Zumwalt Firm Embraces New Model

Jim Zumwalt

Entertainment law firm Zumwalt, Almon & Hayes, founded in 1975, is joining with Shackelford, Melton & McKinley creating the only law firm with offices in Nashville, Dallas and Austin. Beginning Jan. 1 the new group in Nashville will be named Shackelford, Zumwalt & Hayes.

The newly combined firm brings together over 45 lawyers with experience in business technology, media and entertainment law. Together they represent artists, songwriters, music publishers and record companies plus provide expertise in the film, television and book publishing industries. As part of the agreement Zumwalt partner Orville Almon will amicably depart to create his own firm, to be announced later.

“We’ve been thinking about creating a new model for a long time, and met with several different firms over the past few years,” said an excited Jim Zumwalt. “This was the first arrangement that really made sense. We’re focused on entertainment and technology and the Dallas, Austin corridor has a strong technology focus, too. Of course we remain committed to Nashville. John Shackelford and his team bring significant capabilities to our firm,” Zumwalt adds. “By combining our global entertainment expertise from Nashville with the business and technology capabilities in Dallas and Austin, I believe we’ve put together a group of legal talent that’s second to none.”

Zumwalt tells MusicRow, the Nashville office is planning to add about four attorneys plus support staff during 2011.

Jim Zumwalt and Craig Hayes and the lawyers at their firm represent some of the country’s leading entertainers, including Faith Hill, Creed, Aaron Neville, Lifehouse, Tanya Tucker and The Bar-Kays. The firm is most known for launching recording careers by advancing deals for such artists as Toby Keith, Paramore, Alter Bridge, Skillet, Shinedown, Saliva, Cage the Elephant, Brian McKnight, Take 6, The Neville Brothers, Jason & The Scorchers, The Kentucky HeadHunters, Jackyl, The Georgia Satellites, Jars of Clay, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Vertical Horizon, Kenny Wayne Shepherd  and Sonny Landreth. The firm also is known for having represented high-profile estates, including Otis Redding, James Brown, Sam Cooke, Kurt Cobain, Rich Mullins and Ben Keith.

As Digital Revolution Continues, Artists Expand Reach

If, as pundits proclaimed 12 months ago, “flat is the new up,” then 2010 will have been a pretty good year for country music sales—at least on the surface. Happily, for the week ending 12/5/2010, YTD country sales (down 5.7%) are handily outperforming the all genre average (down 12.7%) compared with the same period in 2009 according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Unfortunately, beneath the calm waters there are many questions about the future. Radio’s role is morphing. Shrinking margin and shelf space are high on the worry list. Leveraging social networking strategies is a constant challenge and the merits of experimental formats and packaging such as CDs with less than 10 tracks, have stirred much discussion.

The consumer march from physical to digital product is also a closely watched metric. Country digital album sales jumped 30.5% so far this year. Overall digital album sales have only increased a modest 12.7%. These numbers highlight country’s digital album growth, but digital adoption of Nashville artists continues to trail the all genre average. Digital country album sales YTD were about 15.7% of total country album sales (11.4% in 2009); the all genre figure was 27.5% up from last year’s 21.3%. Turning the telescope these numbers also show that country consumers still prefer physical CDs by a wide margin. In fact, about 84 of every 100 purchased country albums were made of plastic.

So what developments should we expect in the race to capture consumer’s hearts, minds and pocketbooks for 2011? To find out, MusicRow asked four seasoned marketing/sales execs to share candid concerns, and offer perspective in terms of where we are today, and what we might be facing in the coming year.

The product balance between physical and digital has all our experts concerned. “The adoption of digital music by the country consumer is being outpaced by the decline of floor space at traditional retail,” says Kelly Rich, VP Sales & Marketing for Big Machine Label Group. “There is still demand for physical product and as an industry we have been forced to find new outlets to make it available. We have forged partnerships in the last few years with non-traditional accounts such as Starbucks, Justice, Hot Topic, Scholastic, Radio Shack, Rite Aid and JC Penney. We recently partnered with Target on a strategic marketing initiative surrounding Taylor Swift’s Speak Now release. This unique approach leverages the value of the music and the artist in a synergistic way that benefits both parties.”

“The percentage of digital country CDs hasn’t kept pace with the other formats,” notes veteran Joe Galante. “This is a real concern as we lose physical coverage due to accounts cutting inventory and facings. We haven’t gotten the consumer to buy into digital CD conversion at a replacement level necessary to sustain the genre, so down the road when physical drops it will lead to a revenue gap. Country has a top 10 of artists who do well in the digital format, but the consumer is picking individual songs and not buying everything. And don’t forget the difference between units and revenue. The revenue loss this year is much greater than the small drop in units might suggest.”

Sr. VP Brand Management & Sales, Warner Music Nashville, Peter Strickland sees a possible silver lining for catalog sales in the face of shrinking shelf space. “I imagine we’ll see strong catalog growth,” he says. “That retail space has been taken away from us, but we can sell physical goods through our online partners or digital catalog which is a big focus now. Also, I’ve heard comments about country becoming a digital single-oriented format. Twenty years ago physical single sales lived in a world of album sales.

People bought singles until they were won over by the artist and then bought the album. It’s not really that different today. There is probably room for both formats to survive. We should view the digital single as a way to introduce people to an artist with the goal of getting them to ultimately buy into the artist’s complete works.”

“Social media marketing is really starting to work to drive both physical and digital sales,” says Curb Records VP Sales, Benson Curb. “It looks like country music will wind up being flat or only slightly down this year and out perform overall. Not much of a surprise given the major releases this fourth quarter. Next year we should see some new acts break out.”

“Country being down a point or two compared to the overall market isn’t bad,” agrees Galante. “However when you realize we put out almost every major act we had in the last 90 days it doesn’t look promising for 2011. Also the incredible performance of the Taylor project really masked a bigger problem for country. We won’t have the same line up in 2011 to hold the volume up so it will be telling to watch first quarter drop offs compared to the prior year.”

Perhaps the year’s most headline-grabbing experiment was Warner’s series of Blake Shelton six-paks in digital and physical format. Capitol also released an eight-song Keith Urban disc in the last quarter and Big Machine launched a few digital only EPs. “Overall, the strategy for Blake Shelton was a huge success,” Strickland avows. “And the six-paks played a major role in that. They gave us visibility. For 12 months Blake’s music was everywhere, and the radio hits kept coming. People were consuming Blake Shelton product—his music, t-shirts and tickets. It all increased across the board. When we first decided to try the strategy we knew we would have a lot of eyes on us. But we never did this thinking that it would be a roadmap for every artist. We look at each artist individually and where their career is to make a decision about how to market them and what kind of packages to put out.”

“We have tested the waters with digital-only EPs to help develop our new artists,” says Rich. “It helps sustain the fan’s need for more music, while the fan base is building to a level that can successfully support a full length release.”

“We have found it tough to make the six pak model work from a profit/margin standpoint,” adds Curb. “We haven’t really tried an 8-pack as of yet, but the idea is something that might work for us with the right artist.”

“2011 is going to be a challenging year,” says Strickland. “I hope that as an industry we break more new artists. Some of the artists that have been around a decade or more are starting to move to the back burner and creating that opportunity. Labels wait to release new artist product until there is demand, so if it takes 30-40 weeks to break those new artists, it will be a slow process. Radio will continue to play a major role in reaching our consumer and letting them know what we have to offer. It’s about coordinating your efforts at radio with respect to their websites, Facebook pages and other social networks that change on a daily basis. How do we merge all that to give us triple the audience from the terrestrial format alone? That is going to be key going forward, utilizing radio to reach an even larger audience than what people hear over the air.”

“Overall, there is yet to be another tool as effective as radio in building awareness for our music,” sums Rich. “And as the digital adoption rate continues to increase and radio’s delivery mechanisms morph, so will the effectiveness of their reach. That said, we embrace and utilize every form of media/social media available to us. Our philosophy is the music business is full of amazing opportunities and we refuse to think differently. Great things can still come from a well executed plan.”

A new book, The Idea Writers by Teressa Iezzi, while aimed directly at copywriters offers advice useful to the entertainment industry, especially if you think of artists as brands. “You’re not just making something that will compete with other brands and other messages created by brands,” Iezzi says. “You’re making something to compete with every other piece of content, every other media experience that a person has during her waking hours….So copywriters [read artists] have a gargantuan challenge to be relevant, but also a great opportunity to be original, to interact with an audience, to have people talk about, spread, and engage with the things they create.” Hopefully, Nashville marketers and the artists [brands] they represent will continue to challenge consumers through brand creativity.

Americana Conference and ACM Awards Dates Announced

Americana Dates Announced

The Americana Music Association (AMA) has announced that the 12th Annual Festival & Conference will take place October 12-15, 2011 in Nashville. The event, hailed as  the “Best Music Festival” by Southern Living Magazine, features over 100 performing artists, 50 panels, and fans and industry professionals from all of the world.

Past performers have included legends—such as Robert Plant and Emmylou Harris—and the next generation of rising stars, such as the Avett Brothers and Carolina Chocolate Drops. The 2010 lineup included Dierks Bentley, Grace Potter, Charlie Louvin, Exene Cervenka, Dex Romweber Duo, Jack White and Wanda Jackson, among many others.

Right now, the AMA is offering a limited-time, super early bird registration rate of $200 for AMA members and $300 for non-members. Registration includes access to all daytime conference activities, all evening festival showcases, and one ticket to the critically acclaimed Americana Honors & Awards show at the Ryman Auditorium. Daytime panels will take place at the Sheraton Nashville Downtown Hotel, which is offering a special rate for AMA attendees, and evening showcases will be at multiple venues throughout Nashville.

For more information regarding registration or an AMA membership, visit here.

ACM Awards

The Academy of Country Music (ACM) announced that the 46th Annual ACM Awards will be broadcast live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday, April 3, 2011 via CBS. Additionally, the ACM will record an all-star concert special entitled Girls’ Night Out: Superstar Women of Country the following evening, which will air on a later date on CBS. This concert will benefit ACM Lifting Lives, the charitable arm of the ACM, which works to improve lives through music.

Tickets for both events are open to the public and go on sale Wednesday, January 19, 2011. ACM members and fans can purchase the tickets up until February 18, 2011, by signing up for the ACM A-List at www.ACMcountry.com. After this date, tickets will be available to the general public.

JaneDear Girls Taking Over YouTube; Upcoming Marty Stuart Film

JaneDear girls in YouTube Challenge

the JaneDear girls are one of 50 artists selected to participate in MyYouTube, an online promotion that encourages fans to help musicians score points and subscribers on their YouTube channel. The contest, which runs through February 4, 2011, features artists such as B.O.B., Justin Bieber and Rihanna. The JaneDear girls are the only country act selected to participate.

Fans can help the JaneDear girls out by subscribing to their YouTube channel and by getting the word out on Twitter and Facebook. Fans who participate will be eligible to win a prize from the JaneDear girls. More information is available here and here.

The JanDear girls, a duo comprised of Susie Brown and Danelle Leverett, are the highest-charting debut artists of 2010, and their hit single “Wildflower” was voted No.1 video by fans on GAC’s Top 20 Countdown. The JaneDear girls will join Jason Aldean on his “My Kinda Party Tour” in January.

Stuart On Film

Marty Stuart will be featured in a short form documentary highlighting his early life and influences in his hometown of Philadelphia, Mississippi.  Jacob Hatley, who directed the critically acclaimed Ain’t In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm, will direct this project, entitled Marty Stuart In Philadelphia, MS. Select songs from Stuart’s latest album, Ghost Train (The Studio B Sessions), will be featured throughout the documentary in addition to candid stories behind the songs.

“The piece focuses on how music and location work together or how places often inspire and influence artists,” explains Hatley. “Marty’s sound comes from a very specific region, and it was a real privilege to be able to go down to Mississippi and get to know the people who shaped him as an artist.”

The film is set to premiere in early 2011, and a preview is available here.

Photos: BMI Honors Brice, CMA Christmas Cheer, and Ballard Hits the Road

BMI honored Lee Brice’s record-breaking Billboard Song of the Year, “Love Like Crazy,” at a reception at BMI’s Music Row office on December 14. The song, produced by Doug Johnson and co-written by Johnson and Tim James, was on the Billboard Country Singles cart for an unprecedented 56 weeks, breaking Eddy Arnold’s previous record of 54 weeks for “Bouquet of Roses.”

Pictured are (l-r): BMI’s Jody Williams, co-writer Doug Johnson, Lee Brice, co-writer Tim James, Curb Records’ Mike Curb, Curb Publishing’s Drew Alexander, Warner/Chappell’s Steve Markland, and Billboard’s Wade Jessen.

Former CMA Executive Director, Jo Walker-Meador (1959-1991), and current CMA Chief Executive Officer, Steve Moore, celebrate the season at the annual CMA staff Christmas party.

Warner Bros. Records newcomer Frankie Ballard takes a break from the “It’s Good To Be Me Tour 2010” to snap a photo with touring partner Uncle Kracker.

Frankie Ballard and Uncle Kracker at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, TX

Artist News: Rascal Flatts, Josh Thompson and More

Rascal Flatts performed at the Grand Ole Opry on Dec. 14 to wrap up their year-long celebration of their 10th anniversary year. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean presented the band with an official city proclamation to recognize the band for their charitable endeavors and honors, including the Jason Foundation and the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, where they were recently honored by the naming rights for the hospital’s only pediatric surgery center, “The Rascal Flatts Surgery Center.” The proclamation also stated additional efforts as previous recipients of the “Shining Star Award” by the Make A Wish Foundation and the Nashville Symphony’s Harmony Award, as both honors took place in Nashville.

Rascal Flatts and Mayor Karl Dean


Josh Thompson is out on his first headlining tour, 2010 Cold Beers and Reindeers Tour, featuring special guests Joanna Smith and James Wesley. Thompson’s single, “Won’t Be Lonely Long,” is currently at radio. The tour, which is presented by Townsquare Media, included a Dec. 10 sold-out show in Texarkana. For the remainder of the tour, Thompson will offer a collector’s edition two-track CD sampler to fans who purchase walk-up tickets the night of the show. Quantities are limited and will be distributed on a first come, first served basis. For more information, visit the tour’s website at www.coldbeersandreindeers.com or www.joshthompsonofficial.com


Three Music City Media artists, including Matt Gary, Jeremy Parsons and Glen Templeton participated in the 28th Annual Christmas4Kids Tour Bus Show. The annual celebrity tour bus event was held December 13 and featured meet and greets and 75 tour buses on display in the Hendersonville Walmart parking lot to benefit families in need during the holidays.

Pictured (L-R): Matt Gary, Jeremy Parsons, Glen Templeton

Lee Ann Womack Aids Africa; Dierks Bentley is Tops in 2010

Womack Aids Africa
Lee Ann Womack has joined forces with Join My Village, a click-to-commit social change initiative that hopes to release $500,000 of General Mills’ charitable dollars to leading international humanitarian organization CARE. CARE will use the money for economic and educational opportunities for girls and women in Malawi.

Join My Village allows individuals to unlock the power of General Mills’ corporate philanthropy; users can visit www.joinmyvillage.com to learn more about the women in Malawi while raising funds. By watching a video of a child’s opportunity to attend secondary school, or listening to a sample of African music from a Malawi village, the users’ “clicks” will release donations from General Mills to CARE. Additionally, General Mills will match all individual donations dollar for dollar up to the $500,000 goal.

Womack will appear in a public service campaign and various events and social media activities to raise awareness for this campaign. She has set a goal of rallying 100,000 of her fans to join the campaign during her upcoming tour with George Strait and Reba McEntire.

“As a mother of two girls, I see the opportunities that education has created for my daughters’ future,” said Womack.  “I believe that every girl in the world has unlimited potential and by supporting Join My Village I know we can provide girls with opportunities to learn, achieve and improve their future.”

2010: Big for Bentley

Dierks Bentley closes out 2010 with three Grammy nominations for his critically acclaimed  fifth album, Up On the Ridge. The album, which was heavily inspired by the bluegrass and roots music that moved Bentley to pursue a career in country music, earned a Grammy nomination for Best Country Album and rave reviews from The Washington Post, NPR, and The Boston Globe, among others. His collaborations with Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson on “Bad Angel” and Del McCoury and the Punch Brothers on “Pride (In the Name of Love)” each earned a Grammy nod as well.

Up On the Ridge was singled out as one of iTunes’ Best Albums of the Year and Amazon’s Top 10 Country Albums of the Year. Bentley is planning a revival of his Dierks Bentley and Friends pre-Grammy bash in Los Angeles on February 12, 2011. This intimate performance, which will take place at the Troubadour, has featured surprise guests including Brad Paisley, Paramore’s Hayley Williams, Dwight Yoakam and more. A limited number of fan tickets will be available tomorrow, December 17, at www.dierks.com.

Lauren Thomas Promoted At Arista

Lauren Thomas has been promoted to Regional Promotion Manager, Arista Nashville. Her responsible territory will be confirmed soon.

Sony Music Nashville VP Promotion Skip Bishop made today’s (12/15) announcement. “I’m so happy to escort Lauren to this next level of her promising career. She is a natural born promotion machine and her passion for music and radio brings Arista Nashville a new fresh voice to our team.”

In October 2009, Thomas joined the Arista Nashville promo department as National Promotions Coordinator. Before coming to the label, she was Associate Director of Promotion for Golden Music Nashville, and, was Promotions Manager for KMLE Phoenix for five years.

She will continue to be based in Nashville.

The National Promotions Coordinator opening at Arista Nashville is being filled from within the company by Rusty Sherrill.

The Judds and Garth Bid Farewell To Larry King

Garth Brooks and The Judds were among Larry King’s final guests, as his venerable CNN show comes to an end this week. Wynonna and Naomi Judd discussed their reunion/farewell tour. Brooks talked about his ongoing shows at the Wynn in Las Vegas, and flood relief benefits opening tomorrow night in Nashville.

See video below. More here.

Jamey Johnson Gets Gold Plaque, Critical Praise

Jamey Johnson’s The Guitar Song has been certified gold by the RIAA and is making numerous best albums of 2010 lists. The 25-song double disc set came in at No. 5 on lists in Rolling Stone and SPIN. Hear Johnson talk about the songs here.

The UMG Nashville project received two Grammy nominations, including Best Country Album and Best Male Country Vocal Performance for “Macon,” with Johnson garnering a third nod for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for “Bad Angel” with Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert.

“My dream already came true,” Johnson says of the accolades. “All I ever wanted was just to get to ride around and sing country music. It’s cool when things like that happen along the way. Because those are the things I never thought I could achieve. Whether or not it’s gold or platinum or hell, diamond for that matter, it wouldn’t surprise me anymore. I’ll just keep doing what I do. I wake up every day and go play some more country music and have another drink.”

Johnson was one of many Nashville performers at the recent Kennedy Center Honors, where he performed a tribute to honoree Merle Haggard. He also met honoree Oprah Winfrey, who joked he should visit her father Vernon’s Nashville barber shop for an eight-dollar haircut.

In early 2011, Johnson will join Kid Rock on his nationwide Born Free tour, opening Jan. 15 in front of a crowd of 60,000 at Detroit’s Ford Field.