, was a decision to help get as many of this year's winners on site as possible in the face of COVID-19 safety guidelines.

"Due to COVID safety protocols, in particular requirements for testing 72 hours in advance of being onstage, we couldn’t require all nominees to be tested and be present on site," the ACM rep explains. "We felt it was crucial for fans to see the acceptances live, so for the first time in Academy history, our CEO — and only our CEO, not even Awards staff — was given a list of artists who had wins. Those artist managers were called to strongly encourage them to have their artists on site but were not given specific awards win information."

The Academy of Country Music uses Deloitte, an independent accounting firm, to tabulate the awards winners each year. Throughout the show's history, until the winners' envelopes were opened onstage, only those at the firm knew the results. In April, Whiteside told Billboard that Deloitte had known the 2020 ACM Awards winners since voting closed on March 11.

"Deloitte has the final results, which they are keeping securely within their possession," he explained at the time.

The move to alert artists' managers ahead of time explains why, for example, ACM Album and Male Artist of the Year winner Luke Combs hung around the Bluebird Cafe after his performance spot on Wednesday night (Sept. 16), and why Entertainer of the Year Thomas Rhett and Female Artist of the Year Maren Morris were at the Grand Ole Opry House despite having pre-taped their performances at the Ryman Auditorium.

On Instagram on Thursday (Sept. 17), Old Dominion shared video of themselves on their bus pre-show, when the arrival of songwriter Josh Osborne tipped them off to the fact that they'd won Song of the Year ahead of the live show:

Only Single of the Year winner Blake Shelton was not in Nashville for his win. The country star is in Los Angeles filming a new season of The Voice, and his ACMs performance was filmed out there.

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