Nashville Labels Turn to Pop Partners as Streaming Changes the Game

As more country artists lean pop, labels are seeking coastal collaboration to bring the artists like Kacey Musgraves and Kane Brown to greater audiences.

9/26/2021 5:01:00 AM

As more country artists lean pop, labels are seeking coastal collaboration to bring the artists like Kacey Musgraves and Kane Brown to greater audiences.

As more country artists lean pop, labels are seeking coastal collaboration to bring the artists like Kacey Musgraves and Kane Brown to greater audiences.

pop and adult contemporary success.The idea is that sharing expertise will help find more fans and money to go around. The particulars of how to split the revenue differ with each deal, from moving around a few percentage points for services provided to joint ventures with an even split. Then there’s the issue of market-share designation, which sources say can vary wildly but is usually connected to label ownership of the primary deal. However, everything is negotiable: Radio share is usually easily split by genre, but there are no set rules for dividing market share, especially if the participating labels are not owned by the same company.

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Such deals aren’t new. Big Machine partnered with Republic Records to help turnTaylor Swiftinto a pop phenomenon, and in the ’90s, country labels worked with pop counterparts to bring acts like Shania Twain and LeAnn Rimes to a mainstream audience. But streaming has changed the game, as has an expansive approach to country music that incorporates pop sounds.

“It used to be the principal way to [reach an audience] was through radio, which was very segmented" by genre, says Fleckenstein. “Now I just need to get in the ears of the people who might like it ... I don’t care whether that fan is in Nashville or New York — I’ve got to find the people who can reach those fans." headtopics.com

New Tool for Finding Nashville Talent Emerges at the Pitch MeetingWhile partnering with a sister label can be easier logistically and financially because shared systems are already in place, record companies are also finding allies with labels they share distribution with and even without in the effort to broaden an act’s reach. Rebel Music/Geffen Records have partnered with Big Machine Label Group’s Valory Music on promoting Kidd G to country in a deal that came about after Big Machine’s chairman/founder Scott Borchetta reached out to the labels after he had initially tried to sign the 18-year old country/hip-hop artist, who built an audience on TikTok and Soundcloud. Valory will now support Kidd G at country radio (single “Summer in a Small Town” is at stations now), country digital service providers, internationally and marketing to other country partners.

“It’s a fairly egoless operation where everyone is collaboratively working,” Geffen GMLee L’Heureuxsays of divvying up duties between labels. “What’s great about it is we approach it from two different spaces, so each team can push each other a little bit. It’s great.”

Geffen and Big Machine share UMG as distributor. Similarly, BMG’s Broken Bow Records, which is distributed by Warner Music Group’s Alternative Distribution Alliance, and Warner Records have workedtogether; the pop division is now pushing Brown and Parmalee’s Country Airplay No. 1, “Just the Way,” to pop with a Bryce Vine remix.

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