2018 Year End Print Special

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for making Capitol Nashville

THANK YOU country radio and all of our amazing artists


Capitol Records Nashville; © 2018 UMG Recordings, Inc.


outstanding experiences for our listeners and compelling integrated marketing or those who have confused radio’s capital market problems with operational opportunities for our advertisers,” President/CEO David Field said at the time. weakness, 2018 might have introduced a new spin. The nation’s largest broadAfter decades of financial challenges tracing back to the Telecom Act of 1996’s caster iHeartMedia filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, reaching an ownership deregulation and an ensuing game of debt hot potato, the new year poragreement with creditors in March that would more than halve its $20 billion debt tends new hope. Rather than proof of the medium’s impending demise, bankruptload. Filed in April, the initial plan went through dozens of amendments before cy might just allow radio to begin investing more of its still prodigious revenue in being approved in December by 90% of creditors and shareholders. The company its product and people (2017 totals noted in the above illustration). expects to emerge from bankruptcy in early 2019. And for anyone still clinging to a dim view of radio compared to iHeart will then join Cumulus, which emerged from its own readTHE YEAR’S its shinier media competitors, iHeart Chairman/CEO Bob Pittman ing of Chapter 11 in June, reducing its debt load from $2.34 billion and President/COO Rich Bressler had an answer. Though the comto $1.3 billion. “The completion of our financial restructuring propany was still grappling with debt and bankruptcy, its viability was cess is a monumental step forward on our turnaround path,” said never in question, as noted in an early December memo to staff: President/CEO Mary Berner. “We emerge today ... with the financial STORIES “As the number one audio company in America, we have a greater foundation that we need to move forward decisively with the initiareach than any media property in the U.S., including Facebook and tives that will produce the greatest benefits for the company.” Google. We reach 91% of Americans every month. Our broadcast audience is twice Moving forward in an entirely different way was Entercom, which closed on its the size of the next radio competitor and seven times their size in digital audience. acquisition of CBS Radio in late 2017. Comprised of more than 230 stations, the Our social footprint eclipses everyone in audio and is twice as big as Netflix. [And] new Entercom began with aggressive operational commitments that included a we are the No. 1 commercial podcasting company by a wide margin.” 5% reduction in spot loads. “We look forward to capitalizing on our unique posiRadio’s dead? Long live radio. tions in sports, news, music, podcasting, live events, digital and more to provide



Albums 10.3%

Tracks 11.3%

Streams 6.4%

Total 7.5%


Nov. ‘15 392

Nov. ‘16 370

2017 Total 8%




ums Alb % 20

Streams 74%

Nov. ‘18 371.4


Tr a


Nov. ‘17 380.8




Album 27%

Streams 63%

Sources: Nielsen Audio, Sony/Nashville


ollowing a year marked by natural disasters, national tragedies and a direct attack on its fan base, the country community carried 2017’s lessons forward. Far from an abatement, the new year brought more mass shootings, mudslides, wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes and flooding. It also brought a greater sense of preparedness and focus on reacting and recovering. “Eventually, one of these things will land in your backyard,” says KFRG/Riverside PD Scott Ward, whose listening area was affected by mudslides, the Borderline Bar shooting and devastating wildfires. “Makes me sad to say it, but it’s the truth.” To that end, many stations upgraded their policies and practices. KSNI/Santa Maria, CA PD Jay Turner and the station’s parent company, American General Media, are now taking part in a Preparedness Expo each fall. “We bring in an earthquake simulator, Cal Fire, California Highway Patrol and others to provide useful information for residents of our signal area, and it is always well-attended,” he says. “The bottom line is, we encourage our listeners to have a plan, so we need to lead by example.” In areas most directly impacted by disaster or tragedy where relief efforts are needed and recovery is ongoing, some are finding that programming has been

Deep Impact continually impacted, and on-air delivery has permanently shifted. “Before Hurricane Harvey, minor flooding events might not have called for anything out of the ordinary, but we are now all so sensitized to it that we give constant updates during those minor events,” explains KILT/Houston APD/MD Chris Huff. “As much as it is about updating our listeners, it is also partly about reassurance. Letting our listeners know that, yes, there is some high water, but nobody is flooding. ‘Don’t worry. This is not another Harvey.’” Even if it is, there’s a plan for that, too – as seen when Hurricanes Florence and Michael made landfall across the Florida and Carolina coasts. “There is a lot of coordination of efforts to make sure the correct information is out there,” says Dick/Greenville OM Crystal Legends. “Hurricanes are something we are used to, but each one is different and you have to adjust accordingly. We are still in recovery mode; WRNS studios and our business offices still don’t have flooring or walls, to be honest. We are working in a construction zone, and that is what everyone here is calling our new normal. This applies to our listeners as well.” As radio’s new normal continues to evolve with the increase of disasters and tragedies, Ward reminds fellow broadcasters that there is only one option: “Be prepared.”



In Memoriam


MMA Victory!


creative community battered by decades of diminishing compensation got a much-needed win in October as President Trump signed into law the Orrin G. HatchBob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (no, MMA doesn’t stand for Mixed Martial Arts). Up next, establishing the Music Licensing Collective (MLC), which commences operation Jan. 1, 2021. “We have two years to build the first-ever songwriter and music publisher-run mechanical licensing collective,” NSAI Exec. Dir. Bart Herbison said at the time. “This will be the first collection agency that pays songwriters 100 cents from every royalty dollar since the digital streaming companies will pay operational costs of the MLC.” Two months later, songwriter and publisher submissions were underway for the MLC Selection Committee. “The Music Modernization Act doesn’t change a single songwriter’s royalties,” explained Herbison in December. “It changes the way those royalties are set. We expect those royalties to grow. As ASCAP and BMI have different rate agreements

expire with the streaming companies, they will negotiate. And if they can’t negotiate and [end up in] a rate court, the new law means we’re much more likely to get the breaks. On the mechanical royalty side, it’s the same thing. That next procedure, called the Copyright Royalty Board, is in four years. So you will see raises come for many years, as different agreements expire and different rate opportunities come up. “We had a Copyright Royalty Board trial that ended in 2017, with NSAI and the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) winning the largest increase in world history – 44.5%. That begins in January. There will be an 8.5% increase in digital mechanical royalties in January for the next five Januarys. We’ll also see performance increases and then we’ll have another mechanical negotiations trial.” Challenges remain when it comes to market-based rate negotiations, YouTube and social media, but consider this round won. Herbison: “There’s still more work to be done, but the MMA was a heck of a start.”


hree years after TomatoGate put a spotlight on the lack of female airplay on Country radio, the metrics are largely unchanged (see page 27) but an emphasis on expanded opportunity is readily apparent. CMT continues to champion female artists with their Next Women of Country initiative, and in 2018, the brand hosted its first-ever female-focused Artists of the Year special. CMT Radio continued to call attention to new music from upcoming and established female artists with their Woman Crush Wednesday on-air feature while iHeartMedia launched its Women of iHeartCountry weekend programming with show hosts Bobby Bones and Amy Brown. Bones also gives female artists an additional platform via his Female Fridays on the nationally syndicated The Bobby Bones Show.


hether gazing at the skyline, staring at eye level with a newly rising condo building or watching the industry’s rosters, the 2018 Nashville constant was change. The year was kicked off with Kenny Chesney leaving Sony/Nashville – his label home of more than 20 years – to sign with Warner Music Nashville. “It is a big deal to change labels,” Chesney said at the time, perhaps unaware how big those deals might get later in the year. Happily for him, Chesney’s Warner debut Songs For The Saints bowed No. 1 country and No. 2 all genre. The Big Machine Label Group roster saw two major Volume 13, Issue 4, December 2018

914 18th Avenue, South Nashville, TN 37212 615-320-1450


Sammy Allred Jeff Beck Lisa McKay Blake Steve “Bogie” Bogdanovich John “Bucks” Braun Don Bustany Dorothy Kathryn Campbell Lari White Cannon Jeff Carlton James R. “Wahoo” Carson Roy Clark Conrad Delaney “Uncle Len” Ellis Helen Farmer D.J. Fontana Mark Grantin Rick Hall Mark Harmon Freddie Hart Hairl Hensley Frank Edward Holladay Freddie James Richard H. Frank, Jr. Mike Kennedy Jim Malloy Eric Marshall Eddie Mascolo George McCormick Bill Mortimer Jerry “Murph” Murphy Kenny O’Dell Mike Owens Eddie Reeves Leon Rhodes Wylie Rose Dave Rowland Jaime Sarrantonio Randy Scruggs Wayne Secrest Steven L. Sharp Daryle Singletary Hazel Smith Harvey J. Steele Dr. Bruce Nelson Stratton Joe Sullivan Bob Vizza Harry Warner Tony Joe White John “The Canuck” Wiechenthal Al Woody Roy Wunsch

Crossing over from the digital space, Cumulus/Westwood One’s Elaina Smith has added a weekly on-air component to her Women Want To Hear Women podcast via the nationally syndicated Nash Nights Live. Country Content’s Christa Williams launched an all-female streaming channel, She, and Slacker Radio continued to promote female-driven music with its Woman Crush Everyday channel. Whether those and other endeavors move the consumption, airplay and ticketing needles remains to be seen. In the meantime, the conversation seems to be shifting. “Female artists are feeling more empowered and willing to evoke change thanks to the topic being open,” says Smith. “It’s also been great for everyone to hear they’re not alone.”

shifts, starting with the addition of Lady Antebellum to the BMLG Records imprint. The move connected the trio with some familiar faces at the label after 10 years and six albums for Capitol. “[BMLG President/CEO Scott Borchetta] and I worked with Linda Davis, Hillary [Scott]’s mom (as well as her father Lang Scott) when we were both at DreamWorks,” said BMLGR President Jimmy Harnen. “Michelle Tigard Kammerer worked closely with Lady A when they signed to CAA, and Matthew Hargis and I helped break the band at radio on their debut album.” On the other end of the spectrum, flagship artist Taylor Swift’s signing with Universal brought an end to

a long and storied association with Big Machine. Swift’s new multi-album global recording agreement makes Republic Records her U.S. label partner, something few would have thought possible a decade ago. “I want to express my heartfelt thanks to Scott Borchetta for believing in me as a 14-year-old,” Swift posted, “and for guiding me through over a decade of work that I will always be so proud of.” At the corporate level, BBR Music Group’s Red Bow was folded into the label group’s other imprints – Broken Bow, Stoney Creek, Wheelhouse – as part of parent company BMG’s long-term growth plan. “The restructuring of our team allows us to focus and allocate the resources in order to achieve the results we are targeting and continue developing the opportunities and growth of our artist’s careers both in the US and internationally,” said BBRMG EVP Jon Loba. Read the interview with Loba on page 37.

Publisher/CEO Lon Helton lon@countryaircheck.com

VP/Sales & Marketing April Johnson april@countryaircheck.com

Radio Editor Monta Vaden monta@countryaircheck.com

Manager/Graphics & Administration Kelley Hampton kelley@countryaircheck.com

VP/GM Chuck Aly chuck@countryaircheck.com

Managing Editor Wendy Newcomer wendy@countryaircheck.com

Associate Editor Caitlin DeForest caitlin@countryaircheck.com

Coordinator/Graphics & Circulation Shelby Farrer shelby@countryaircheck.com

Art Direction Jerry Holthouse jerry@countryaircheck.com Contributor Russ Penuell


Round The Clock Country All Year Long

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It Takes A Village: Jon Pardi, Cole Swindell, Lindsay Ell, Luke Bryan, Luke Combs, Chris Janson and Ashley McBryde kick off the night with “What Makes You Country” and Keith Urban takes home Entertainer of the Year.




ith fewer crossover performances than in years past, the 52nd CMA Awards put the focus squarely on country music: past, present and future. And if the show is any indication of where the genre is heading, there is a bright – and possibly more socially conscious and diverse – road ahead.



Ricky Don’t Lose That Number: Keith Urban (c) and John Osborne join Ricky Skaggs for “Highway 40 Blues.”

“This one was different,” says morning host Cash Williams. “Capping [late PD Mark Grantin’s] legacy was special. My co-host Nancy Simpson was here as long as Mark was, so when Jason Aldean told us we’d won, she broke down crying. It’s not that we hadn’t hoped to win in the past, but this one meant more. “Mark wanted the best out of you but he also knew your limits. I can think of a couple of Cash times when I was going through Williams something personal and fighting through it at work. Mark noticed and encouraged to step back from worrying about the job for a second. He knew there was more to life.”


Happy Holla Days: UMG/Nashville artists and staff at the label’s post-awards soirée at the JW Marriott. Pictured (l-r) are Keith Urban, Cindy Mabe, Brothers Osborne’s TJ Osborne, Jon Pardi, Carrie Underwood, Brothers Osborne’s John Osborne, Eric Church, Kassi Ashton and Mike Dungan.

“I’m incredibly proud of this team after going through all the change last year selling to Entercom,” says PD Justin Cole. “We lost our midday voice-tracker on WUSY, Dex retired, our night guy moved to afternoons with Mo, and Kyle started doing nights. So to have all that and see them conquer is exciting. “ Of all the stations I’ve worked at and all the great teams I’ve been associated with, this one is more like a family than any of them. There’s no ego that’s going to stand in the way of accomplishing a team goal. They spend time together Justin Cole outside of work and they’re always and wife there for one another. Marthablair “I’m incredibly thankful for the people here and it’s amazing to be part of such a heritage brand. Continuing that longstanding tradition of excellence and service means the world to me.”



Sip Sip Hooray: Sony/Nashville staffers and artists at the company’s post-CMA bash.

“Even though this is not my first and hopefully not our last, we still get this natural high,” notes PD Grover Collins. “I was totally sober when I found out, but for about an hour there’s this adrenaline rush that’s hard to explain. “The CMAs do everything right and make us feel like we’re Grover Collins as important as the artists. It’s the best radio format and I’ve worked ‘em all. And it’s a mini reunion every time we go to Nashville, which is the best part. “To celebrate I’m letting each of our jocks take the award or a weekend like hockey does with the Stanley Cup. A lot of their family members and friends have never seen one in person. I’m honored to accept on behalf of the entire staff. They’re the best I’ve worked with in my 33 years in the industry.”


Getting Better All The Time: The Warner Music Nashville team toasts its most CMA nominations in official company history.

“I try not to get too high, but I’m ecstatic,” says OM/PD Johnny Chiang. “I was walking by the studio and the morning show producer threw a tennis ball at the window to let me know [Jason] Aldean was on the phone. I’m happy, but mostly in seeing recognition for our staff and what they’ve accomplished. “Everyone went and had a great time. I sent [MD/middayer] Christi Brooks up with our market manager at the last minute to accept on camera. I sprang it Christi Brooks and on her by saying, ‘So Mark Krieschen you’re gonna get your 10 seconds on TV. All you have to do is stand there smiling and holding the fake CMA.’ I’m singling her out, but I would have sent my whole team if I could have. The station isn’t just me, it’s everyone.”

Steve Waters, Jessica Cash Steve & Jessica, WFLS/Fredericksburg, VA SMALL MARKET PERSONALITY

Team Come True: Big Machine Label Group hosts their annual CMA Awards afterparty at FGL House.

SW: You don’t have to explain the CMA to anybody. Once we ran Jason Aldean’s call, our listeners went nuts on Facebook and social media. JC: Going to the CMA headquarters to get our credentials and awards was so fun. SW: One of my favorite activities was going to the artist venues – Jason Aldean’s, Blake Shelton’s, Luke Bryan’s. We had to get out and see the town. JC: The whole rooftop scene was awesome. SW: At the awards show Jessica and Steve everyone is so nice, though they’ve got to be stressed out. Even the artists! Still, they’ll take a brief second to snap a picture with you. They’re so decent, kind and warm. JC: We had great seats. Steve even high fived Thomas Rhett. SW: Everything– the win, the trip, the show – was surreal.

Ken Hicks, Kelley Bradshaw, Daniel Wyatt Ken, Kelley & Daniel, WUSY/Chattanooga MEDIUM MARKET PERSONALITY

Hares To You: Broken Bow’s Jason Aldean and team meet at the Black Rabbit for drinks after the CMA Awards. Pictured (l-r) are the label’s Jon Loba, songwriter/guitarist Kurt Allison, BMG’s Zach Katz, Aldean, songwriter/bassist Tully Kennedy and Knox Records’ Michael Knox.

Six Pack: The Warner/Chappell team celebrates being named Publisher of the Year for the sixth time at the 56th Annual ASCAP Country Music Awards.


KH: It’s pretty exciting when a superstar like Jason Aldean lets you know you’ve won. DW: It’s like, “Why is he calling us? Are some spins down?” KH: We’d been nominated, but this was our first win. Once it happens, you feel almost like you’re a bigger part of country music. DW: The awards show was great, and the after parties were fun, too. I told Ken, “We are the least famous and rich people in this room.” I mean, Garth Brooks, Keith Urban and all these superstars. “What are we doing here?” KH: The CMAs are at the top of the list Ken, Kelley and Daniel of awards. And it’s all about our listeners because our show is all about them. We’re smart enough to know they’re funnier and a whole lot smarter than us.

TROPHY LIFE Jim Denny, Deborah Honeycutt, Kevin Freeman Jim, Deb & Kevin, WFMS/Indianapolis LARGE MARKET PERSONALITY

Alright, Alright, Alright: Reviver’s David Lee Murphy (c) celebrates his Musical Event of the Year win for his collaboration with Kenny Chesney on “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.” Pictured (l-r) are The Orchard’s Jessica Phelps, Alan Becker and Lauren Kasper, the label’s David Ross and The Orchard’s Brad Navin, Scott Reilly and Dewayne Brown.

Matt’s All, Folks: Matt McGinn is named Songwriter of the Year at the SESAC Nashville Music Awards. Pictured (l-r) are SESAC’s Shannan Hatch and John Josephson, McGinn and SESAC’s Kelli Turner. Amer-Icons: Songwriter/musician Steve Cropper receives the BMI Icon Award at the 66th Annual BMI Country Awards. Pictured (l-r) are BMI’s Jody Williams, John Legend, Cropper and BMI’s Mike O’Neill.

JD: This is right up there at the top. You’re fortunate enough to go up against the very best in the business and then, “Hey, this year, you’re the best!” And to share it with two of my best friends – I wouldn’t be here without them. We work so well together and we’re lucky we spend five, six, seven hours a day. DH: We won almost nine years ago, Jim, Deborah and Kevin so it’s nice to know now that we’re still doing what we’re supposed to be doing, being relevant and evolving with radio itself. KF: This was our third win, and it happened to also be the third CMA win for Brothers Osborne, too. So we made a deal beforehand that if they won their third one, we got to experience that together. DH: We’re thankful to get to share this with our spouses, too, and of course our listening audience. They’re as much our family as anyone.

Bud Ford, Jerry Broadway, Kelly Rebal, Gregory Paul Ford, Tom Wall, Becca Walls Bud & Broadway, WIL/St. Louis MAJOR MARKET PERSONALITY

BF: We were nominated last year, our first. When we didn’t win, we just figured, “Well, it’s huge we got nominated. We’ll get another chance next year.” JB: It was crazy because we won the ACM in the spring. As much as I hoped we were going win, there was no way we’d win both in the same year. That just doesn’t happen. The trip was great, too. Man, that show is a well-oiled, smooth-running machine. BF: Smooth like buttah! JB: We went to the CMA party, then bounced over

Mac Davis, Becca Walls, Bud Ford, Jerry Broadway, Kelly Rebal and Tim Wall Woolagins: Warner Bros./WAR’s Dan + Shay join their label family at Woolworth on 5th after the CMA Awards. Pictured (l-r) are the label’s John Esposito, the duo’s Dan Smyers, Warner Music Group CEO/Recorded Music Max Lousada and the duo’s Shay Mooney.

to the BMLG party at FGL House. It was a lot of letters, but a lot of fun. BF: When we talked to artists they were congratulating us. Records reps, too! And they know we don’t have anything to do with music. JB: I should thank the CMA for the opportunity to introduce my wife to both Lionel Richie and Keith Urban, ‘cause I got to be a hero that night.

Lon Helton Country Countdown USA NATIONAL PERSONALITY

Squad Goals: Capitol’s Keith Urban and team celebrate his Entertainer of the Year win at the label’s afterparty. Pictured (l-r) are the label’s Taylor Sloane, Lori Christian and Cindy Mabe, Urban, Borman Entertainment’s Elisabeth Ashley, Claire Heinichen and Bethany Seifert, CAA’s Darin Murphy and Borman’s Donna Jean Kisshauer; (back, l-r) the label’s Joanna Carter and Mike Dungan, producer Dan McCarroll, PFA’s Paul Freundlich and Borman’s Liz Nixon.

Ranch Dressing: Big Machine’s Midland and Valory’s Thomas Rhett at the BMLG CMA Awards afterparty. Pictured (l-r) are the label’s Scott Borchetta, Midland’s Jess Carson and Cameron Duddy, Rhett and Midland’s Mark Wystrach.


“Remember that special feeling you had as a kid on your birthday?” Helton says. “That’s what it feels like when you win a CMA, except it lasts from the moment Jason Aldean calls until ... well, it actually never wears off. “The best part of the week comes when CMA’s Brandi Simms, Brenden Oliver and their team wrangle all of the radio winners onstage for individual pictures and a group shot. My wife Anne and I were joined by our daughter Amanda, her husband Jim, and our son Brad and his fiancée Jennifer. You figure this is never going to happen again, so you have to make the most of it by having your family share it. “Highlights George Achaves for me included and Lon Helton ignoring the floor manager’s warning that he only had one name on the list as I prepared to go onstage with CCUSA producer/writer George Achaves. Country Countdown USA has been on the air for almost 27 years as part of Westwood One. In all that time it’s been George, talent booker Jo Hunt and me. This is the ninth time we’ve been honored by CMA. It’s still just as special as that birthday.”

AS H L E Y M C B RY D E • B E B E R E X H A • B R E T T YO U N G • B ROT H E RS OS B O R N E • C H R I S J A N S O N • C H R I S L A N E • C H R I S S TA P L E T O N • C H R I S Y O U N G • C O L E S W I N D E L L • D I E R K S B E N T L E Y • D U S T I N LY N C H • D Y L A N S C O T T • E A S T O N C O R B I N • E R I C C H U R C H • F LO R I DA G EO RG I A L I N E • GA RT H B RO O KS • G RA N G E R S M I T H • JA K E OW E N • JASO N A L D E A N • J O R D A N D AV I S • J U ST I N M O O R E • K A N E B R O W N • L A N C O • L E E B R I C E • L I N D S AY E L L • L U K E B R YA N • M I R A N D A L A M B E R T • M I TC H E L L T E N P E N N Y • M O R G A N E V A N S • M O R G A N W A L L E N • R I L E Y G R E E N • R O D N E Y AT K I N S • S C O T T Y M C C R E E R Y • T H O M A S R H E T T • T R AV I S D E N N I N G • T Y L E R R I C H • A S H L E Y M C B R Y D E • B E B E R E X H A • B R E T T YO U N G • B ROT H E RS OS B O R N E • C H R I S JA N SO N • C H R I S L A N E • C H R I S S 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• E A S T O N C O R B I N • E R I C C H U RC H • F LO R I DA G EO RG I A L I N E • GA RT H B RO O KS • G RA N G E R S M I T H • JA K E O W E N • J A S O N A L D E A N • J O R D A N D AV I S • J U ST I N M O O R E • K A N E B R O W N • L A N C O • L E E B R I C E • L I N D S AY E L L • L U K E B R YA N • M I R A N D A L A M B E R T • M I TC H E L L T E N P E N N Y • M O R G A N E V A N S • M O R G A N W A L L E N • R I L E Y G R E E N • R O D N E Y AT K I N S • S C O T T Y M C C R E E R Y • T H O M A S R H E T T • T R AV I S D E N N I N G • T Y L E R R I C H • A S H L E Y M C B R Y D E • B E B E R E X H A • B R E T T YO U N G • B ROT H E RS OS B O R N E • C H R I S JA N SO N • C H R I S L A N E • C H R I S S TA P L E T O N • C H R I S Y O U N G • C O L E S W I N D E L L • D I E R K S B E N T L E Y • D U S T I N LY N C H • D Y L A N S C O T T • E A S T O N C O R B I N • E R I C C H U R C H • F L O R I D A G E O R G I A L I N E • G A R T H B R O O KS • G R A N G E R S M I T H • J A K E O W E N • J A S O N A L D E A N • J O R D A N D AV I S • J U S T I N M O O R E • K A N E B R O W N • L A N C O • L E E B R I C E • L I N D S AY E L L • L U K E B R YA N • M I R A N D A L A M B E R T • M I TC H E L L T E N P E N N Y • M O R G A N E VA N S • M O R G A N WA L L E N • R I L E Y G R E E N • R O D N E Y AT K I N S • S C O T T Y M C C R E E R Y • T H O M A S R H E T T • T R A V I S D E N N I N G • T Y L E R R I C H • AS H L E Y M C B RY D E • B E B E R E X H A • B R E T T YO U N G • B ROT H E RS O S B O R N E • C H R I S J A N S O N • C H R I S L A N E • C H R I S S TA P L E T O N • C H R I S Y O U N G • C O L E S W I N D E L L • D I E R K S B E N T L E Y • D U S T I N LY N C H • D Y L A N S C O T T • E A S T O N C O R B I N • E R I C C H U RC H • F LO R I DA G EO RG I A L I N E • GA RT H B RO O KS • G RA N G E R S M I T H • JA K E O W E N • J A S O N A L D E A N • J O R D A N D AV I S • J U ST I N M O O R E • K A N E B R O W N • L A N C O • L E E B R I C E • L I N D S AY E L L • L U K E B R YA N • M I R A N D A L A M B E R T • M I TC H E L L T E N P E N N Y • M O R G A N E V A N S • M O R G A N W A L L E N • R I L E Y G R E E N • R O D N E Y AT K I N S • S C O T T Y MCCREERY • W T HE O MC AO S R E TR TA • T T RU AV S T D EEN NO I NU GR • TC Y LLE IRERN I CT H S • AS NHG LI A FHOL ERY M C B R Y D E • B E B E R E X H A • B R E T T YO U N G • B ROT H E RS OS B O R N E • C H R I S JA N SO N • C H R I S L A N E THEIR SUCCESS ON COUNTRY RADIO • C H R I S S TA P L E T O N • C H R I S Y O U N G • C O L E S W I N D E L L • D I E R K S B E N T L E Y • D U S T I N DT TT• HE AASN KN O RI NC• O EHAUG ARN L Y N C H • D Y L A NASN CO TO C OU RB E RLI CL C R CU H E• S F LO I DD A GEORGIA LINE R •I E E •DJ AI B • G A R T H B R O OF KS G RNA D N GSE RFSO M IR T HA• N J A KIENOC WR EN S OLNEA LYD E E AANR• .J O R D A N D A V I S • J U S T I N M O O R E • K A N E B R O W N • L A N C O • L E E B R I C E • L I N D S AY E L L • L U K E B R YA N • M I R A N D A L A M B E R T • M I TC H E L L T E N P E N N Y • M O R G A N E VA N S • M O R G A N WA L L E N • R I L E Y G R E E N • R O D N E Y AT K I N S • S C O T T Y M C C R E E R Y • T H O M A S R H E T T • T R A V I S D E N N I N G • T Y L E R R I C H • AS H L E Y M C B RY D E • B E B E R E X H A • B R E T T YO U N G • B ROT H E RS O S B O R N E • C H R I S J A N S O N • C H R I S L A N E • C H R I S S TA P L E T O N • C H R I S Y O U N G • C O L E S W I N D E L L • D I E R K S B E N T L E Y • D U S T I N LY N C H • D Y L A N S C O T T • E A S T O N C O R B I N • E R I C C H U RC H • F LO R I DA G EO RG I A L I N E • GA RT H B RO O KS • G RA N G E R S M I T H • JA K E O W E N • J A S O N A L D E A N • J O R D A N D AV I S • J U ST I N M O O R E • K A N E B R O W N • L A N C O • L E E B R I C E • L I N D S AY E L L • L U K E B R YA N • M I R A N D A L A M B E R T • M I TC H E L L T E N P E N N Y • M O R G A N E V A N S • M O R G A N W A L L E N • R I L E Y G R E E N • R O D N E Y AT K I N S • S C O T T Y M C C R E E R Y • T H O M A S R H E T T • T R AV I S D E N N I N G • T Y L E R R I C H • A S H L E Y M C B R Y D E • B E B E R E X H A • B R E T T YO U N G • B ROT H E RS OS B O R N E • C H R I S JA N SO N • C H R I S L A N E • C H R I S S TA P L E T O N • C H R I S Y O U N G • C O L E S W I N D E L L • D I E R K S B E N T L E Y • D U S T I N LY N C H • D Y L A N S C O T T • E A S T O N C O R B I N • E R I C C H U R C H • F L O R I D A G E O R G I A L I N E • G A R T H B R O O KS • G R A N G E R S M I T H • J A K E O W E N • J A S O N A L D E A N • J O R D A N D AV I S • J U S T I N M O O R E • K A N E B R O W N • L A N C O • L E E B R I C E • L I N D S AY E L L • L U K E B R YA N • M I R A N D A L A M B E R T • M I TC H E L L T E N P E N N Y • M O R G A N E VA N S • M O R G A N WA L L E N • R I L E Y G R E E N • R O D N E Y AT K I N S • S C O T T Y M C C R E E R Y • T H O M A S R H E T T • T R A V I S D E N N I N G • T Y L E R R I C H • AS H L E Y M C B RY D E • B E B E R E X H A • B R E T T YO U N G • B ROT H E RS O S B O R N E • C H R I S J A N S O N • C H R I S L A N E • C H R I S S TA P L E T O N • C H R I S Y O U N G • C O L E S W I N D E L L • D I E R K S B E N T L E Y • D U S T I N LY N C H • D Y L A N S C O T T • E A S T O N C O R B I N • E R I C C H U RC H • F LO R I DA G EO RG I A L I N E • GA RT H B RO O KS • G RA N G E R S M I T H • JA K E O W E N • J A S O N A L D E A N • J O R D A N D AV I S • J U ST I N M O O R E • K A N E B R O W N • L A N C O • L E E B R I C E • L I N D S AY E L L • L U K E B R YA N • M I R A N D A L A M B E R T • M I TC H E L L T E N P E N N Y • M O R G A N E V A N S • M O R G A N W A L L E N • R I L E Y G R E E N • R O D N E Y AT K I N S • S C O T T Y M C C R E E R Y • T H O M A S R H E T T • T R AV I S D E N N I N G • T Y L E R R I C H • A S H L E Y M C B R Y D E •



aybe a better headline is “Label of the Decade” as Capitol snares its tenth consecutive chart share crown. In celebration of their victory, the crew offered up Top 10 lists.



Playing with Luke Bryan’s pet kangaroos at his pre-CRS Super Bowl party. (Megan Youngblood)

9 8

Having eight active singles at once. (Katelyn Lester)

Going a week without an email from [Borman’s] Donna Jean and being utterly concerned. Turns out, she was on vacation. (Chris Schuler)


Being in Boston to break the news to Keith Urban that “Coming Home” was No. 1. (David Friedman)

6 5

Unprintable. (Mara Sidweber)

The video for Little Big Town’s “When Someone Stops Loving You” made by Ashley Laws and Chris Schuler. (Brent Jones)


I’m just glad Brent Jones didn’t burn down another Marriott Courtyard this year. (Bobby Young)

3 2

The time Brent Jones mistakenly sent an HRquestionable email to UMG global. (Ashley Laws)

Brent Jones: “You know what today is? (Clapping his hands) The countdown to the chart freeze starts!” On July 9. (Chris Schuler)



Having a middle seater next to me on a Southwest flight that only had 23 people on board. Rude. Smelly. Elbows. (Annie Sandor)


Getting thrown across the backseat of a cab in Chicago when it got T-boned on the way to the airport. (Brent Jones)


Being driven around Atlanta by Bobby Young who, after several really dangerous close calls, informed us he just had LASIK surgery and couldn’t see very well. (Royce Risser)


Leaving a push-to-start minivan running for three hours while Jon Pardi and I were getting ready for a guitar pull. Found my lost keys inside the unlocked vehicle that had the AC and stereo blasting, guitars in the trunk. (Ashley Laws)


Having every Nashville flight cancelled day of a New York launch event, including the host’s and mine. Luckily, the trains still worked so another host was able to jump on a two-hour ride and save the day. (Chris Schuler)


Introducing Jon Pardi to Adam Hambrick and seeing them bond over my bad driving. (Annie Sandor)

4 3

An artist getting shingles while on radio tour. (Katelyn Lester)

Keith Urban. Entertainer! (Ashley Laws)

Getting the pat-down and nosy bomb sniffing dog treatment when my fiber supplement set of the bomb detection machine at the airport. (Annie Sandor)

2018 TOP 10 LABELS



1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 t 10 t

Capitol 12.1 RCA 8.3 BMLG Records 7.9 WEA 6.8 Valory 6.5 WMN 6.0 Columbia 5.8 WAR 4.7 Triple Tigers 4.5 Big Loud 4.4 Broken Bow 4.4

Purposefully driving a Suburban into a hotel parking lot snow bank on a dare, getting stuck and passing a DUI test. (Brent Jones)


When Royce Risser tied 25 sock monkeys to the bottom of Ashley’s car and she didn’t realize they were there until she got home. (Katelyn Lester)



The culture, starting at the top with UMGN’s Mike Dungan, Cindy Mabe, Mike Harris and Royce Risser. (Bobby Young)

9 8

We’re never bored. (Katelyn Lester)

Team spirit and effort of the artists, who go above and beyond to accomplish the mission and make it fun at the same time. (Megan Youngblood)

7 6 at Tiffany’s with Annie. Zaxby’s on road 5Tea trips with Ashley. And, of course, Brown’s

Unparalleled, flame-throwing staff. (David Friedman)

Zero drama. (Annie Sandor)

Diner with Bobby. (Chris Schuler)


A roster comprised of the nicest and most genuine people – not just artists – I’ve ever encountered. (David Friedman)

3 2

The professionalism and thoughtfulness of our artists. (Brent Jones)

After spending some formative years here, coming back was like coming home. (Mara Sidweber)


A staff that looks at the job at hand, puts their heads down and goes during a difficult year with headline tours, promoting to programmers, working the charts and setting up Adam Hambrick. Some seven, eight and nine-day runs for this group. Amazing. Plus, a roster at the top of their game. The most talented, creative and engaged artists we couldn’t be prouder to represent. (Bobby Young)

A PERFECT 10: THE CAPITOL ROSTER Dierks Bentley Luke Bryan Mickey Guyton Adam Hambrick Caylee Hammack Little Big Town Jon Pardi Darius Rucker Carrie Underwood Keith Urban PAGE 17 • DECEMBER 2018


TOP 100 OF 2018

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50





One Number Away

River House/Columbia


Singles You Up




Warner Bros./WAR


Most People Are Good



Everything's Gonna ...

Reviver/Blue Chair


Get Along

Blue Chair/Warner Bros./WEA


Meant To Be



You Make It Easy

Broken Bow





Like I Loved You






For The First Time



Woman, Amen




Triple Tigers


Hotel Key



Broken Halos



Five More Minutes

Triple Tigers


Marry Me



Kiss Somebody

Warner Bros./WEA


Written In The Sand



Greatest Love Story



Up Down

BMLGR/Big Loud


Take Back Home Girl

Big Loud


The Long Way



She's With Me



Life Changes



I Was Jack (You Were Diane) Big Loud


Break Up In The End

Warner Bros./WMN


Drunk Girl

Warner Bros./WAR


I'll Name The Dogs

Warner Bros./WMN





Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset






Blue Tacoma

Triple Tigers


All On Me



Drowns The Whiskey

Broken Bow


I Lived It

Warner Bros./WMN


Round Here Buzz

EMI Nashville


Hangin' On



Losing Sleep




Black River





Coming Home



Heart Break



Hide The Wine

Big Machine


She Got The Best Of Me

River House/Columbia


Cry Pretty



Fix A Drink

Warner Bros./WAR


I Could Use A Love Song


51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100


Best Shot

Stoney Creek



UMGN/Big Machine


All Day Long



Drunk Me

Riser House/Columbia


Last Shot



Lose It



Light It Up



Born To Love You



You Broke Up With Me



Kinda Don't Care



A Girl Like You




Stoney Creek


Get To You



Happens Like That



The Ones That Like Me



Desperate Man

EMI Nashville


Three Chords & The Truth Broken Bow





Ask Me How I Know






Make A Little

Big Machine


Outta Style

Big Label


Burn Out

Big Machine


She Ain't In It



Turnin' Me On

Warner Bros./WMN




Shoot Me Straight

EMI Nashville





Every Little Thing

Big Machine


I Hate Love Songs

Black River


Take It From Me



Good Girl

Broken Bow


Doin' Fine




Warner Bros./WAR


The Difference



This Is It

Triple Tigers


There Was This Girl



Downtown's Dead



David Ashley Parker ...



A Little Dive Bar ...



The Rest Of Our Life



Down To The Honkytonk

Big Loud


See You Try



Caught Up In The Country



You're In It






When Someone Stops ...



Run Wild Horses

Big Label


I'd Be Jealous Too

Broken Bow


One That Got Away



Warner/Chappell: Where GREAT Songwriting is Timeless.

TOP 15


2018 of

Florida Georgia Line

Peak Position (wks. at No.1)

Peak Date

Broken Bow Broken Bow Stoney Creek

1(2) 1(1) 3

5/7/18 8/27/18 11/12/18

17 17 36

9 37 51

Legends Woman, Amen Burning Man Boy Ask Me How I Know All Day Long Heaven Lose It Light It Up Most People Are Good Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset

Black River Capitol Capitol Curb Pearl Pearl RCA RCA Capitol Capitol Capitol

1(1) 1(1) 11 15 1(1) 8 1(2) 4 1(1) 1(3) 1(2)

2/20/18 6/11/18 11/12/18 3/19/18 12/4/17 11/12/18 5/21/18 11/12/18 12/11/17 4/9/18 9/17/18

16 23 17 22 7 21 29 21 7 16 18

42 14 76 68 69 53 1 56 57 5 33



Get Along Round Here Buzz Desperate Man One Number Away She Got The Best Of Me A Girl Like You

Blue Chair/Warner Bros./WEA EMI Nashville EMI Nashville River House/Columbia River House/Columbia Mercury

1(2) 1(1) 12 1(1) 1(2) 5

7/23/18 1/22/18 11/12/18 6/4/18 11/5/18 2/12/18

18 12 18 23 18 15

7 39 66 2 47 61



Tequila Speechless Singles You Up All On Me Yours Blue Tacoma

Warner Bros./WAR Warner Bros./WAR MCA Atlantic/WEA Triple Tigers Triple Tigers

1(2) 7 1(1) 2 1(1) 1(1)

7/9/18 11/12/18 4/16/18 3/26/18 1/29/18 10/8/18

27 13 24 21 13 28

4 84 3 36 15 35



The Long Way Kiss Somebody

Atlantic/WMN Warner Bros./WEA

2 1(1)

4/23/18 8/20/18

25 34

25 20



Smooth Simple


13 1(1)

11/20/17 10/15/18

2 22



The Ones That Like Me







You Broke Up With Me She’s With Me

Monument/Arista Atlantic/WEA

10 7

2/19/18 4/16/18

14 24

59 26



Fix A Drink Drunk Girl

Warner Bros./WAR Warner Bros./WAR

1(1) 5

11/20/17 11/5/18

3 45

49 30



Heart Break Greatest Love Story Born To Love You Take Back Home Girl Good Girl

Capitol Arista Arista Big Loud Broken Bow

11 1(1) 15 6 14

8/13/18 11/27/17 10/8/18 8/20/18 11/12/18

40 4 34 42 22

45 22 58 24 82



Five More Minutes Make A Little Last Shot I Could Use A Love Song Rich Everything’s Gonna Be Alright

Triple Tigers Big Machine MCA Columbia Columbia Reviver/Blue Chair

1(1) 13 10 1(1) 4 1(1)

2/26/18 2/26/18 11/12/18 1/16/18 11/5/18 6/18/18

17 15 41 11 37 33

18 71 55 50 43 6



Written In The Sand Hotel Key I Was Jack (You Were Diane)

RCA RCA Big Loud

1(1) 1(2) 1(1)

2/12/18 10/1/18 7/30/18

15 27 24

21 16 28



Every Little Thing Hide The Wine

Big Machine Big Machine

11 11

11/20/17 10/15/18

2 42

79 46



Get To You Meant To Be Unforgettable Marry Me Life Changes Sixteen For The First Time

Atlantic/WEA WBR/BMLGR Valory Valory Valory Valory Capitol

14 1(1) 3 1(2) 1(1) 13 1(1)

6/11/18 4/23/18 11/20/17 3/12/18 9/4/18 11/12/18 5/29/18

31 22 1 18 22 6 30

63 8 12 19 27 96 13



Hooked I’ll Name The Dogs I Lived It Turnin’ Me On Happens Like That Broken Halos Millionaire Babe Break Up In The End

Curb Warner Bros./WMN Warner Bros./WMN Warner Bros./WMN Wheelhouse Mercury Mercury UMGN/Big Machine Warner Bros./WMN

2 1(1) 2 9 12 1(1) 15 14 1(1)

9/17/18 12/18/17 6/25/18 11/12/18 3/26/18 3/19/18 11/12/18 11/5/18 10/22/18

46 8 24 15 21 20 28 30 37

10 31 38 75 64 17 78 52 29



Drunk Me

Riser House/Columbia







Cry Pretty Female Coming Home

Capitol Capitol Capitol

6 10 1(1)

8/27/18 2/26/18 8/6/18

22 17 22

48 70 44



Up Down Outta Style

BMLGR/Big Loud Big Label

1(1) 8

6/25/18 12/18/17

32 9

23 72



Like I Loved You Mercy Losing Sleep Hangin’ On


1(1) 1(1) 1(1) 1(1)

1/8/18 8/13/18 2/5/18 11/12/18

9 27 14 35

12 32 41 40






You Make It Easy Drowns The Whiskey Best Shot



Wks. on Chart

2018 Rank

Jordan Davis

Luke Bryan

Kenny Chesney


RHETT, FGL, MORRIS LEAD 2018 AIRPLAY Thomas Rhett tops both the Overall and Male Top Performer categories in 2018, hitting the Daily Double for the second time in three years. His “off year” in 2017 wasn’t too shabby though, coming in second on both lists. During the 2018 chart year, Rhett posted four Top 15 songs, one of which (“Sixteen”) is still climbing, and two – “Marry Me” and “Life Changes” – that hit No. 1 for a total of three weeks. Florida Georgia Line were a close second to Rhett for Overall Performer, but Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley led the Group/Duo category on the strength of two Top 15s, including the No. 1 “Simple.” The guys also played prominent roles in a pair of 2018 No. 1s, teaming with Bebe Rexha for “Meant To Be” and Morgan Wallen on “Up Down.” The former was such a huge hit, it propelled Rexha to the No. 2 spot on both the Female and New Artist Top Performers lists. Leading the Female Top Performers is Maren Morris. “I Maren Morris Could Use A Love Song” hit No. 1 in the first part of the year, while “Rich” peaked at No. 4 during the 2018 chart year and remained on the charts into the 2019 chart year. Jordan Davis leads this year’s New Artist list on the strength of his debut No. 1 “Singles You Up.” Four of this year’s New Artists – defined as not having a Top 15 in any prior year – posted No. 1 hits: Davis, Rexha, Wallen and Morgan Evans. Meanwhile, Jimmie Allen began the 2019 chart year with a two-week No. 1. By The Numbers: A total of 149 songs made it into the Top 50 in 2018, eight fewer than last year and 11 fewer than 2016 and 2015. Those 149 songs came from 92 different artists – 59 men with 99 songs, 14 women with 21 songs (including Faith Hill, who joined Tim McGraw on a duet) and 19 duos/groups with 29 songs. That compares to the 59 men with 107 songs, 14 women (including Hill who joined McGraw on a pair of charted duets) with 18 songs and 16 duos/groups with 32 songs that accounted for the 157 songs that hit the Top 50 in 2017. Fifty-two different artists contributed to the 77 songs that peaked inside the Top 15 in 2018, compared to the 49 artists who posted 72 Top 15s in 2017 and 52 acts with 80 songs in 2016. Generating this year’s 77 Top 15s were 39 men with 58 songs, five women with seven songs and eight duos/groups with 12 songs. Country churned out 40 No. 1 songs by 31 different artists in 2018. Twenty-four men contributed 32 No. 1s over 40 weeks, three women had three chart-toppers for three weeks and four duos/groups posted five No. 1s covering seven weeks. In 2017, there were 44 No. 1s by 33 different artists. Twenty-four men posted 33 No. 1s covering 38 weeks, three women accounted for three No. 1s over three weeks, and six duos/groups posted eight songs that spent nine weeks at No. 1. Eight artists – Jason Aldean, Kane Brown, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Luke Combs, Dan + Shay, Old Dominion and Rhett – posted two-week No. 1s, while Bryan was the only artist this year to have a three-week chart topper. Those eight accounted for 24 weeks at the top of the chart. Three other acts contributed two weeks to the No. 1 totals with a pair of No. 1s each – Russell Dickerson, Brett Young and Chris Young. As widespread industry efforts continued to promote and support female artists in this format, the 2018 numbers stayed relatively flat over previous years. This year, only Kelsea Ballerini, Morris (2), Carly Pearce (2), Rexha and Carrie Underwood had Top 15 hits. In 2017, five women had six Top 15s while in 2016 seven women placed 12 songs in the Top 15. In 2015, four women had seven tunes in that space. As always, all of the airplay information within these pages comes from our partners at Mediabase 24/7. All of these stats are based on singles that spent at least one week in the Top 50 during the 2018 chart year, which ran Nov. 12, 2017-Nov. 10, 2018.


Eleven artists charted a Top 15 single for the first time during the 2018 chart year, up from eight in 2017 and ahead of the nine posted in 2016. Four notched No. 1s – Jordan Davis’ “Singles You Up,” Morgan Evans’ “Kiss Somebody,” Lanco’s “Greatest Love Story,” Bebe Rexha’s “Meant To Be” featuring Florida Georgia Line, and Morgan Wallen’s “Up Down,” also featuring FGL. JIMMIE ALLEN (Stoney Creek) JORDAN DAVIS (MCA) DEVIN DAWSON (Atlantic/WEA)

Number of Charted Songs

HIGH VALLEY (Atlantic/WEA) LANCO (Arista) BEBE REXHA (Warner Bros./BMLGR) MITCHELL TENPENNY (Riser House/Columbia) MORGAN WALLEN (Big Loud) AARON WATSON (Big Label)

Thomas Rhett

Country Radio’s Top 2018 Performers OVERALL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


Valory BMLG Records Capitol Blue Chair/Warner Bros./WEA Broken Bow RCA Warner Bros./WMN BMLG Records River House/Columbia RCA

MALE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


Valory Capitol Blue Chair/Warner Bros./WEA Broken Bow RCA Warner Bros./WMN BMLG Records River House/Columbia Triple Tigers MCA

FEMALE 196 175 172 169 160 160 157 149 2011








Number of Songs Reaching Top 15

78 80 80 82 73 80 72 77 2011








Artists with Charted Songs

MORGAN EVANS (Warner Bros./WEA) WALKER HAYES (Monument/Arista)


Duo or Group: 20.7% (19) Female: 14.2% (14)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


Columbia Warner Bros. Black River RCA Big Machine Capitol Big Machine Stoney Creek Mercury Atlantic/WAR

GROUP/DUO 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


BMLG Records RCA Warner Bros./WAR Arista Atlantic/WEA Big Machine UMGN/Big Machine BMLGR EMI Nashville Capitol

NEW ARTIST Male: 64.1% (59)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


MCA Warner Bros. Big Loud Warner Bros./WEA Atlantic/WEA Atlantic/WEA Stoney Creek Riser House/Columbia Monument Big Label



Brad Paisley’s “Bucked Off” is off and running as Paisley will be back on the road this year, while Walker Hayes continues to win fans with “90’s Country.” VP/ Promotion Josh Easler says the song is “showing great signs in consumption.” Look for Hayes on his headlining tour in Q1. Reaction continues for Seth Ennis’ “Call Your Mama” featuring Little Big Town. Ennis is touring with Dylan Scott in 2019. “We’re excited about the foundation Carlton Anderson is making with fans and Country radio,” says Easler. “He will be back with a new single in Q1. Lastly, thank you for an amazing year for Lanco. They are in the studio making new music and will be back early next year, touring with Luke Combs. We hope to see you at a show!”

Average Joes

Newly signed Sam Grow will deliver a full-length album during the first quarter and Lenny Cooper will also release a new project. Look for a new single from singer/songwriter Carter Winter from his current album Temptation. Additionally, Sr. Dir./Business

Adam Wakefield Development & Marketing Nathan Thompson reports singer/songwriter Adam Wakefield – one of Pandora’s 2019 Country Artists to Watch – will also have new songs in Q1. The label’s top-selling compilation series Mud in the Club V2 is also set for release next quarter.


Duo Smithfield will have a new single in late January/early February. The first country single from AJ McLean, “Night Visions,” is out in January. Sundance Head continues with his first single, “Leave Her Wild.” “And a bonus for In2une – we are proud to be partnering with Good Company Entertainment’s Keith Gale and Barry Weiss on the Matt Stell single ‘Prayed for You,’” says VP/Promo/Mgt. Jamice Jennings.

Big Big Entertainment

GM Jim Chesser says Eric Chesser will be part of the main stage lineup at the Country Fest, Lakes Jam and Kicker Country Stampede festivals. He’s also in the studio working on a new project. Recent Iowa Rock N’ Roll Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Johnny Rogers will begin his 2019 tour in Florida.

Big Label

Aaron Watson’s new single “Kiss That Girl Goodbye” will launch in January. Written by Watson, it’s the lead single from Red Bandana, coming out in June. “It’s a hook-laden, uptempo break-up song from a guy’s point of view and everyone who has heard the roughs has been blown away,” says Label Head Tony Morreale. “Red Bandana was produced by Jordan Lehning, may contain as many as 20 Watson-penned songs and will cut a wide swath stylistically and sonically. We are also stepping up the search for a new artist with a great work ethic and a musical vision to join the label and grow with us.”

Big Loud

Look for a new album from Jake Owen in late Q1. “It will be his debut first full album with Big Loud,” says Pres. Clay Hunnicutt, “including ‘I Was Jack (You Were Diane),’ ‘Down To The Honkytonk’ and ‘Made For You.’” Owen just wrapped the USA Network series Real Country; he’ll tour extensively and release new singles throughout 2019. New artist Hardy will release his four-song second EP Jan. 18. This follows his debut EP This Ole Boy, championed by SiriusXM and featuring “Rednecker” and “Throwback,” released in October and streamed more than 1.8 million times. Find Hardy on the road in 2019 with Florida Georgia Line and label mate Morgan Wallen.

Big Machine

“The first quarter of 2019 is all about new,” says VP/ Promo Kris Lamb, who teases a new album from Midland in March, following their latest single “Burn Out.” “We’re amped for the opportunity to double down and give consumers new music from the reigning ACM New Group of the Year.” Carly Pearce continues with her single “Closer To You” from her upcoming sophomore album. “I truly believe Carly is the

Labels Preview Q1 Releases


hardest working artist in country music,” says Lamb, pointing to her 2018 opening slots for Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts, Thomas Rhett and Luke Bryan, and her upcoming co-headlining tour with Russell Dickerson and a TBA national tour. Rascal Flatts will be releasing new tracks in Q1 and throughout the year. The label will also be introducing newcomers Lauren Jenkins, Dan Smalley and Josh Phillips.

Black River

SVP/Radio Promotion Mike Wilson says Kelsea Ballerini’s “Miss Me More” is on fire and will continue to be in the first half of 2019. “We will have new music from Abby Anderson in the first quarter,” he adds. “She’s busy writing and recording now. I know Country radio is going to be really excited about the new music she’s putting together.”

BMLG Records

Caylee Hammack


“Luke Bryan continues to blow up the charts, as the title cut from What Makes You Country went Top 20 in just a few weeks and is poised to be his fourth No. 1 from the album,” says VP/Promotion Bobby Young. As of this writing, Carrie Underwood’s “Love Wins” from her first Capitol album Cry Pretty is closing in on Top 20. She’ll be on the road with the Cry Pretty Tour in 2019. “We’re proud to have her in the Capitol family,” says Young. Keith Urban’s “Never Comin Down” is climbing and Graffiti U continues to sell, consistently posting Top 5 sales numbers. Dierks Bentley’s “Burning Man” featuring Brothers Osborne is already Top 10. He’ll take labelmate Jon Pardi along for the ride on his Burning Man Tour next year through November. Adam Hambrick’s “Rockin’ All Night Long” recently debuted as he continues his radio tour throughout the first quarter. “His songs reflect a fresh and curious outlook on life and relationships,” says Young. “The project stands on its own and early feedback from programmers is excellent! I believe this single will position Adam as a trendsetter in the format.” Jon Pardi is looking for “Night Shift” to follow in the steps of his three previous chart-topping singles from California Sunrise. Little Big Town have been busy working on their new album and will launch a new tour in February. “Caylee Hammack was one of the most sought-after new artists in Nashville last year – and I’m proud and excited to say Capitol won,” reports Young. “I believe, without a doubt, she’s going to have a longstanding presence in our format.” Look for her on radio tour in February and listen for a single in April.

Cold River/Placer Music

It’s a busy new year for Dylan Schneider, who continues his chart climb with debut single “How Does It Sound.” “We cannot wait to get this new Drew Baldridge music out to radio,” says VP/Promotion Jim Dandy. “He has taken his time and brought us at least four separate songs worthy of hit status.” Look for the first single from that new project in Q1. Says SVP John Ettinger, “We are so excited to announce the signing of Alabama native Sara Stearman. She places her heart in the middle of every song. Her words stun you and her melodies compel. Think Joni Mitchell in the age of Gaga and Swift.” Dandy adds, “The Cold River team has new offices on Music Row and they plan to host radio and industry events there starting around CRS. We might just recreate our immensely successful CMAweek rookie party for West Coast rep Jenna Johnson. We can’t honor her and this awesome team enough.”

Riley Green’s debut single “There Was This Girl” has already cracked Top 20 and continues to climb. Green just wrapped his fall 40-city headline tour, will announce another headline tour for Q1, and has a major tour reveal for the summer. Brett Young’s “Here Tonight,” from new album Ticket To LA, continues to climb, while he sells out dates Everette on his current CMT Here Tonight Headline Tour and preps to hit the road with Kelsea Ballerini in early 2019. Florida Georgia Line’s “Talk You Out Of It” follows their 16th No. 1 “Simple.” “The duo is currently holding court with their Las Vegas residency,” says SVP/Promotion Matthew Hargis, “while they gear up for their fourth album launch in February.”

Broken Bow

“It’ll be a ‘Girl Like You’ first quarter for Jason Aldean when his wife Brittany delivers their baby girl, Navy,” says VP/Promo Lee Adams. Rearview Town has spent a dozen weeks at No. 1 and netted the three-time ACM Entertainer Of The Year three big hits with more to come. Dustin Lynch’s “Good Girl” climbs the charts just in time for the Very Hot Summer Tour with Thomas Rhett, May through October. With nearly 65 million US streams, “Eyes On You” is proving to be one of the biggest hits of Chase Rice’s career so far. “Look for duo Everette to take their swampy, grassroots, Kentucky sound to new levels with new music in the first quarter,” adds Adams.


hits and a platinum single in Canada,” says Managing Partner Nancy Tunick. Goodvin’s US album releases in Febuary and new single “Bars And Churches” ships to radio in February for an early second quarter airplay date. Adds Tunick, “Our artists and team look forward to seeing everyone at CRS for our annual Starlight Dinner at The Patron Club in Bridgestone Arena on the first night of the seminar following the opening reception and performance.”

Labels Preview Q1 Releases


VP/Promotion Katie Dean reports Kip Moore’s “Last Shot” will peak in January prior to the start of his spring acoustic tour, while Jordan Davis continues his march up the chart with “Take It From Me.” George Strait is in the studio with new music expected in the first half of the new year and Kassi Ashton and Sam Hunt are also working on new music for 2019.


Tenille Townes


New music from Columbia includes Tim McGraw’s “Neon Church” and Luke Combs’ “Beautiful Crazy” from his platinum This One’s For You Too. “Tenille Townes’ thought-provoking “Somebody’s Daughter” will continue to establish her authenticity at radio while she climbs the charts and heads out on tour with Dierks Bentley,” says SVPP Shane Allen. “Be prepared to be blown away by new music from Maren Morris and Mitchell Tenpenny’s ‘Alcohol You Later,’ the follow-up to his debut gold smash ‘Drunk Me.’”


“Rodney Atkins continues toward Top 30 with ‘Caught Up In The Country’ and we’re seeing exceptionally strong consumption to back up our belief that this fun, uptempo tune will absolutely work at radio,” says VP/Promo RJ Meacham. “Lee Brice delivers hit songs, period. ‘Rumor’ is no different and we’ve got the numbers to prove it. Nearly 40 million streams already, gold on the horizon, and we’re just closing in on Top 40.” Everything is new for Dylan Scott – single “Nothing To Do Town,” impacting Jan. 14, a 17-city tour and an EP slated for April. “We’re all looking forward to building on a phenomenal 2018 and taking Dylan to the next level in the new year!” says Meacham.

EMI Nashville

Brandon Lay is leaving an impression with “Yada Yada Yada.” “If you saw him on the Trip Around The Sun Tour, you know this guy has a bright future as an allaround entertainer,” says VP/Promotion Jimmy Rector. “With a song that connects to everyone, he has it all: poise, good looks and great lyrics.” Jon Langston may be a new artist, but he already boasts a fan base with 160 million lifetime streams and more than 40 million lifetime views. His new single “When It Comes To Loving You” already has 9.5 million streams and landed at radio in September. Threetime reigning CMA and two-time ACM Vocal Duo of the Year Brothers Osborne Aaron have a new single “I Don’t Remember Goodvin Me (Before You),” showing their softer side. Look for them on their headlining world tour, kicking off in January. Eric Church starts January with new music as new single “Some Of It” ships to radio, while Gary Allan and Alan Jackson are working hard in the studio.

Forge Entertainment Group

Lucas Hoge’s new single will be released in early 2019 as he opens both his US and UK tours. Look for an EP later in the year. “Lucas’ partnerships just keep growing,” says Pres./CEO Laura Lynn, “adding GSM Outdoors and Purity and Grace along with Southwest Airlines, Taylor Guitars, Uncle Nearest Whiskey, Bass Pro/Cabela’s, Wrangler and Gamble Family Vineyards.”


James Dupré’s “Drunk Right Now” will ship at the end of Q1, while Ryan Sims’ “Get Away” will continue its journey up the charts in January following a late fourth quarter ship. Irish singer/multiinstrumentalist Mags debuts with “Run” as new music from Shenandoah, Larry Stewart and Shane Owens also hits the charts. “The GrassRoots Management division is also excited about client Aaron Goodvin signing with Reviver Records following multiple Top 10


Coming off of three big wins at the CMA Awards in November, VPP Damon Moberly says Chris Stapleton’s “Millionaire” continues to test well as it heads toward the top. Look for new albums from Travis Denning, Maddie & Tae, Billy Currington and Lauren Alaina while their current singles – “David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs,” “Friends Don’t,” “Bring It On Over” and “Ladies In The 90’s,” respectively – climb the charts.

Nine North

The first quarter will bring the follow-up to Canadian/ Chilean artist Flo’s current single “Sincerely, Not Really,” as well as a new song from Abi after her debut “A Day Without.” “We’ll continue to be hard at work on debut singles from Isabella Stefania and Abby Stephens, so it’s going to be a packed Q1,” says Pres. Larry Pareigis. “Speaking of, we wish Country radio the best winter book ever. May the broadcasting gods smile on you and your tower(s)!”



Jan. 7 will be the impact date for Kane Brown’s new single; three days later he’ll kick off his sold-out tour. Next up will be the first single from the new Chris Young album, impacting Jan. 28. Ryan Hurd’s “To A T” hits Feb. 11. “Sirius/XM’s The Highway has led the charge on this song with huge success,” says SVP/ Promo Dennis Reese. “Ryan will perform four soldout shows in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Nashville in early 2019.” Singles continuing to rise in the new year include CMA winners Old Dominion’s “Make It Sweet,” Pistol Annies’ “Got My Name Changed Back” and Rachel Wammack’s “Damage.” Adds Reese, “Be on the lookout for our newest signing, duo Seaforth.”

Rebel Engine

CMT Next Women of Country artist Stephanie Quayle will release a new single in Q1. “With the success of last year’s ‘Selfish,’ we are thrilled to share that we are expanding our promotion team,” says VP Carli McLaughlin. “Jay Bradley and EJ Bernas will join David Shaw and Chris Borchetta in making this a monumental campaign for Quayle and Rebel Engine.”

Red Star

As Denny Strickland’s current single “Don’t You Wanna” rings in the new year, Strickland will be releasing another version of the song with an unexpected collaboration. “And just as listeners’ ears welcome the new version, the video is sure to open some eyes as well,” says the label’s Neal Kring. “This will definitely be one to check out.”


“Resolve abounds and continues into the new year,” says SVP/Promotion Bob Reeves, “with CMA winner David Lee Murphy’s ‘I Won’t Be Sorry’ and Michael Tyler’s ‘Remember These Words’ – which I’m still 100% certain will become the engagement/wedding song of the summer!” The Bachelor fans will spot Tenille Arts on the show in January, helping drive her “I Hate This” up the charts, while Haley & Michaels’ “Taking Off” will impact Jan. 28 as they wrap their radio tour and get into spring and summer touring mode. 1608’s Josh Gracin’s single

“The stage is set for 2019 to be a massive year for Garth Brooks and Pearl Records,” says GM Lesly Simon. “After the inaugural stadium show at Notre Dame and the CBS primetime special memorializing the historic night, The Garth Brooks Stadium Tour kicks off 2019 with early stops in St Louis, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and The University of Florida.” Additional dates on the three-year trek are TBA. In addition to the tour and recently released Anthology III: Live!, Brooks has a new studio album on the way and a new single from it, “Stronger Than Me,” which he premiered on the CMA Awards.


Farewell Angelina will release their self-produced EP Women & Wine Jan. 25 and the title track is already getting positive feedback at radio. The independent release will be a partnership between Quarterback and their newly formed FAM Records. “The powerhouse all-female group consists of longtime members Nicole Witt, Andrea Young and Lisa Torres,” says Pres. Chris Allums, “and they recently welcomed newest member Ashley Gearing.” The group kicks off their Women And Wine Tour Part II Jan. 5 visiting more than 25 markets nationally throughout the spring before heading to Europe for a summer tour. Also look for Mark Leach’s “Proof,” the debut single from his new album Where I Wanna Be.

Waterloo Revival remains “Good For You” into 2019. 1608 & Reviver will also drop Aaron Goodvin’s new album as well as ship his debut single “Bars And Churches” in mid-February (with an April 1 impact date). Catch Goodvin on radio tour mid-February through April.

Show Dog

Toby Keith’s new single “Don’t Let the Old Man In” is featured in the new Clint Eastwood movie The Mule. “We will continue into 2019 with Waterloo Revival’s ‘Wonder Woman,’” says VP/Promo Rick Moxley, “and rounding out Q1 will be new selections from Krystal Keith’s EP Boulder as well as from Lance Carpenter.”

Stoney Creek

Jimmie Allen will follow his multi-week debut No. 1 “Best Shot” with a second single in early January. Randy Houser continues to move with the debut “What Whiskey Does” from Magnolia, available Jan. 11. Also look for Houser’s his feature narrative film Magnolia out soon. “Walker McGuire’s new single ‘Growin’ Up’ is showing excellent live and online results and continues to grow week to week,” says SVP/Promotion Carson James. “And get ready for the most talked about band out of Nashville that nobody’s seen – King Calaway, coming in early 2019!”

Triple Tigers

“Our plan is to continue focusing on what’s working,” states SVP/Promo Kevin Herring. That includes Scotty McCreery’s “This Is It,” the follow-up to his No. 1 “Five More Minutes.” McCreery is in the middle of his first headlining tour. Russell Dickerson’s third single “Every Little Thing” continues to walk the path of his previous chart-toppers, while he too preps for a co-headlining tour with Carly Pearce, followed by a 40+ date tour opening for Thomas Rhett.

Labels Preview Q1 Releases

single is expected in Q1. Next year you’ll find them on their headlining tour with Morgan Evans. They’ll also take their show to Europe and ring in the new year on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest. “Also coming early next year, Chris Janson will return with a headlining tour and an uptempo barnburner that will leave you saying, ‘Damn it, he’s done it again,’” says Marsh.


“Jessica Meuse is our focus,” says Pres. Jimmy Ervin, who reports Meuse has visited more than 50 stations on radio tour and plans to continue on the road supporting her album Halfhearted. “She’s had more than 1 million views of her ‘Thank God It Didn’t Work’ lyric video on Facebook and is also also enjoying support from the film community, having received three separate festival awards this year,” he says. Additionally, Meuse continues raising awareness about domestic violence, cyber bullying and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.


Team WEA will continue working Michael Ray’s “One That Got Away” and Kenny Chesney’s “Better Boat” as he launches his Songs For The Saints Tour. After having a 15-week No. 1 single in Australia with “Day Drunk,” Morgan Evans has charted the single here in the States. “Look for this single to be big based on the early consumption numbers we are seeing plus the international success of the single,” says National Dir./Radio & Streaming Adrian Michaels. “He is proving that country is global.” Devin Dawson will take the momentum from his breakthrough year into 2019 with the recently released “Dark Horse.” Look for Dawson on the road in the US, Europe and Australia in the new year. Tyler Rich


Speaking of, Thomas Rhett rounds out his platinum Life Changes with “Sixteen,” the fifth single from this project, following four No. 1s from the same album. TR will deliver new music in Q1 and cross the country next year on the Very Hot Summer Tour. Tyler Rich continues his journey up the chart with “The Difference,” while also writing and recording new music. Justin Moore honors fallen soldiers with “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home,” the first single from a forthcoming album he just finished recording. Fresh off another USO tour, Eli Young Band’s “Love Ain’t” is working its way up the chart. Next year is the 20th anniversary of EYB, with lots of surprises coming in support of this. Brantley Gilbert pairs with Lindsay Ell on his new single “What Happens In A Small Town.” “The duet features a blend of their unique voices and Lindsay’s phenomenal guitar playing,” says VP/Promotion & Marketing Chris Palmer. “The song was just shipped and is going for adds Jan. 14.”


Ashley McBryde will deliver “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” Jan. 14. “A few years ago in school, one of Ashley’s teachers suggested the Arkansas singer consider a second career choice,” says National Dir./Radio & Streaming James Marsh. “Those misguided words of wisdom only served to fuel her fire.” Find McBryde this winter opening select dates for George Strait, including Super Bowl weekend in Sin City. Dan + Shay spent 2018 logging No. 1s “Tequila” and “Speechless.” A third

Morgan Evans


Granger Smith continues to climb with “You’re In It” as he hits the road January through March with Kane Brown on his Live Forever Tour. “Runaway June’s ‘Buy My Own Drink’ is proving to be just the right elixir for all the single ladies (and married ones too),” says VP/ Promotion Ken Tucker. “The talented trio will travel coast to coast on Carrie Underwood’s The Cry Pretty Tour 360 beginning in May.” LoCash’s “Feels Like A Party” is a taste of their upcoming Wheelhouse debut album, expected in the first quarter. “Meanwhile, early 2019 will bring an exciting new addition to the Wheelhouse family,” teases Tucker. “Stay tuned!”


Brett Eldredge wrapped 2018 alongside a 12-piece orchestra for the multi-city Glow Live Christmas Tour in support of his Christmas album Glow Deluxe. As current single “Love Someone” climbs, Eldredge readies new music for 2019. Cole Swindell’s “Love You Too Late” from his No. 1 album All Of It is the follow-up to No. 1 “Break Up In The End.” This month he wrapped the second leg of his A Reason To Drink ... Another Tour featuring Dustin Lynch and Lauren Alaina. Cody Johnson’s “On My Way To You” is Top 30 and climbing. “Cody’s built-in fan base keeps him busy selling out venues from coast to coast every week,” says National Dir./Radio & Streaming Katie Bright. “You can catch him on several of his own sold-out dates in early 2019 and on the Justin Moore tour.” Johnson’s Ain’t Nothin’ To It is out Jan. 18. RaeLynn is back at Country radio with “Tailgate,” written with FGL’s Tyler Hubbard, Corey Crowder (both of whom served as producers on the track) and Canaan Smith. And look for new music from Hunter Hayes in Q1. CAC

Jon Loba S

Working A Real Job

cheduling this interview with BMG/BBR Music Group EVP Jon Loba has been more than a year in the making, but he’s had a few things on his plate. First and foremost, BMG’s January 2017 acquisition of BBRMG has set in motion a series of changes and challenges. Happily, he and his team are in the midst of a two-week No. 1 debut single for Jimmie Allen as he sits to discuss more than two years of transition, the industry’s biggest issues and a new venture with the group’s biggest artist.

You knew this would all land on this week a year ago, right? Yeah. (laugh) As soon as the BMG deal closed, I said we are not signing any solo male acts for probably two years. Our format needs more solo males like a hole in the head. And I really wanted to send a signal that things were different A&Rwise. And then I get this postcard across my desk of Jimmie, went to a showcase and thought, this guy acts like he’s been on arena stages for 20 years. You could see it right there. We had him in a couple days later to play acoustically, and it gave me chills. We dove into his story, and he had me in tears. I’m like, “This is it.” I wanted to sign him so bad, but I had said earlier that the staff would have input. Not A&R by committee, but everyone would at least have a voice. So we waited and brought him in for the entire staff to meet and hear. My phone was blowing up with texts from everyone on the team saying, “We’ve got to sign him!” Glad to have the acquisition mostly in the rear view? When EMI and Universal merged, I remember seeing [UMG/Nashville Chairman] Mike Dungan several times, and it just looked like he was walking around in a fog. When this deal closed, he brought me back to that and said, “Get ready. It’s going to be cloudy for a while.” There’s so much to do with getting the pieces in place and merging two cultures. Luckily, we had spent so much time trying to find the right partner that the culture transition was actually really easy. BMG really did hold the same values BBR did. They put artists first, care about staff development and truly want to improve lives through music. So it was really natural. But between finding a partner, due diligence and putting the pieces in place, it’s been two-and-a-half or three years. It wasn’t until February or March of this year that I felt like things were really starting to click; that I could once again be really proactive in looking – not just at the operational site of the business – but the creative side. I’ve always been very much in those weeds and got away from it. Now I’m diving back in more and more. I like being close to the staff and having those minute-to-minute conversations.


What’s it been like going from, basically, a mom-and-pop to a corporate structure? That was the most stark contrast. As BBR, there were years we only put out one album. When we started talking about P&L statements after the merger, there were several employees who asked what that was. We just never talked about them. We just made music and when it was time to put it out, we did. We didn’t worry about product flow. There were advantages to that, but there could also be disadvantages. Maybe we should have moved sooner on certain projects. With BMG, we will always give artists and their music legitimate shots, but we had to empower the staff and make them believe they could run fast enough for a much more aggressive release schedule. When the deal closed, [BMG/U.S. President] Zach Katz told me, “Look, everybody expects 2017 to be a transition year. This will not be a year of transition.” (Ed. Note: Katz announced his departure from BMG as this issue went to press.) The numbers [BBRMG Founder] Benny Brown forecasted – and I love Benny and his ultimate optimism – but they were based on every single thing hitting perfectly. I just told Zach, “You may as well fire me right now.” Luckily, like so many people throughout my career, he had more belief in me than I did. Zach had confidence this team would get there and, somehow, we made the numbers in 2017 and are well ahead of schedule for 2018. So, you’re right, that was the biggest change. Making budgets, sticking to them – all those things made us better, more thoughtful, strategic and efficient. And that’s paying off for the artists, too. They have more certainty and a team that’s operating at a much higher level than it was two years ago. What parts of the transition feel settled and what parts are still being sorted out? For a long, time people were expecting mass layoffs and changes that were never in the plan, [because] a big part of BMG’s purchase was for the employee infrastructure we had. What became evident after last year was that our partners – radio, DSPs, press, retail – wanted more focus. It was the one conversation that continually came up when I asked those who really move the needle about our weaknesses. Four imprints didn’t allow for the focus they wanted and needed. Closing Red Bow in July was a really tough decision, but it was the right decision. I immediately felt the staff settle. Like, okay, this is done. Our promotion teams have been strengthened and are able to focus in a way they never have before. Looking at airplay, you can draw a straight line from that moment to some records really starting to perform. We got some things through that I’m not sure would have made it prior to our consolidation. What’s not totally settled is the maturation of our A&R team and process. Jimmie was my first signing since the acquisition and there have been others, but even with established artists you’ll see a difference. When a consumer or our partners think about BBR/BMG, I want them to think they may hate or love what we bring to the market-


place, but they know they’re going to be moved in some fashion. It’s all part of building our brand as a label group that’s pushing boundaries. We’re fortunate enough to do that because of the success of Jason Aldean, Dustin Lynch and others who have pushed the envelope in their own right.

artist doesn’t get nominated or doesn’t win, especially when you have commerce on your side, when the [metrics] say your artist is better at connecting with the consumer. That’s difficult, but I wake up now thinking about how to win over those other voters, not that the process is corrupt.

Prior to BMG, the A&R process here centered on Benny, right? [SVP/Promotion] Carson James and I could work around the edges. Benny left me alone with Dustin because I brought him to the label and that was really my baby. Beyond that it was Benny and two or three really good producers he felt comfortable with. A lot of times we’d be hearing music right before we were supposed to run with it. Carson and I would get a preview and we could maneuver with him, but he’d tell us to zip our lips. I would say, “Benny, we’re three forty-plus white guys making all these music decisions. Let’s use our staff as a resource!” He did here and there, but I wanted it to be a much more organized process where everybody had a voice. We stole [VP/A&R] Sara Knabe from BMG, so right away had a very strong, capable female in the day-to-day song search and creative conversation. We wanted to build up that department even more and she was smart enough to seek someone to balance her. She said, “I’m female and a little bit more country leaning, I’d like somebody who’s male, a little more pop leaning and a little bit younger.” So we added Chris Poole and they’re the yin and yang of that department. We’re also bringing along Benny’s nephew Josh Brown, really grooming him as part of that nucleus.

The awards made a point of not being political or controversial, but still we live in a time when people we work with have been in life and death moments on the job. Does country music have any broader responsibility to the culture? Not necessarily in being political, but in reflecting the better parts of humanity? Music unifies and helps people escape. I think we move and respond correctly to what is happening at the time. Everybody is so sick of politics, so Robert Deaton and the team took that out of the monologue and they were dead on. At the ACMs earlier this year a statement had to be made about what happened in Vegas, and that was handled beautifully. We all care about this genre and our fans so much and, for the most part, we land on the right tone at the right moment. Going back to Jimmie, that’s a signal to people who want to paint country music as a single-minded red state – maybe in some corners even racist – genre. We’re not that. You don’t have as a big a record as he has without this industry and our fans responding to it.


You’re on all the major boards and looking at the big picture. How are we doing? When Taylor was white hot in the format, that absolutely raised all boats. I always wondered what would happen when she either cooled or focused on another genre. She had so much awareness and pop culture heat, but the valley after her from that standpoint is much shallower than I thought it might be. That’s probably because there’s so much exciting new talent, but also because of the growth of streaming. The lack of females in the genre is obviously an issue and I’m often asked to comment or criticize the lack of opportunity given them by programmers. More clearly and earlier than ever, we have the ability to see when music is connecting, so I find myself defending Country radio at every turn on that point. And maybe I’m wrong because I’ll even have some programmers tell me we need to stick with female artists even when the metrics aren’t there. Work to change opinions and give these artists a chance to move the culture and connect. On that front, I don’t know what the solution is, but I do know we haven’t had enough music that’s connected in those early metrics. Other than that, we’d love to see streaming growth accelerate even further, but as the consumer becomes more educated about streaming and our artists continue to cross genres, that will be there. So I’m insanely encouraged. Somebody asked recently if I’d be interested – given the opportunity – in running all genres at BMG. My response was, not a chance in hell. I love this genre and where it’s going. We’re in a really special time because we’re not the only ones taking chances.

Country radio has seen some softness in ratings, particularly with cume drops of late. How is the format doing? The cliché is that the format is cyclical, but I think a superstar artist will emerge and lift all boats over the next few years. I absolutely believe that. I was really encouraged by a recent conversation with the head of one of the more conservative groups who said that their stations playing more variety were doing better. He told me country fans don’t want to hear the same 20 songs, but we’ve been in a period of that. That gives me hope. Historically, when we open up to a new batch of stars, the format gets a lift. Am I wrong that Jason Aldean’s contract is up for renewal? We have another album and, while I don’t count my chickens before they hatch, I certainly can’t imagine him being anywhere else. And I don’t think he wants to be anywhere else. This is the house that Jason built, no doubt. At our preCMA party, I said that we are all here because of the walls he knocked down and the revenue he generated. That’s what allows us to keep taking chances like the one we took with him. When we really started the label, I’d preach to Benny about being small and focused. He agreed, but then out of the blue said we had to go see an artist – someone a couple other labels had dropped, who was playing at a venue that had some of the worst sound in town. I tried to put him off, but Benny said he’s moving back to Georgia if he doesn’t get a deal in the next week. I’m thinking, “Great, no commitment.” He walked out onstage, I’m standing there with my arms crossed and at the third song Benny asked what I thought. I said, “I think we better run backstage and sign him before everybody figures out what they missed.” We moved really quickly, but I was scared as hell because “Hicktown” was so different. Looking back, that’s where this company having a stamp for taking chances was born. Even after the success of the first album, the next single “Johnny Cash” was very rock. JoJamie came into office as we were going for adds, tears in her eyes because people were saying the song was too rock and Jason should go play with Metallica or AC/DC. I told her, “They’re wrong. Our job is to get a read from the audience. Go do that.” She and the team did, and the rest is history.

You have a number of highly placed female executives, but the roster is probably more reflective of the gender disparity you referenced earlier. We discussed this at length in our We had to empower the staff and make February 2015 article “Women What’s the vision with Jason? In Country,” but what’s the them believe they could run fast enough for a I’ve never worked with an artist who proper balance between pushing much more aggressive release schedule. at every step knows how to push the for change and giving the audienvelope, yet retain his brand. He’s ence what works? got some of the best ears and instincts I would love to say there’s a in the business. When he turned in formula for that. With respect to this last album, I called and told him this company, I get a lot of credit I don’t ever want him to stop doing what he’s doing, but I’d love to have him in our for hiring and elevating women, but that’s never been a goal. It’s just that in all A&R department. A couple months later he called me back to ask if I remembered the those cases the strongest candidate was female. And maybe because we’ve hired conversation. He had some things he wanted to do, so we’re getting ready to do a joint more women, when we grow and promote they end up in leadership positions venture for him to have his own imprint. We’ll use existing staff but let his ears and and absolutely crush it. [VP/Marketing] JoJamie Hahr is like my right arm and, production run free. He’s such a great song guy and really knows brands. without her, I’d have a lot less peace in my life. As much as I love him and think highly of him, that admiration went through With respect to artists, when Benny was in charge of A&R, he did recognize the roof after Las Vegas. How he operated in those days, weeks and months, led his the difficulty of breaking female acts so it made him much more hesitant to sign organization and took so much on his shoulders with such grace and heart – thinkthem. Going forward, you’ll see us taking more chances. That will absolutely be a focus for us, especially after hiring Sara. All of us see that lane – it’s an easier path ing about it makes me want to cry. He made it easier for everyone to deal with the grief by the example he set. to nominations, to TV and there’s probably more of a story to tell. We’re very focused on that lane. I have and will probably go to more female showcases than You told a great story in our Power 31 issue about a lawn mower, investment bankmale showcases within the next year. ing, a Garth song and a career crossroads. That may have been the first time all those things shared one story. How did you get to a point where high finance and Is it too easy for the creative community to scapegoat radio, saying we don’t sign country music became your options? more women as writers and artists because the music won’t get played? I’ve worked since I was 13 years old and part of the decision to come to Nashville I think so, but I’ve never once thought, “Country radio isn’t going to support a fewas the realization I’d never just screwed around. I’d never done something only male so I won’t sign them.” Quite the opposite. There’s less competition, the room for myself. So I figured I’d play around in the music business for a couple years is not as crowded and it should be easier. I had several people question Jimmie as then get a real job. And now I wake up every day thinking how lucky I am that this my first signing considering the track record of black artists in the genre. To me, it became that real job. wasn’t a risk at all. If great artists with great music are given the chance to connect, When I was at Warner Bros., I’d been in the studio with Travis Tritt, helped Little they will. Texas with custom liners, Faith Hill has just had a multiple week No. 1 and I was Coming out of the CMAs, a lot of people are wondering if the awards process is too just buzzing. I was on an elevator with the late Eddie Reeves and label head Jim Ed Norman, and said, “Man, if I die tomorrow I’ve lived a full life.” Eddie laughed and weighted towards bigger companies. What’s your view? said, “That’s why we hire young kids like you – to remind us how great this business One of the benefits of being on these boards is the peace of mind I get from seeing is. Give it 10 years, kid. Your story will change.” the process up close. I was the CMA Awards & Recognition committee chairman He got off the elevator and I rode to the next floor with Jim Ed, who shook his for a year and can now say the process is as pure as it can be. There are controls in head and said, “That’s not true. If you love music and you love people, you’ll love this place to prevent block voting and, when you really look at the overall number of job for the rest of your life.” When I leave the house every morning, I think about Jim members, even if the community could block vote and not get caught, there are Ed’s words. I love it now more than ever and I’m so thankful for that. CAC enough votes out there to balance it out. It doesn’t make it any easier when your