Today the Academy of Country Music and Great American Country (GAC) unveiled the 2012 semi-finalists for the New Artist of the Year award, which consists of eight artists after the first round of professional voting. This year’s semi-finalist list includes Scotty McCreery, Brantley Gilbert, Hunter Hayes, Thompson Square, JT Hodges, David Nail, Jerrod Niemann and Justin Moore.

Rather than giving several awards to emerging artists — New Male Vocalist, New Female Vocalist, New Vocal Group, etc. — the ACM is bundling all of those categories into one prestigious New Artist of the Year honor. The first round of fan voting will begin Monday (Jan. 16) at 9AM ET and will end Monday, Jan. 30 at Noon ET. Fans can cast their votes for their favorite new artist at and

These fan votes, compiled with the ACM professional vote, will turn out three finalists, and the winner from that pool will be announced on the live telecast during the 2012 Academy of Country Music Awards, which will air on CBS on Sunday, April 1 at 8PM ET.

To help you make up your mind about your favorite new country star, GAC will broadcast several specials, including one show fully devoted to the New Artist of the Year nominees. The first of these ACM showcases will air Monday, Jan. 16 at 8PM ET on GAC. The New Artist of the Year special, including performances from the three finalists as well as exclusive interviews, will premiere on March 19 at 9PM ET.