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Music City

Luke Bryan, Mickey GuytonJimmie Allen and Gabby Barrett are among the artists performing at CMA Summer Jam, a new, two-night summer concert experience at Nashville’s open-air Ascend Amphitheater on 7/27-28.

The event, the first new outdoor concert for CMA in almost two years, will be taped and shown on ABC later this summer as a three-hour primetime special. The special will also include performances shot at other locations in downtown Nashville.

Also on the bill on 7/27 are Carly Pearce, Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani, Cole Swindell, Carrie Underwood, Lainey Wilson and Dwight Yoakam. The 7/28 shows includes  Dierks Bentley, Brothers Osborne, Luke Combs, Florida Georgia Line, Miranda Lambert, Jon Pardi and Thomas Rhett.

Tickets go on sale Wednesday. A portion of ticket sale net proceeds will benefit the CMA Foundation.


Pandemic be damned: Mike Dungan and Cindy Mabe achieved a brace of #1s during the last year with both established and new acts, racked up enough awards to crowd multiple shelves and seriously pushed country’s cultural envelope.

The label group’s starry roster drove an array of chart-toppers: Luke Bryan’s “One Margarita” and “Down to One” (his 25th and 26th career #1s, respectively), Sam Hunt’s “Hard to Forget” and “Breaking Up Was Easy in the 90’s,” Eric Church’s “Hell of a View” (his 10th #1), Darius Rucker’s “Beers and Sunshine” (his 10th #1), Chris Stapleton’s “Starting Over” and Maddie & Tae’s “Die From a Broken Heart.” Newcomers Parker McCollum and Travis Denning scored their first #1s with “Pretty Heart” and “After a Few,” respectively.

Church was named Entertainer of the Year at the 2020 CMAs; Carrie Underwood tied (with Thomas Rhett) for Entertainer at the 2020 ACMs; Stapleton took Album and Bryan won Entertainer at the 2021 ACMs.

Underwood left jaws on the floor with her songs-of-praise set, My Savior—not only because of her heavenly pipes but also the album’s celestial overperformance. It bowed at #1 on the U.S., U.K. and Canadian country charts as well as the Christian chart, and Top 5 overall. The vocalist’s HBO Christmas special helped spread the good news; her Live From the Ryman virtual concert (which streamed live on Easter Sunday via Facebook) reached a huge global audience and raised $112k for Save the Children; and her “Hallelujah” duet with John Legend has racked up north of 45m video views.

Breakout Mickey Guyton made a powerful impact in a very different way, challenging racism and gender inequality with the songs “Black Like Me” and “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” These were but two of the six songs she co-wrote for  her EP Bridges, a set that marked a true arrival and sparked thunderous acclaim. Guyton became the first Black female artist to perform on the ACMs, and her rendering of “Tell Her” (with fellow co-host Keith Urban on piano) shook the rafters. Next came a Best Country Solo Performance Grammy nomination for “Black Like Me” and a moving Grammy-night performance.

Country icon and Songwriters Hall of Famer Alan Jackson returned with his 16th album and first set of new songs in six years, the widely praised Where Have You Gone, which dropped 30 years to the day after the release of Jackson’s sophomore full-length and debuted at #1 on the country charts in the U.S., U.K., Australia and Canada.

Rookie Parker McCollum provided further testimony, if any were needed, of the Mike and Cindy show’s A&R chops. The new arrival’s Hollywood Gold became the top-selling debut EP of 2020 and was certified platinum, and McCollum was tapped as an RIAA Class of 2020 artist. A passel of sold-out shows in major markets attested to his precocious drawing power. McCollum is due to drop his Gold Chain Cowboy on 7/30.

Other scheduled UMGN releases include sets from Kacey Musgraves, Guyton, Reba McEntire, Travis Denning, Lauren Alaina and Priscilla Bock.

The Uni team was enhanced by the promotion of Lori Christian to SVP Marketing, Leigh Malleus to VP Media Marketing and Damon Moberly to SVP Promo for Mercury Nashville.

Reflecting on his roster in 2019, Dungan told us, “I know people say, ‘UMG Nashville is glutted with superstars.’ But I always tell them, ‘Here’s a list of our artists who’ve had success for 15 years, who’ve had success for five to eight, who’ve just started to have success and who still haven’t. Pick up the phone and call them. See if they’re happy here.’”









Over the last year, the House of Goodman and his First Lieutenant EVP/COO Ken Robold saw its roster of young breakouts—including Luke Combs, Maren Morris, Kane Brown and Old Dominion—hit new heights and score multiple awards.

River House Artists/Columbia Nashville’s Combs saw his What You See Is What You Get hold the #1 spot on the Country Albums chart for 25 weeks—becoming the first artist in the chart’s 56-year history to attain the top spot for 25+ weeks with his first two studio albums (his debut, This One’s for You, spent 50 weeks at #1). At radio, meanwhile, Combs recently scored his 11th consecutive #1 hit with “Forever After All,” which was also the sixth #1 from the deluxe What You See Ain’t Always What You Get, tying the record for most #1s from a single set. “Forever” also had the highest all-genre debut ever by a country solo artist, bowing at #2.

And then there’s the hardware. SMN took home 12 statuettes—more than any label group, and the most in its 30-year history—at the ACMs in September; at the CMAs two months later, Sony snagged seven (leading the label groups again and hitting a 14-year company best). At this year’s ACMs Sony took five trophies. Superstar Miranda Lambert won the 2021 Grammy for Best Country Album with her highly acclaimed Wildcard, and her “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” supergroup took Vocal Event. Combs won Album and Male Artist at the 2020 CMAs. Old Dominion earned their fourth CMA Group win and their third ACM Group victory (along with Song trophies for penning “One Man Band”).

Morris won big at both the ACMs and CMAs, scoring Female Artist  as well as Song trophy for her crossover giant “The Bones” (which also took Single of the Year at the CMAs). Kane Brown became the first Black solo artist to win the ACM Video of the Year trophy (for the smash “Worldwide Beautiful”) in 2021—following his fifth CMA win, this time for Favorite Male Artist, in 2020.

SMN’s capacity for developing and breaking new acts continued unabated. River House/Columbia Nashville’s Jameson Rodgers scored a platinum #1 Country hit with “Some Girls Do.” “Good Time” by RCA Nashville’s Niko Moon (also platinum) was the first debut single of 2021 to hit #1 on the Country airplay and songs charts. Columbia Nashville’s Tenille Townes took New Female Artist of the Year at the ACMs, and also shared in the Musical Event win by the Lambert-led “Fooled Around” ensemble. Most recently, Townes’ debut album, Lemonade Stand, won Country Album of the Year at the 2021 Juno Awards.

Several talented execs on Goodman’s team earned promotions, notably Jennifer Way (upped to SVP Marketing), Taylor Lindsey (anointed SVP A&R, heading the department) and Margaret Tomlin (elevated to VP A&R), Lauren Thomas (elevated to VP National Promotion), Paige Altone and Liz Cost (both promoted to VP Marketing).

“Our artists are getting better range, reaching more and different people,” Goodman noted in our 2020 Rainmakers profile. In much the same way, SMN is widening its reach—and turning a new class of young acts into stars.


The House of Espo has had a lot to celebrate over the last year-plus. But the breakout story at the label is indisputably ACM New Female Artist of the Year Gabby Barrett, who has proved a streaming and radio juggernaut. Her “I Hope” has racked up about 580m streams, becoming the #1 country streaming song in 2020 and remaining Top 10 in 2021. That platinum Country-radio #1 also topped the Hot AC chart thanks to a remix co-starring Charlie Puth. Barrett’s platinum follow-up “The Good Ones,” a three-week radio #1, is #12 in 2021 country streams (135m) and scored CMT’s Female Video of the Year trophy. Barrett, the first female country artist to tally more than 10m weekly streams, has earned more than 1.2b career streams. Her album Goldmine bowed in the Top 5 a year ago.

WMN stalwarts Dan + Shay also had a boffo year. The pair, who in 2021 repeated with the Best Country Duo/Group Performance Grammy and the ACM award for Duo (among other laurels), followed up Bieber-enhanced monster #1 “10,000 Hours” with “I Should Probably Go to Bed,” which hit #1 at Country radio at the top of 2021 and has earned about 200m streams since release.

Blake Shelton’s 2020 monsters—the highly decorated “God’s Country” and Gwen duets “Nobody but You” and “Happy Anywhere”—stayed strong this year, and his full-length Body Language bowed in the top 20. Kenny Chesney dropped the deluxe version of his 2020 #1 set, Here and Now, which was Top 15 first week.

A slew of signings over the last year or so includes Zac Brown Band, Brian Kelley, Ian Munsick, Patrick Murphy, Robyn Ottolini, Drew Parker, Redferrin, Temecula Road and Roan Ash.

Espo made an array of personnel moves as well, including upping Danny Bess to CFO, hiring Kayla Burnett in late 2020 as Coordinator, Radio & Streaming (WEA), promoting PR stalwarts Mary Catherine Rebrovick and Victoria Chaitoff and seriously beefing up his Interactive Marketing team with onboarded Coordinators Marita Kelnhofer and Katherine Firsching and freshly upped Sr. Managers Melissa McGreevy and Brianna Small.

“Warner Music Nashville and Zac Brown Band share a fundamental value: forging connections through amazing and heartfelt music,” reads a quote from Espo that accompanied the ZBB signing announcement—and nicely illustrates the WMN chief’s passion. “Their songs have ceaselessly fed our hearts and souls, and I am so proud to welcome them to our label home as we journey together into this new chapter.”

Buy that man a single malt.


Scott Borchetta’s fast-revving company marked a number of milestones for both new and established acts over the past year, while the company continued to make fascinating moves—and even drove assistance to first responders.

Thomas Rhett scored ACM Entertainer of the Year in 2020 (in an unprecedented tie with Carrie Underwood), while Carly Pearce earned her first ACM and CMA trophies (not to mention a nom for Female Vocalist of the Year). Breakout Riley Green took Best New Male Artist at the ACMs. Lady A scored a Grammy nom for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for “Ocean.” Big Machine Music was named 2021 Publisher of the Year at the AIMP Nashville Awards.

BMLG celebrated country #1s for superstar Tim McGraw (“I Called Mama” and album HERE ON EARTH), and Lady A (“What If I Never Get Over You” and “Champagne Night”) and rock #1s for newcomer Ayron Jones (who spent multiple weeks atop the Active and Mainstream Rock charts and was chosen for Fender’s Class of 2021 Next list).

McGraw and Tyler Hubbard performed “Undivided” at the Celebrating America inauguration concert, helping mark the beginning of a new era in the U.S. Hubbard had his own “Hail to the Chief” moment when Florida Georgia Line became the first country act to earn two RIAA Diamond Single Awards.

Avenue Beat, meanwhile, became a TikTok sensation during the lockdown with their zeitgesty “F2020,” amassing 7m views within 48 hours of release.

The label group, which became part of publicly traded South Korean company (and BTS home) HYBE through the sale of Ithaca Holdings, pursued multiple initiatives that cemented its importance to the larger community. In honor of Big Machine’s 15th anniversary, Scott and Sandi Borchetta gave 15 $10k scholarships. In the midst of the pandemic, Big Machine Distillery (maker of bespoke vodka) converted its facilities to produce hand sanitizer that was donated to local first responders. In partnership with CreatiVets, BMLG helped connect veterans with Nashville songwriters, who helped them tell their stories through music. And Team Borchetta got hearts racing thanks to its partnership with Music City Grand Prix for title sponsorship, helping fuel a unique festival combining entertainment and racing in Nashville. Commemorating its internal dynamics, BMLG was certified by A Great Place to Work, a “global authority on workplace culture.”

The company also announced several high-profile promotions, notably Heather Luke to GM of Big Machine/John Varvatos Records, Allison Jones to EVP A&R and Sandi Borchetta to EVP Creative.

As Scott remarked about the early days in his career in a New York Times interview, “I found if I put forth five pounds of effort during the day, I’d get a 10-pound return.” Pound for pound, nobody’s putting in a greater effort—or seeing more wide-ranging results.


Jon Loba was upped to President of BMG Nashville last December, exactly four years after BMG acquired BBR Music Group. Over the last year, he and his team have not only seen continued growth with superstar Jason Aldean and breakout Chase Rice, but also achieved breakout success—and true country diversity—with Jimmie Allen, Blanco Brown, Runaway June, Lindsay Ell, Lainey Wilson, Brooke Eden and Frank Ray.

Aldean’s album 9, the source of multiple hits, includes “Blame It on You,” which is Top 5 at Country radio and Top 5 on our Country Streaming Songs chart as of this writing.

Allen released the star-studded EP Bettie James in July of 2020, with a guest list that included Brad Paisley, Charley Pride, Darius Rucker, Mickey Guyton, Nelly, Noah Cyrus, The Oak Ridge Boys, Tim McGraw and more; it has since racked up 120m+ streams. The recently dropped Gold Edition adds 10 tracks to the EP’s original seven, including collabs with Keith Urban and Little Big Town. Allen took New Male Artist of the Year at the 2021 ACMs and was nominated for a CMT Performance of the Year for his duet with Cyrus.

Rice has racked up more than 300m streams for The Album, which features Top 10 hit “Lonely If You Are” and the inventively titled track “Drinkin’ Beer. Talkin’ God. Amen” f/Florida Georgia Line.

Blanco’s “The Git Up” is triple-platinum in the U.S. and quadruple-platinum in Australia and Canada, while new single “Just the Way” f/Parmalee is triple-platinum with 300m+ streams and breaching the Top 20 at Hot AC.

Singer/songwriter Wilson’s “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’” has racked up 104m+ streams, and the artist has earned massive critical buzz and sold-out engagements on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Team Loba also engineered collaborations that underscored BBR’s forward-looking vision, including the pairing of Blanco with both Parmalee and Diplo
(the latter on “Do Si Do”) and Granger Smith with Christian rapper Lathan Warlick (“That’s Why I Love Dirt Roads”). Eden, one of country’s few out LGBTQ+ artists, and Latin artist Ray further expand that inclusive sensibility.

The BBRMG team has seen JoJaime Hahr upped to SVP Marketing and Jay Jones promoted to SVP Publicity.



Monument Records Co-Presidents Jason Owen and Shane McAnally saw big growth during the shutdown, in terms of the marketplace and the organization itself. 

The big headline, artist-wise, is Walker Hayes, whose EP Country Stuff (featuring guests Jake Owen, Carly Pearce and Lori McKenna) spawned the double-platinum single “You Broke Up With Me” and the TikTok-driven phenom “Fancy Like.” The latter cut has racked up 6m+ TikTok views in its first few days (gaining Hayes 200k new followers) and hit #1 on the iTunes all-genre, country and country video charts, Top 5 on the Apple Music country video streaming chart, Top 20 on Apple Music’s country albums and #47 at Shazam.

Monument also shepherded the first single by rookie Caitlyn Smith, “I Can’t” f/Old Dominion, to Country radio; it’s currently charting and on the move. Smith’s socially distanced performances for radio peeps brought revenue to venues and smiles to the lips of concert-starved programmers. She also brought her Girls of Nashville show to City Winery for back-to-back sold-out gigs. 

Other new-artist stories included buzzing sister duo Tigirlily (whose self-titled EP is due on 7/9) and monster guitarist Alex Hall, whose debut EP Six Strings features such esteemed guests as Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, John Osborne, Brad Tursi, Tenille Townes and Kassi Ashton.

Monument partnered with McAnally’s SMACK to celebrate the return of live music with this summer’s monthly Tuesday Night Music Club at The Basement East. Walker Hayes headlined the sold-out first show, which also featured a songwriter session with McAnally, Josh Osborne, Teddy Robb and Kylie Morgan. Caitlyn Smith is slated to headline on 7/13. Monument and Robb also collaborated with The VFW on a veteran-assisting project based on his song “Heaven on Dirt.”

Team Monument made significant moves of its own. Katie McCartney was upped to GM, and the company added a promo team to be led by Drew Bland and boasting Lisa Mastrianni and Katelyn Lester as Director and Manager of Regional Promotion, respectively. Joel Beaver was promoted to Manager and Jamie Graves was brought aboard as Director, Digital Marketing & Streaming; Jacquie Painten came in as Coordinator, Marketing. All three report to McCartney.

“There has never been a more crucial time to invest in music and in the creative community we are all part of,” said Owen when announcing his promo team, “and that’s what we’re doing with the expansion of Monument.” 





CBS will use a broadcast of the CMT Music Awards on 4/3 to kick off ViacomCBS’s first-ever Country Music Week of special programming and events.

An exclusive director’s cut airing of the CMT Music Awards on CMT and various ViacomCBS platforms will close out the week.

ViacomCBS is moving the awards show to CBS from CMT following the success of its June edition: The CMT Music Awards saw a 10% increase in total viewers and was the #1 most social program across all of television for the night. Across the six ViacomCBS network simulcast, P18-34 ratings saw a +32% increase over last year’s event.

CBS will roll out more info on the 2022 CMT Music Awards in the coming months.