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STATE OF THE STATE: WMG NASHVILLE

Espo and team’s latest big breakout is also one the year’s major new-artist stories in any genre: the phenomenal Gabby Barrett, whose double-platinum monster “I Hope” landed in the Top 30 in our midyear roundup of most-streamed songs overall—and whose album Goldmine earned the most first-week debut album streams for any country act in history. She’s earned 435m+ streams globally. “I Hope” was also a #1 Country radio juggernaut. The Grammy buzz on Gabby, we need hardly add, is deafening.

Another new arrival, the gifted singer/songwriter Ingrid Andress, followed Gabby to #1 at Country radio, marking the first time two debut female artists have topped the chart back to back; her “More Hearts Than Mine” was the first and only female debut to hit Top 20 on the country airplay chart in 2019.

Trophy magnets Dan + Shay, meanwhile —one of the hottest country crossover stories of the last few years—have had another gigantic smash with their Justin Bieber collab “10,000 Hours,” a radio and streaming behemoth. The track had the biggest first-week streaming total in country history and was the fastest song in the genre ever to reach 1m track equivalents. In case you’ve been under a rock, “Hours” followed up mega-smashes “Tequila” (5x platinum) and “Speechless” (4x platinum). The duo has enough Grammys, ACMs, CMAs, CMTs and other awards to fill a warehouse.

Ashley McBryde scored CMA, ACM and CMT wins, Grammy nominations and critical plaudits. Cole Swindell racked up Grammy, ACM and CMT noms. Michael Ray, Cody Johnson and High Valley earned high-profile award noms as well. Look for similar acclaim to be lavished on Brett Eldredge’s brand new, deeply felt album, Sunday Drive. The Last Bandoleros won plaudits for their scorching Live From Texas set.

WMN’s veterans, too, lit up the board. Grammy nominee Blake Shelton hit one clear out of the park—and onto the roof of the radio chart—with the bracingly dark “God’s Country” (double platinum); he scored another #1 with the Gwen Stefani duet “Nobody but You” (140m streams). For his part, the inimitable Kenny Chesney dropped his ninth #1 full-length release, Here and Now, which has racked up 400k album equivalents and substantially increased his career total of 860m+ global streams. The title track marked his 31st radio #1.

Look for a new music from Shelton, Dan + Shay, Tucker Beathard, Devin Dawson, Ryan Griffin, Shy Carter, BEXAR and more very soon.

There are plenty of reasons for Espo to pop a cork nowadays; he re-inked his deal with WMN last November and has beefed up his team with an array of new hires and promotions. Cris Lacy (A&R) and Ben Kline (GM) got their EVP stripes last year, while Kristen Williams was upped to SVP Radio & Streaming, Anna Cage became National Director, Radio & Streaming and Patrick Sabatini came aboard mere weeks ago as SVP Biz & Legal. This year also saw Michael Chase added as National Director, Radio & Streaming and promotions for A&R player Rohan Kohli, radio & streaming specialist Shari Roth and international marketing team member Caitlin Cadden.

WMN also carried forward its support of multiple philanthropic efforts, including its innovative WMGreen initiative, For the Linds Sarcoma Fund and Porter’s Call, a free support service for artists in need.


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