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OUR POST-GRAMMY CHEW TAKES LESS THAN FOUR HOURS TO READ
We'll let you get back to your day ASAP. (2/7a)
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Here's who's lighting up the scoreboard before and after the Grammys. (2/3a)
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Including shots of several luminaries entrapped by a HITS nerd. (2/8a)
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A TASTE OF RAINMAKERS:
JIM ROPPO
Building blocks of a singular career (2/8a)
HIP-HOP AT 50
The astonishing first half-century of a world-rocking genre.
THE NEXT BIG PLAYER
in the catalog game is...
INDIE BREAKOUTS
More independent music rises at the DSPs.
THE GOP CONGRESS
At last, America can focus 24/7 on Hunter Biden's laptop.
Music City
THE ROAD WARRIORS:
JAY WILLIAMS
7/13/16

WME Nashville

WME partner Jay Williams takes an unconventional approach to touring—and it has helped build rock-edged Eric Church, mainstream good-timer Luke Bryan and the commercial yet credible Dierks Bentley into awards-noms regulars and three of the biggest names in touring. He also oversees or works closely on Steve Earle, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, smut country’s Wheeler Walker Jr. and Kopecki Family Band. Blurring the lines between alternative, Americana, bluegrass, rock and country, Williams succeeds by tailoring the booking strategy to the artist—and adding to WME’s formidable roster, which also includes Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, Hank Williams Jr. and Wynonna.

With all the touring options out there—festivals, sheds, sponsored runs, radio shows and fighting it out on your own—what is the best way to develop these artists’ careers for the long haul? It’s not one size fits all, but what are the indicators for the best path?

It’s really not one size fits all. And knowing what’s going to work is a lot of really listening to the artist as you’re developing the touring strategy. In some ways, it comes down to the artist’s tolerance levels and willingness to tour, who they are, what they’re thinking and, honestly, what their long-range goals are.

With Chris Stapleton, I knew we’d get there—and people would eventually love him the way everyone in this town does. I knew it wasn’t going to be a radio-driven project, so it was about getting him in the right rooms in front of the right people, and letting the buzz build. We couldn’t know there’d be a TV event like the CMAs that would blow him up—but three wins and Justin Timberlake changed everything. Thankfully, he’s a car that could go 0 to 100, even though it’s designed for the longer haul.

When Eric was on the road, he was banging it out and staying out on the road, playing dates. He was playing arenas before he had a meaningful radio hit. We knew he was willing to do the work and had the live thing, so we just kept building the base.

We say to a label, “What’s your plan?” We try to tour around the promo plan, especially where radio shows are part of it. You know, make sure there are money dates to supplement those radio shows and keep the act solvent. But realistically, even with a mainstream act, being the first-of-three in a shed isn’t always the best way to develop.

Once again, country acts are out on the road year after year after year, while rock and pop acts often go years between touring. How do the country acts sustain that level of demand? And as country becomes more pop, will that change?

The secret is year after year, not to be in the same place. With Luke, Dierks and Eric, we might play a stadium, then come back with a couple amphitheater plays—or a festival. The fans don’t want the same tour year after year—with the same basic production and a couple new songs—so this changes up the experience. And don’t get ahead of yourself. You know, Luke could’ve jumped out early and headlined, but he did an extra year with Jason [Aldean]. That time really solidifies the base, the desire to see you. That’s the thing: you may be able to try and run out front; but you get out there too soon and there’s a bit of traffic—and it’s over.