Carrie McDonough, a senior at Millersville University, has been experiencing an especially unique internship with the Academy of Country Music over the past eight months due to uncertainties brought around from COVID-19.
On January 8 after receiving the marketing internship with ACM, McDonough moved to California to work at their Encino office outside of Los Angeles. Here, she worked just short of full time preparing for the awards show that was originally scheduled for April 5. McDonough spent most of her time drafting press releases, updating contact grids, writing social media copy, and utilizing Meltwater to compile media recaps and track media coverage of ACM announcements. She also collected screengrabs of artist’s posts to track their support.
As the Awards drew closer, the virus started to become an ever growing problem in the United States and big events started to be suspended as a result. “I would say by the beginning of March I was starting to grow a little bit more concerned as the NBA got canceled. That was basically the point where I knew that there was no way we’re going to be able to put on such a large scale show if the NBA is getting cancelled…It was just a very strange week leading up to March 15, because we were kind of just waiting to see what would happen,” McDonough says.
As predicted, the Awards needed to be suspended due to unease surrounding the virus. Out of concern for the interns’ safety, they were told that the internship would be ending, allowing them to return home. Although the internship didn’t end until the following week and McDonough still had her Airbnb secured, she felt safer traveling back to her parents. Not wanting to be so far away from home during a pandemic played a part in this. ACM was understanding about her decision to leave, with their main concern being that everyone was safe and comfortable.
During this time, ACM maintained contact with the interns and updated them on ACM Presents: Our Country, a two hour television special. While there were originally two of them interning after the initial postponement, McDonough is currently the only intern still working for ACM.
“They [ACM] really did support all of us as much as they could, because they knew we were upset and disappointed with how we had basically planned an entire show and two weeks away from leaving [for Las Vegas], we had to go home instead. They said, ‘If there’s any area in the music industry that you’re interested in, just let us know and we’ll see if we can set you up with interviews with people.’ I got to talk with artist’s publicists and different people in the field, via Zoom, to just kind of learn more about the industry. They’re a great company to work for. I really am thankful for all of that,” McDonough says.
Throughout McDonough’s internship, she experienced contrasting workdays. While continuing the internship remotely, she worked on creating playlists on streaming platforms for ACM. “Every day was different, and every day is still different and that’s what I love about it. One thing that I cannot speak highly enough about the team for is just that they really treat their interns as a part of the team. So you’re actually doing real work,” she says.
McDonough is currently preparing for the upcoming Awards on Wednesday, September 16. They are typically held in Las Vegas, but for the first time in ACM history they will be in Nashville, Tennessee. It is being held at the most historic venues in Nashville: The Bluebird Cafe, The Grand Ole Opry, and Ryman Auditorium. McDonough talks about how historical the show will be and how it’s going to be exciting to see it all come together, as she’s in Nashville for the week of the show.
“I’m excited. It’s definitely a little bit nerve wracking with there being so many unknowns, but I think that’s just kind of natural. It’s a part of the process, but I’m more excited than anything. This is definitely the field that I want to be in, so I think it’ll be really fun and a great experience overall,” McDonough says.
While the show itself and what the interns will be doing is still being finalized, viewers can expect to see performances by Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood, Gwen Stefani, Luke Bryan, and Trisha Yearwood. Taylor Swift will even be returning to the ACM stage for the first time in seven years to perform “Betty,” a song from her new album “Folklore.”