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Music City
LIVE FROM NASHVILLE:
JEFF KRONES AND KYLEN SHARPE
7/6/17

JEFF KRONES AND KYLEN SHARPE, CAA

Krones' clients include Needtobreathe, Twenty One Pilots, Andy Grammer, Tori Kelly, The Band Perry, Judah & The Lion, Dan + Shay, A Thousand Horses, Ben Rector and Catfish and the Bottlemen, among others. Sharpe's clients include Jon Pardi, Aaron Watson and Cam, plus such emerging acts as Muscadine Bloodline, Maggie Rose, Abby Anderson, Levi Hummon and Jason Mizelle.

Given Nashville’s changing landscape, what’s changing in your world? How are you meeting the challenge? What needs to be fixed?
Jeff Krones: Nashville has always been a creative place, but now I think it’s the creative place. I think cities like New York and L.A. are losing a little bit of that. Some of the most talented people are moving here, whether they’re executives, producers, writers or artists; they’re seeing how evolved the city has become, from restaurants to buildings and infrastructure. In the next 10 years, I think it’ll truly be “Music City” and not just a country-music city.

Kylen Sharpe: I work specifically in our country department here in Nashville, but it now is bigger than just that. We’ve got people coming into town from all sorts of different genres. CAA Nashville has become a sports and entertainment company.

Kylen, how does that change what you do as with Jon or Cam?
Sharpe: We just have to be even more aware of what our colleagues are doing at all times. We can’t be isolated from that; we must sit in meetings with everybody. Every single artist has come in and asked us about being on all-genre festivals. They’re wanting to diversify what they do—they want opportunities to make themselves global superstars, not just country music superstars. The role of an agent is bigger and more interesting and also more challenging in order to be very aware of all the opportunities that abound around us.

Jeff, your roster has some of the biggest acts breaking in different sectors, whether it’s twenty one pilots and Ben Rector from the touring side, to A Thousand Horses. How has it changed for you and what are you doing to adjust to it?
Krones: I’m very proud of the fact that we were ahead of the curve; as far back as 15 years ago we started our contemporary department at CAA and started representing Kings of Leon, John Mayer, Train and My Morning Jacket. Since then we have 15-20 non-country agents based in Nashville representing—when you look at the overall spectrum—John Mayer, The Chainsmokers, Pretty Lights, Tori Kelly, Glass Animals and Harry Styles, all based out of Nashville. We’re also paying attention to the musicians and the people that have moved here because this is the best artistic place in the country. Even within the last 18 months we’ve really paid some attention to the local bands—we’ve signed Judah & The Lion, who are starting to break at multiple formats, and Moon Taxi, who came out of Belmont and is selling 2,000-3,000 capacity rooms.

What are your thoughts on festivals? Are they sustainable? What’s their impact on your overall touring business?
Krones: The festivals that are winning have kind of a theme about them. Some of the ones that are selling out, Coachella, for example, are very specific. Hangout is a beach-themed festival; Lollapalooza is city-themed festival. These are the festivals that are selling out every year. I think they’re great and are going to be around for a long time. At the end of the day we want to represent festival headliners but we’d also prefer to represent arena headliners in general. People that don’t necessarily need to play a festival but want to. I think we’d rather represent artists that can pave their own paths and become an arena headliner. But then twenty one pilots headlined Firefly last weekend, and it was a great experience for them. They didn’t have to do it, but they really wanted to.

Sharpe: I think festivals for the most part have been positive experiences, at least for my clients. I think they gain fans every time. Aaron Watson, for example, played Stagecoach last year in a very early slot and sold the seventh most merch of any act on the festival. That’s a tremendous moment for Aaron Watson that we can talk about—I’m still talking about it a year and a half later when I ‘m trying to tell people that what they think is a regional Texas act is actually a global act. Aaron is developing across the entire country and even in Europe with the numbers he’s doing, and the opportunity to play Stagecoach, where maybe they didn’t understand the business he could do, getting him on a 1pm Saturday slot which obviously was hard, and he sold that much merchandise. It means something is really happening and there’s a story to tell, and hopefully next year the people at Goldenvoice will have read this interview and want to bring him back.

How are you facing the challenge of exporting your country acts?
Krones: We must start at the beginning. Even as a part of the signing moment, you talk about them not just being a U.S.-based act, whether it’s country or otherwise. We’ve now been able to show 10-12 examples of artists we’ve developed not just in the U.S. but worldwide. Kasey Musgraves is selling out Royal Albert Hall, or Little Big Town turning into an arena headliner, Zac Brown playing Glastonbury—all these different examples—Kip Moore’s been over there 2-3 times by the end of this year. We just put up a Dan + Shay tour that’s going to sell out; it’s their second time over there. I think in the past everyone waited too long to go over and spend time in these different territories. We can start educating everyone early that you can’t just play the U.S. all year round. I think realistically within the country landscape there are only a few territories that really work. It’s Australia, U.K., Europe. Asia’s not super open to us yet; neither is South America. Those walls will break down too. The more we can get people all over the place, the more the business in America will expand. It starts with education from day one.

Sharpe: We have our colleagues in our London office that have really dedicated themselves to getting to know the country market. They’re a phone call away and we’ve got incredible resources to help our clients achieve those goals.