We asked a group of music publishers to give us their take on one or both of the following questions. For some reason, they complied—perhaps mistaking us for a more reputable publication.

How do you account for the growth of country’s reach, audience and sales over the last few years?

What changes in the music and/or the business do you consider most significant?

Troy Tomlinson
President and CEO
Sony/ATV Nashville

Country music finds itself in such a positive place right now, largely due to the fact that so many young artists are making music that is inspired by their vast and disparate musical influences. We now have a new generation of Nashville songwriters and artists who grew up with the ability, at their fingertips, to access not only the greats of country music but also those of every other genre as well. Those varied influences align with a new generation of country music fans. As a result, their appeal goes beyond what some have previously considered the boundaries of country. The most exciting moments for me occur when I see the new generation of fans reacting both to the new artists and singing along with all the hits by the established artists.

As for changes in our genre, the most obvious relates to the delivery of the music to the fans. Although many country fans have traditionally, and to a certain extent even today, bought physical, streaming continues to grow at a fast pace.

 The one constant for country music has been the song. As long as songwriters continue to tell stories, both visually and emotionally, that compel the listener to find themselves in the song, and as long as we develop inspiring artists, country music will remain a healthy genre.

Kent Earls
Universal Music Publishing Group, Nashville

Today’s country format is very wide and broad and the music appeals to a much younger audience. For instance, you have a major crossover artist like our Sam Hunt on one end, and a traditionalist like Josh Turner on the other. The large net of appeal picks up fans from a very broad demographic from coast to coast.

Besides the important issues going on in Washington, today we are doing even more artist and writer development, putting in significant hours and money from paying for master recordings to tour support and other promotion. For instance, UMPG Nashville funded and promoted an EP on Striking Matches before their signing to I.R.S. Nashville. The EP was a success due to our placement of their songs in the TV show Nashville. It gave them an audience they didn’t have before the syncs.

Ben Vaughn
Warner/Chappell Music Nashville

Year over year, our audience is growing. Why? I believe people are drawn to stories. The songwriters in Nashville craft the best stories. When a fan starts to get into the music and sees the authenticity of the artist community, they become a fan for life.

There are some MANY significant changes right now – it’s hard to pick one. We choose to keep our heads down—we focus on keeping the music excellent and growing our fan base.


Patrick Clifford
VP Music Publishing and A&R 
Disney Music Group Nashville

Country music and Nashville are on fire. Their growth and popularity are based on great artists and great stories delivered by one of the most amazing music infrastructures on earth. The talent and diversity in country music’s artists, producers, writers, and executives stand shoulder to shoulder with the most competitive music markets in the world. The impact on audiences in the U.S. and its continued growth internationally is an undeniable complement to the way the genre resonates with all walks of life. The deep-rooted traditions of country music, coupled with its changing creative landscape, makes for a very promising and bright future. Disney Music Group is very excited for all of the new partnerships that we will forge in the future within the country music community.

Sharon Tapper
Head of Publishing 

Country is going through such an incredible metamorphosis at this time, it’s really exciting to witness. I feel that the initial catalyst to mainstream crossover was Shania Twain and her work with Mutt Lange on Come On Over; it was continued in varying degrees by other artists such as Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood and Lady Antebellum; the baton was then solidly owned by Taylor Swift, who has since become a genre-shifting phenomenon. The ABC TV show Nashville has also played a big role culturally in exposing country music to folks who wouldn’t necessarily have considered themselves fans of that genre.

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to visit Nashville regularly for the last 15 years and have witnessed the rapid changes the city has gone through. Especially with the influx of folks moving there over the last few years. Bands and artists from all over the world now make a point of going to Nashville to co-write and collaborate with the incredible writers and creatives based there. The sense of community that exists between publishers has always impressed me and I only wish that existed more in other cities in which we work.

Pitching groups such as Chicks With Hits have a real camaraderie between their members. These women come from different publishing companies and all root for one another to get cuts and celebrate their successes together. #1 parties for hit country singles are also unique to Nashville, enabling the music community to celebrate the songwriters who wrote the song - how great is that! I’m very much looking forward to continuing my travels to Nashville in my new role as Head of Music Publishing at Glassnote’s Insieme Music Publishing. We plan to have a wide range of our artists and writers go to co-write there this year, ranging from Madisen Ward & The Mama Bear (who just performed at Bonnaroo), Odd Martin, Johnny Wright, Jeremy Messersmith and Rory Andrew.

John Ozier
General Manager, Creative 

Country’s growth over the last few years can be attributed to several things, primarily the diversity of the music itself, as well as the accessibility to the artists. Musically speaking, there is a wide range of records on the charts right now. You have pop-leaning records, like Kelsea Ballerini’s “Love Me Like You Mean It” and Sam Hunt records that have phrasing similar to hip-hop records. But you also have classic-sounding records like Zac Brown Band’s “Loving You Easy” and Thomas Rhett’s “Crash and Burn.” There are also new artists, like Mo Pitney, who are staying true to the traditional, acoustic sound of country music. Overall, country music has songs that appeal across generations, which is a key driver in its popularity.

Further, country artists are very relatable to most of the fans. The artists are approachable and likeable to both younger fans and older fans, which is unique to country music.

The lyrical content of country music is also appealing and relatable to a wide range of audiences. Country songwriters tend to focus on real-life issues and experiences, like love, lost love, and having a good time on a Friday night. The honesty in the writing seems to strike a chord with many fans, from many different walks of life.

Country music is no longer seen as “hick” music—it’s big business that’s affecting people across many generations. The popularity and growth of country music is a testament to its artists, and most importantly, its songs.

Whitney Daane
SVP Creative, Nashville 

Blake Shelton on The Voice, Nashville and Keith Urban on Idol have brought so much mainstream attention to our format. We’ve also experienced significant “crossover” attention due to artists like Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum, Florida Georgia Line and the arrival of new artists like Sam Hunt and Kelsea Ballerini driving a younger audience to country music. At Kobalt, creative collaboration is one our specialties. In addition, the viral nature of social media and the digital accessibility of music on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, etc., have allowed country artists to engage at a much broader level.

Musically, I would say “genre-blending” and the trend in the songwritng community to write to tracks, or collaborate with writer/producers who can “build” the track in the writing room, has greatly influenced the sound. I have always been a believer in cross-pollinating pop and country writers, and my only concern is ensuring that the focus on the track doesn’t dilute the integrity of the song itself. Two writers in a room with just a guitar can create magic as well.

As far as the business is concerned, we have to focus on the long-term upside of the shift from physical product to digital. Country music historically has been confined to the domestic market; we can now reach a much broader audience with the diversity of the music and global digital accessibility. Kobalt is providing the technology side for artists so that they can continue creating such amazing musical works.

Pete Robinson
SVP/Nashville GM
Big Deal Music

I think we owe a lot to a younger generation of social-media-savvy artists. Additionally young track writers, who grew up on ’90s CHR and country, have risen to the forefront of Nashville’s songwriting community. Their melodic instincts, combined with the lyrical sensibilities of Nashville’s veteran writers, brought new sounds to records that have appealed to a younger and broader audience.

Dale Bobo
Big Deal Music

The artists of The Class of 1989 brought us younger listeners who have since had kids of their own who don’t remember country being music for older people. Youth gets us more enthusiasm and engagement. It’s a more active demo.

Greg Gallo
Sr. Director Creative 
Big Deal Music

The most important change, in my opinion, has been the evolution of SiriusXM’s The Highway. John Marks created one hell of a platform 
for an artist to start from, going from an unknown to selling thousands 
of singles in a matter of weeks.•

The rich get richer. (7/30a)
The dominant platform keeps growing. (7/29a)
Thunder from Down Under (7/29a)
A day in the park (7/28a)
Perpetuating a grand tradition (7/28a)
From tender shoots to mighty oaks.
Let's do the numbers.
It is not the name of a Henry Miller novel.
Could be. Dunno.

 First Name

 Last Name


Captcha: (type the characters above)