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BIG YELLOW DOG, UNLEASHED

Big Yellow Dog Music is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, so we checked in with founders Carla Wallace and Kerry O’Neil about their latest doings and the boutique music company’s various successes.

← Seen vowing never to get mixed up with us again are (l-r) Lauren FunkTenille TownesCarla Wallace, Kerry O’Neil and Elizabeth Brahan.

The company pinged the industry radar hard as the pubco home of Meghan Trainor and subsequently Maren Morris, but their team of writers and artists has been raiding the charts since the outset, racking up 36 #1 songs, Song of the Year honors from the ACMs, BMI and ASCAP, the 2017 Indie Pubco of the Year trophy from the AIMP and plenty more. BYDM has powered hits for Trainor, Morris, Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum, Demi Lovato, Luke Bryan, Rascal Flatts, Charlie Puth, Keith Urban, DJ Khaled, Dierks Bentley, J-Lo, Jason Derulo, Chris Lane and a coterie of other stars in all major genres. Indeed, the pubbery’s tunesmiths have racked up three #1 singles since May, and scored a  #1 Country album last year by Jessie James Decker. Add to that 400+ TV, film and ad placements in 2016-17 alone.

More recently, they’ve celebrated successes by Josh Kear (most recently #1s for Bentley, Bryan and the FGL/Backstreet Boys monster), Trainor (platinum and gold awards—including a staggering 10x platinum cert for “All about That Bass”—as well as an ASCAP Vanguard Award and more) and Logan Mize (on BYD’s own label) and are gearing up for breakthroughs by the madly buzzing Tenille Townes (on Columbia Nashville) and the promising Brynn Elliott (BYD/Atlantic).

Seen as Meghan Trainor revealed that "All About That Bass" was really about an Alembic Signature Deluxe 5 are (l-r) Alex Stefano, Lauren Funk, Tenille Townes, Carla Wallace, Sophie Hopkins, Trainor, Heather Klein, Jacee Badeaux, Kara Wintergrass, Rowdy Domstead and Elizabeth Brahan.

“The vision was all about Carla and letting her have the freedom to make this vision on writers and artists,” O’Neil insists. “It just grew from there, and we started getting more and more into developing the artist. Giving her free reign to not be tied to one genre has gotten us to where we are. We built it around all these interesting people, not just writers and artists—those who like being in this strange brew in the South. When you’re in the South, its a melting pot of all sorts of genres. We’re known for Country music but our door is open to all sorts.”

Wallace acknowledges the challenges country and other genres face in a streaming-based music economy. “That’s what we work on everyday,” she says. “In my mind, they’ve added to the regular rounds—you can add the DSPs to your list; you need to be visiting these guys. It’s so exciting because there’s so much opportunity there. Of course, quality music helps. When we play songs for the DSPs you can see they really love their jobs. They’re having fun at it.”

O’Neil also notes that while Trainor got splashy headlines, doors really began to open with Pop-Americana singer/songwriter Mindy Smith. “When he talked about Mindy, I was thinking more on the publishing side, and the real connection began when Josh Kear won ACM Song of the Year for [Carrie Underwood’s 2007 #1] ‘Before He Cheats’ and then Grammy Song of the Year for [Lady Antebellum’s 2010 smash] ‘Need You Know.’ Those really opened the door internationally for us setting up co-writes and meeting new partners.”

Josh Kear, Daniel Agee and Carla Wallace, shortly before taking the Big Yellow Dog for a walk. →

They also note that their eclecticism and instincts have served them well in a publishing climate with skyrocketing deal costs and an influx of new money. “The writers and artists that we’re signing are not the ones that the majors and big private equity companies are signing,” O’Neil says. “We’re not matched up with the marketing of the moment, so with the people we sign, people are thinking, ‘Wow! That’s really good, but what are we going to do with it?’ And we’re going, ‘That’s the best thing we’ve heard and we’re going to figure it out as we get down the road.’ They’re not interested in our artists because they swing way too risky because they don’t line up [with recognized trends]. It’s about not paying attention to what other people are doing.”

As for the next chapter, they’re watching Townes’ single “Somebody’s Daughter” in the wake of the Bandwagon Tour with Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town (she’ll open for Bobby Bones on select fall dates), as well as Mize’s “Better off Gone” (10m+ streams, with 55m+ Spotify streams for album Come Back Road) and Elliott’s “Might Not Like Me” (she hits Kelly and Ryan on 9/28). Stay tuned for the next chapter—this Dog can definitely hunt.

Speaking of which, the company is commemorating its anniversary in part with a 9/29 dog adoption drive in the parking lot of its Nashville HQ. "In 20 years, we have placed some hits," says Wallace, "and we're excited to see if we can now place some dogs!" 

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