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The world is turning at 33 RPM. (7/23a)
Hit series doesn't let us down. (7/23a)
The inner circle of Outer Limits (7/23a)
AEG chief's shares his packed 2022 calendar. (7/21a)
The winner and still champ (7/22a)
From tender shoots to mighty oaks.
Let's do the numbers.
It is not the name of a Henry Miller novel.
Could be. Dunno.
Music City

How did Music City pubberies fare during lockdown? What new approaches to collaboration were opened up by our Year of Zooming? What lies ahead? We invited some key players in the space to join us in a virtual bourbon and give us the lowdown. 

Sony Music Publishing
“Working virtually over the last year has provided us with many new opportunities for collaboration,” reflects SMP Nashville CEO Rusty Gaston, “and it also enabled us to create new ways for us to engage with our songwriters and staff.” The pubco’s 2021 Kick-Off Week virtual event was a smorgasbord of information, resources and support for songwriters, including guest A&R execs who furnished specific goals, and revealing conversations with artists like Tim McGraw, Luke Bryan and Garth Brooks. All these talks, Gaston emphasizes, “were geared toward fueling our songwriters for the year ahead and making them feel engaged.”

This strange and unprecedented period, he adds, produced some extraordinary moments. Gaston says he was particularly energized by the phenomenal crossover success of new signing Gabby Barrett’s “I Hope,” which was co-penned by fellow SMP tunesmiths Zachary Kale (another new signing) and Jon Nite and co-produced by Kale and Sony veteran Ross Copperman. 

Another huge inking, of course, was Kane Brown, who launched the JV Verse 2 Music with the pubco. Sony’s subsequent purchase of River House Artists and JV go-forward preceded Luke Combs’ #1 monster “Forever After All.”

Gaston is effusive in praise of his team, and gives particular credit to Dane Schmidt (newly upped to Senior Creative Director) in the success of Zachary Kale and the signing of Gabby Barrett. Publishing veteran Dale Bobo, meanwhile, came aboard in the freshly minted role of Catalog Strategist, while Kenley Flynn was tapped as Senior Creative Director.


How did Music City pubberies fare during lockdown? What new approaches to collaboration were opened up by our Year of Zooming? What lies ahead? We invited some key players in the space to join us in a virtual bourbon and give us the lowdown. 

Big Machine Music

“Working virtually influenced co-writing at the two extremes,” reflects Big Machine Music GM Mike Molinar of the pandemic’s impact on co-writes. “Some writers were more willing to collaborate out of genre and across time zones with L.A., London or Australia, while others stayed very close to their core co-writers. It was very difficult to introduce a writer to a new camp or tribe of writers, which stunted the growth of new or mid-level songwriters.”

The complexities of COVID times notwithstanding, Molinar is naturally thrilled about being named Publisher of the Year at the AIMP Nashville Awards. He also points to a banner, breakout year for writer Ryan HurdCMAACM and BMI Pop Song of the Year honors for mega-smash “The Bones;” and three #1 songs to kick off 2021 (Luke Combs’ “Better Together” and Forever After All” and Brett Young’s “Lady”). Other big cuts inlcude Luke Bryan’s “Waves,” co-written by Hurd; Lainey Wilson’s “Things a Man Oughta Know,” co-penned by Jonathan Singleton; “It’s Cause I Am,” co-written by Callista Clark and Laura Veltz, and performed by Clark; Michael Ray’s “Whiskey & the Rain,” co-written by Josh Thompson; and Young’s “Not Yet.” Hurd and Veltz also co-penned “What a Song Can Do,” the title track on Lady A’s album.

New signing Sara Davis—a young pop writer—is among the other highlights of Molinar’s year, which also saw a TikTok breakout for aritst/writer Lauren Weintraub and song “She’s Mine.”

Of “The Bones,” Molinar notes that its sustained growth at radio had “an unusual pattern,” moving from Hot AC to Country to Pop and back to Hot and AC, and that it “took on new and different menaings as the lockdown progressed,” with its trenchant metaphor likening relationships to domiciles. This was particularly resonant for Molinar, who welcomed a second child, Ellis, in September. “The experience,” he says, “helped us keep things in perspective.”


Zoom sessions “made writing a lot less personal and more business,” confides Shane McAnally. “Without all the small talk and going to lunches, the songs got written much faster, and surprisingly the quality didn’t drop off. I’ve been excited to get back into the room with people so you can feel that energy when you’re creating something. For me that’s always going to be preferred but now we know Zoom is an option. If I want to work with somebody in another city, it no longer requires a day of travel. I can jump on a Zoom for a few hours and get a great song.”

SMACK racked up a passel of #1s during the shutdown, including several co-penned by McAnally and Josh Osborne (the Blake Shelton-Gwen Stefani duet “Nobody but You,” Sam Hunt’s “Hard to Forget” and Morgan Wallen’s “7 Summers”); McAnally co-wrote Lady A’s “Champagne Night” and Osborne had a hand in chart toppers from Hunt (“Breaking Up Was Easy in the 90’s”), Darius Rucker (“Beers and Sunshine”) and Blake-Gwen (“Happy Anywhere”). Canadian #1s came from writers Emily Falvey and Matt McGinn (Mackenzie Porter’s “Seeing Other People”) and Nicolette Hayford (Ashley McBryde’s “One Night Standards”). Writer Lalo Guzman also joined the pubco’s roster.

“I was blown away by the production in this team,” marvels McAnally. It was actually the biggest year we’ve had from a cuts-and-releases standpoint. It’s a testament to our staff and the type of writers we’ve signed here, because last year it would’ve been easy to kick back and not do as much.”


Team Scrip is amped about the buzz on troubadour Joy Oladokun, notably a big This Is Us sync for “breathe again” ( co-written by Prescription writer James Droll; this was followed by big Fallon, Today and Colbert looks and love from Hulu, Amazon Music, YouTube, Spotify RADAR and GAYTIMES, among others. Meanwhile, tunesmith Nick Bailey co-wrote the Demi Lovato/ Marshmello single, “It’s OK not to be OK”; Producer/writer Sean Small earned multiple upcoming placements on Keith Urban’s album; and there was mondo Super Bowl/ESPN action for writers Tim Gent and Bryant Taylorr with producer Jon Santana. Office-wise, A&R veteran Chris Martignago joined the pubbery from Atlantic

“The best part of the pandemic is that we collaborated more than ever internationally,” notes Katie Mitzell Fagan, Head of A&R, Nashville. “We partnered with Budde Publishing in Berlin and did an entire virtual writing camp and invited multiple major-label A&Rs from both the U.S. and Germany to weigh in. We caught up with our international friends more than ever before because all of us were in the exact same boat and wanted to keep the train on the tracks.” Greater efficiency was one result—to be expected when the Germans are involved. 

At the same time, she says, “Quarantine forced many writers out of their normal comfort zone and pushed them to master skills that they likely already had in them,” including learning to produce demos (and finding the courage to sing on them).



In celebration of live music’s return, Monument Records and SMACKSongs recently hosted the second night of Tuesday Night Music Club at the Basement East

Caitlyn Smith headlined the show on 7/13 and performed her single “I Can’t” f/Old Dominion, which is approaching the Top 40 at Country radio. She also supported the CMA Foundation, which recently named her an Artist Ambassador for the month of June.

Additionally, the show featured a songwriter session with Tenille Townes, Alex Hall and sister-duo Tigirlily.

Seen hoping we wouldn’t get wind of this event are (l-r) CMA Foundation’s Lindsey Jones and Tiffany Kerns, Tigirlily’s Krista Slaubaugh and Kendra Slaubaugh, Monument’s Katie McCartney, Smith, Hall, Tenille Townes, SMACKSongs’ Robert Carlton and CMA Foundation’s Falon Keith.


ASCAP Experience has announced its upcoming schedule of virtual sessions for the months of July and August.

Grammy winners Chris Stapleton and Dan Wilson lead the summer lineup while film/TV composers like Segun Akinola, Ruth Barrett, Lorne Balfe, Joel Beckerman, Siddhartha Khosla, John Powell, Pinar Toprak and Isobel Waller-Bridge will take the stage for a trio of educational sessions on the process of scoring and more.

Sessions begin on 7/14 and include topics like Scoring for Superheroes, What They Don’t Teach You in Music School, The Art of Collaboration, What Every Film/TV Composer Needs to Know About the Business, Songwriting for the Voice and more.

Additionally, ASCAP will be hosting an interactive Experience session entitled Check It Out. Open to selected ASCAP members that are registered for ASCAP Experience, the session provides a forum for songwriters to get live feedback from a senior music industry exec on their songs. Writers can submit their work via the Check It Out submission form by 11:59pm PT on 7/18.

Since launching in May, ASCAP Experience has presented conversations with the likes of Golden Note Award-winner Greg Kurstin (Adele, Sia), Dave Grohl, ASCAP Voice of the Culture Award-winning songwriter/producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz as well as rapper/DJ D-Nice, among others.

Sessions are free to the public and will take place twice monthly on Wednesdays via YouTube, Instagram and on the ASCAP Experience website. For more info and to RSVP, click here.


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.’”