KMA Categories 2004-2014

We’re barely a month away from the real kick-off of the 2015 Korean Music Awards. I’m already waiting with anticipation as this is the only Korean awards that I really care for–especially in recent years when I haven’t been listening to as much music as I should so following the awards is a great way for me to catch up on great music I might otherwise have overlooked.

As I’m already in a KMA mood, leading up to the announcements of nominees on February 3rd there will be some KMA themed posts looking more to the history of the awards. But before getting to the statistics, let’s have a look at what the categories have looked like throughout the years.

General Categories (종합분야)


The general Korean Music Awards categories have been looking pretty much the same since the start.

Current Categories

From 2004 until 2014, Album of the Year (올해의 앨범, 올해의 음반) and Song of the Year (올해의 노래) has followed the same basic principle implied by the respective category names.

Artist of the Year (올해의 음악인) and Rookie of the Year (올해의 신인) also remain from 2004, but one big change from the earlier years of KMA till now is that previously artists could be nominated for artist or rookie of the year without having a song or album nominated in any of the other categories–we will look at how common this was in a later KMA history post. That artists were nominated for Artist of the Year without other nominations happened primarily during the first 4 years when Artist of the Year was actually 3 separate awards based on gender or group.

Performance of the Year

In the early years there was also the now abandoned award for Performance of the Year (올해의 연주). For years 2005 and 2008 this category was for artists, who may or may not have had their songs or albums nominated in other categories. During 2006-2007 the performance category instead pertained to specific albums. [For statistics processing purposes, this category will be treated as an artist only category in later posts] The Performance of the Year category disappeared from the general categories in 2009 when the Best Jazz & Crossover Performance category was introduced.

Genre Categories (장르분야)


The group of genre categories has gone through several changes since the Korean Music Awards started out. Please refer to the full-size timeline to see all details.

The very first year it was artists rather than albums that received a nomination, though all artist nominated did have recent album releases. In 2005 this changed so that the album names were listed. A year later separate categories for songs were introduced and consequently the genre category names were updated to indicate album and song respectively.

In 2010 DFSB got involved in the arrangements behind the Korean Music Awards and set out to refresh the image. Two changes became apparent in most award names where when was previously known as “앨범” (album) became the more formal “음반” (record) and the “싱글” (single) categories turned into “노래” (song) categories.

Rock & Modern Rock

When KMA began the first genre category was Best Rock Music (최우수 록음악). A year later, in 2005 this one category had turned into two and has remained the same since: Best Rock (최우수 록) and Best Modern Rock (최우수 모던록). Historically there is some overlap between Rock and Modern Rock even after 2004, but we will wait to look into that in detail until a later post.

R&B & Pop

Before there was soul, before there was pop, there was Best R&B & Ballad (최우수 알앤비&발라드). The category only lasted for a year before continuing as Best R&B & Soul (최우수 알앤비&소울, 최우수 R&B & 솔). Simultaneously the new category Best Pop (최우수 팝) saw the light of the day and have since hosted all subsequent nominations for Cho Kyu Chan–the most likely balladeer in the group of nominees from 2004.

Hip Hop & Dance

During the first year of KMA there was one category called Best Hip Hop & Dance (최우수 힙합&댄스). The nominees that year, however, were predominately hip hop and the next year there was a Best Hip Hop (최우수 힙합) category, but no dance. In 2010 the category formerly known as Best Hip Hop received its current Best Rap & Hip Hop (최우수 랩&힙합) designation, although Best Hip Hop did make a brief return in 2011.

Dance returned to the Korean Music Awards in 2007 with the introduction of Best Dance & Electronic (최우수 댄스&일렉트로닉). The years in between what would later be categorized as Dance & Electronic, e.g. Clazziquai, Humming Urban Stereo, was instead up for nomination in the Best Pop categories.

Jazz & Crossover

The first year of the Korean Music Awards introduced the Best Crossover category (최우수 크로스오버). Although it turned into the Best Jazz & Crossover (최우수 재즈&크로스오버) category that we know today already in 2005, it appears also the scope of the category changed with the name as the 2004 nominees in addition to frequent jazz nominees such as Youn Sun Nah included DJ Soulscape.

As Performance of the Year disappeared from the general categories, the Jazz & Crossover category got a remake to also include Best Jazz & Crossover Performance (최우수 재즈&크로스오버 최우수 연주). Additionally, instead of listing albums and songs as the other similar genre categories, Jazz & Crossover now holds one award for Best Jazz Album (최우수 재즈&크로스오버 재즈음반) and one award for Best Crossover Album (최우수 재즈&크로스오버 크로스오버음반).


Not quite a genre the way the other categories are, the soundtrack category has held several names over the years. In the first edition of the Korean Music Awards, the category was called Movie & Drama Music of the Year (올해의 영화 드라마음악상). In 2005 the name was aligned with the other genre categories and consequently named Best Movie & Drama Music (최우수 영화드라마음악), but the less modest “of the Year” epithet returned already in 2006 and remained till 2009. In 2010 the category received its current name: Best Movie & TV Music (최우수 영화TV 음악).

The soundtrack category disappeared altogether in 2014 as it had become increasingly difficult to find candidates to nominate. This, according to a KMA representative, because soundtracks to a large extent are no longer the original works of art they once were rather than compilations of re-used pop songs.

Special Categories (특별분야)


The special categories in Korean Music Awards have been fairly much the same, but special, since the beginning.

The winner of the Special Merit Price (공로상) is usually announced the same day as the nominations are out, even though the artist in question may be nominated for other awards.

The Committee’s Choice, on the other hand, is announced with the rest of the winners even though there are no public nominees for the category itself. In the first few years the winners were either nominated in other categories or strongly related to other nominees. Since 2008 the winners have more commonly been cultural organizations or products such as the 2014 winner Naver Onstage.

Although it was placed in the special categories section, while it still existed category Label of the Year (올해의 레이블) did have nominees. But whereas the general and genre categories will always have 4-7 nominees, for the 3 years that Label of the Year lasted it had 3, 9, and 5 nominees respectively.

Netizens’ Choice (네티즌이 뽑은 올해의 음악인)


Netizens’ Choice categories were first introduced in 2008 and have always been about the artists. Originally the categories were the same as for the genre categories (save for soundtrack), although all artists were not necessarily in the run for any of the main awards. In 2009 the setup changed to the current Male Artist, Female Artist, Group choices, but just like in 2008 the nominated artists were not necessarily nominated for anything else.

Since 2010 the Netizens’ Choice nominees include only and all the artists that have been nominated for other awards in the general and genre categories.

Diagram data sources: 한국대중음악상; Wikipedia; Pgr21 1, 2, 3

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