STATE OF THE STATE: WARNER MUSIC NASHVILLE

It’s a rare thing in Nashville—and in the biz generally—for the transfer of power at the top of a label to be not just peaceful but seamless. But such is the case at WMN, where longtime topper Espo will move to Chairman Emeritus at the top of next year and his handpicked successors, Ben Kline and Cris Lacy, will step up to shared Co-President status and oversee the label’s daily operation. Most expect the label to have a cozy satellite office in Nantucket.

This elegant move caps an extraordinary run by the bespectacled, scotch-sipping Espo, now celebrating a spectacular year for Cody Johnson—who racked up nearly 3b streams last year, not to mention rhapsodic praise from The New York Times, CMT love and both platinum and gold certifications—as well as big streams for Gabby Barrett, Dan + Shay and newcomer Bailey Zimmerman, among others, and radio #1s for Johnson, Michael Ray, Kenny Chesney, BRELAND, Cole Swindell and Lainey Wilson and Ashley McBryde and Carly Pearce.

There was some significant hardware too, of course: McBryde scored Music Event of the Year at the ACMs and Johnson took the CMT trophies for Male Video of the Year and Digital-First Performance.

BRELAND and Zimmerman were among the key signings of the year, as well as freshly inked Avery Anna. WMN has also partnered with Warner Records on one of the latter’s hottest new acts, top-streaming Americana breakout Zach Bryan, assisting with country playlists, digital marketing and more. The label’s A&R charge is further enhanced by its newly announced partnership with label/pubco/artist-development hub River House, led by the formidable Lynn Oliver-Cline.

WMN has long been known for reconfiguring itself to keep up with the times, and the last year’s been no exception. Having already spearheaded a market-leading reorg to accommodate the streaming revolution, SVP Radio Kristen Williams this year drove a dual-focused reconfiguration of her department—with the traditional geographic approach supplemented by an account-based prong, and an elevated role for data analysis.

Meanwhile, in addition to Kline and Lacy getting their Co-
President stripes, Shane Tarleton was upped to EVP Artist Development, Tim Foisset was elevated to SVP Commercial Partnerships, Victoria Mason was made SVP Strategic Marketing & Analysis, Fount Lynch was anointed SVP Publicity, Brooke Hardesty became VP Interactive Marketing and Anna Cage ascended to VP Radio, while Clark Mims Tedesco and Jamie Younger moved up to VP Artist Development. These were but a few of the copious personnel moves of the last year, reflecting the company’s dynamic approach to an evolving biz.

HITS LIST:
HOME RUN DERBY
Going yard (7/11a)
SONG REVENUE:
SCHLEMIEL, SHABOOZEY
Th epitome of new country (7/11a)
GRAMMY PRE-CHEW:
THREE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIG 4
On your Marks, get set, go. (7/8a)
TOWARD A FRUITFUL GRAMMY SEASON
Our editurr in chief has something on his mined. (7/10a)
SABRINA TO REACH NEW HEIGHTS WITH TOUR MERCH?
Her table's stacked. (7/10a)
THE GRAMMY SHORT LIST
Who's already a lock?
COUNTRY'S NEWEST DISRUPTOR
Three chords and some truth you may not be ready for.
AI IS ALREADY EATING YOUR LUNCH
The kids can tell the difference... for now.
INDIE DISTRIBUTION'S RISE TO GLORY
The discovery engine is revving higher.
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