The first-ever K-LOVE Fan Awards took place June 1, 2013 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. Fan favorites like TobyMac, Francesca Battistelli, Casting Crowns, Matthew West, Building 429, NEEDTOBREATHE, Amy Grant and Jamie Grace, among others, performed before a packed house. In addition, the evening shone a spotlight on other Christian entertainment, including books, movies and sports. The winners were as follows:

Artist of the Year: TobyMac
 Male Artist of the Year: Chris Tomlin
Female Artist of the Year: Kari Jobe
Group/Duo of the Year: Casting Crowns
Breakthrough Artist of the Year: For King & Country
Song of the Year: “Redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave
Sports Impact: Mike Fisher, Nashville Predators
Movie Impact:  “Courageous,” Alex Kendrick, director/co-writer
Book Impact:  “The Love Dare” by Alex Kendrick & Stephen Kendrick
Based on the sold-out attendance, the anticipation for next year’s event and the results of the voting, the first annual K-LOVE Fan Awards sheds some light on a few key insights into Christian music. Take note:
  • “Duck Dynasty” is the latest craze. I don’t know who fans were more excited about meeting…TobyMac or the Duck Commander. As hosts of the K-LOVE Fan Awards, Phil, Miss Kay, Jase and Missy Robertson were a huge hit with the crowd on and off stage throughout the Ultimate Fan Experience Weekend. The reality TV stars, known for priorities that include “God, family and ducks…” made even the artists starstruck. (Chris August was even sporting a beard himself.) It was just announced that the Robertsons will be hosting a cruise next summer. If you’re interested in joining the family on this sure-to-be one-of-a-kind vacation in 2014, check out www.duckcommandercruise.com.
  • Worship is still as popular as ever. The first two wins of the evening came as two of the biggest surprises of the night. Chris Tomlin, who couldn’t attend due to his commitment at the LIFT Worship Conference, won the “Male Artist of the Year” category, beating out TobyMac, who was favored to win. Meanwhile, underdog Kari Jobe was dubbed K-LOVE’s “Female Artist of the Year,” in a category where social media queen Natalie Grant or fan favorite Francesca Battistelli were sure to win. Ironically, Tomlin and Jobe toured together on the “Burning Lights Tour” earlier this year, not to mention the two performed in front of 60,000 at this year’s Passion event at the beginning of 2013. When Burning Lights bowed the week after Passion, Tomlin became one of an elite group of Christian artists to ever top the all-genre Billboard 200 chart. It seems fans who bought the record also voted for Tomlin. And his record-breaking tour certainly helped elevate Jobe’s status. Modern worship has had a long reign on top, and based on these two categories, it seems it’s still holding steady.
  • Casting Crowns’ reign is far from over. Casting Crowns is one of the best-selling acts in Christian music today. The members’ authenticity and hard-hitting lyrics continue to resonate with multitudes of listeners around the globe. Despite releasing an acoustic record and cutting their touring dates back recently to step into the studio for a brand-new project, fans still agree they are the best group out there. This win seems to support what we already know: Casting Crowns is still the most beloved current group in ‘CCM’ today, and with good reason.
  • Fans love For King & Country as much as critics do. Even before Crave (Word), the debut project from For King & Country, released, there was much buzz about Rebecca St. James’ little brothers, Joel and Luke Smallbone. While the brothers have seen burgeoning success at radio and are growing quite a loyal following since their appearance on “The Tonight Show,” it’s the duo’s live show that makes For King & Country a spark of color in an often gray musical landscape. Those in the audience at the K-LOVE Fan Awards got a taste of their dynamic stage presence when they performed hit single “The Proof of Your Love.” The brothers gave a humble speech when accepting the award for “Breakthrough Artist of the Year.” These brothers are poised for a long, successful career ahead.
  • A good song always wins…alwaysBig Daddy Weave received a standing ovation for their performance of “Redeemed” during the awards show. It was one of the most memorable highlights of the evening. The song went on that night to win “Song of the Year.” With genuine surprise on their faces, Mike Weaver & Co. accepted the award with gratitude and a few tears. The song has been huge at radio this year, and it’s obvious the lyrics have cemented themselves into the hearts of countless listeners. It’s a universal desire, prayer and need–for God to transform us into something entirely new. I’m not who I used to be. Thank goodness. More than anything, this win supports the idea that a good song wins every time. When it comes down to it, it’s all about the songs. One good song still has the power to make an artist’s career. “Redeemed” will be Big Daddy Weave’s legacy.
  • TobyMac is at the height of his career. Just when we think he can’t get any bigger, he wows us again. Although “Male Artist of the Year” slipped by him, Toby was honored with the biggest award of the evening, “Artist of the Year,” a fitting tribute to one of the hardest working artists in all of Christian music who is respected by peers, industry leaders and fans alike. His win goes way beyond artistry and record sales (though he did make history last year when his latest, Eye On It (ForeFront), topped the Billboard 200 chart). While his creative brand of music speaks entirely for itself and his live shows are among some of the most entertaining and revered in the genre, he is a role model, mentor and friend to so many other artists who are quick to list his attributes (among them, a strong commitment to family and faith) and their appreciation for his friendship and leadership. Toby is at the top of his game and has become one of the most well-respected leaders of this genre.
  • There’s a market for a Christian event devoted to FANS! The first ever fan-voted awards and subsequent fan experience weekend seemed to be a huge success on all sides. Everyone from artists to managers and publicists to the fans themselves commented time and again on how this very thing has been needed for such a long time. For the industry, it was like a mini GMA Week…but with fans. For the fans, it was an unforgettable experience. And it looks like the second annual K-LOVE Fan Awards (and Ultimate Fan Experience Weekend) are already being planned for next year! Stay tuned to www.klovefanawards.com for the latest info, and follow the K-Love Fan Awards on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news on your favorite Christian artists, authors, actors and sports figures.
Phil, Miss Kay, Missy & Jase Robertson, stars of "Duck Dynasty" and hosts of the K-LOVE Fan Awards=

Phil, Miss Kay, Missy & Jase Robertson, stars of “Duck Dynasty” and hosts of the K-LOVE Fan Awards

(l-r): TobyMac, Kari Jobe, for King & Country

(l-r): TobyMac, Kari Jobe, For King & Country

Casting Crowns, Big Daddy Weave

(l-r): Casting Crowns, Big Daddy Weave

Alex Kendrick, Mike Fisher

(l-r): Alex Kendrick (from Courageous), Mike Fisher (Nashville Predators)

*all photos by David Molnar (www.davidmolnar.com)