San Diego Music Awards to move online for first time because of coronavirus

The Poway-bred pop-punk band blink-182 is one of the 2020 San Diego Music Awards nominees. The band's members are, from left, Matt Skiba, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker. This year's July 6 awards show will be held entirely online for the first time in the event's 29-year history.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The 29th edition of the annual music celebration will rock out virtually, while launching grant program for its nominees


The 2020 San Diego Music Awards isn’t going up in smoke, despite being sponsored for the first time by a recreational marijuana dispensary. But the 29th edition of the annual awards is going online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, the nonprofit San Diego Music Foundation — under whose auspices the 29-year-old awards are held — announced this year’s move to an all-virtual format and the launch of the SDMA Nominees COVID Grant program.

The ticketed event was originally scheduled for March 23 at downtown’s House of Blues, before being postponed until July 6. The free online edition of the awards show will take place July 6 at 7 p.m. and can be viewed at, on Facebook (@sdmusicawards) and on YouTube. A 90-minute edited version will air July 11 at 8 p.m. on Fox TV 5.

“We waited as long as we possibly could, in the hope that we’d get some direction from the mayor or the governor about whether we could do something in the fall. But with social distancing regulations, it’s unlikely we’d be able to,” San Diego Music Awards founder Kevin Hellman said Tuesday.

“And given that many of the nominees are sitting at home, with nothing to do and no way to make money, we just decided that doing a virtual show gave us an opportunity to raise some funds. We created this new grant program so that our nominated musicians can receive some funds to help them get through these crazy times.”

Except for the Grammy Award-winning band Switchfoot, which had to bow out, the roster of performers is nearly identical to the lineup that was scheduled to perform in-person at House of Blues on July 6. It includes Rebecca Jade & The Cold Fact, David Maldonado, MDRN HSTRY, Sully, Evan Diamond, The Sleepwalkers and 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award Richard Livoni, who will perform with the latest edition of The Blitz Brothers.

“Switchfoot has another commitment,” Hellman said. “They may take part in some capacity. But, at this juncture, we haven’t finalized anything with them. We have added Gregory Page to the lineup.”

A majority of the performances will be pre-recorded and filmed in advance at Studio West, which is donating its services. But the announcement of the winners in all 23 categories will be live, Hellman said.

“Most likely,” he said, “we’ll have the nominees standing by on Zoom, so that we can capture their surprised expressions.”

Tickets, which were priced between $36 and $75, will be automatically refunded by, or House of Blues, depending on where they were purchased.

Even without ticket revenues, Hellman predicted the now-online awards show will be able to raise funds this year. Proceeds will go to the newly launched SDMA Nominees COVID Grant program and Guitars for Schools program, a longtime partnership between the foundation and El Cajon’s Taylor Guitars, which provides free instruments and instruction to public school students across San Diego County.

Since its inception in 1991, the awards show has raised $632,996 for Guitars for Schools, according to Hellman.

“All our sponsors stuck with us this year — including Taylor Guitars, Green Flash Brewing and Cutwater Spirits — and Klover pot dispensary is our new title sponsor,” he said.

“So we have that sponsorship money, and we expect to receive quite a few donations from (other) companies that indicated they would contribute. During the virtual broadcast, people will be able to donate online and also during the Fox 5 telecast on July 11.”

Online voting for this year’s awards was held from Jan. 27 to Feb. 26, with a total of 35,149 votes cast. Album of the Year nominees include blink-182, Cattle Decapitation, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Hirie, David Maldonado, Mattson 2 and Switchfoot. Artist of the Year nominees include As I Lay Dying, Earthless, The Frights, Rebecca Jade, The Sleepwalkers, Slightly Stoopid and Switchfoot.