CMA Music Fest Global Showcases; Q&A with Jeff Walker

MusicRow recently sat down with Jeff Walker, CEO/President of The AristoMedia Group/Marco Music Group to discuss this year’s Global Events showcases, as well as the often overlooked growth in the international country music market.

The 2012 Global Events showcases, held June 4-5 during 2012 CMA Music Festival week in downtown Nashville, will feature 22 Country artists from five different countries and territories.

The CMA Global Artist Party, presented by Chevrolet, takes place 6 – 10:45 pm Monday, June 4 at The Stage on Broadway and The Aristo Global Show will be held Tuesday, June 5 from 12:30 – 3:45 pm at The Second Fiddle. Check here for a complete lineup of both shows.

How are the artists selected for the international shows?
We have agreements for some of the performance slots in the Monday night show. The New Zealand Country Music Association Horizon Award Winner, the country artist scholarship winner from Commercial Radio Australia, and the Songwriter Award winner from Australia’s Tamworth Country Music Awards will all be performing at the show. The remaining participants were judged using criteria of relevance in the international market, quality of music, and whether that artist would have the ability to get a deal here in the United States. There’s a committee that judges the applicants, and there’s a balance given between territories.

What is the difference between the two shows?
While the Monday night is a full band show, the Tuesday show is more of an acoustic show with the last performance being a full band. I’m proud of the fact that this has grown and we now have around 22 acts. Both shows reflect the artists in different areas. One act that did really well last year and made a strong impression on the Monday night show is Raintown. They are coming back to do the Tuesday show this year. This is our ninth anniversary of the Monday night show. The Tuesday show came about three years later due to receiving so many submissions.

What do you think propelled that growth?
I think it’s a new era in Country Music. The whole world is becoming a smaller place. The fact that iTunes is worldwide and people now have instant access to country music. You can push a button and have your music delivered to Mexico, South America, Australia, Scandinavia, the UK, Canada, and more. International artists are now recognizing that what they need to do is focus on Nashville or come to Nashville. We are also seeing a big trend in writers coming from territories like Australia, Canada and other territories to write with Nashville songwriters. For example, Phil Barton moved here from Australia and co-wrote Lee Brice’s No. 1 song, “A Woman Like You.” He has been coming to Nashville since 2005 building his network. The whole market is opening up. I think the labels here are looking to have a more global footprint much like the movie industry. It really helps that Canada and Australia, in particular, have networks like Country Music Television in Canada and a country music channel in Australia. You can pre-sell an artist when they go over there or you can establish a Canadian artist in their own domestic territory giving them relevance before coming to the U.S.

Do you see these two shows as an opportunity for the industry to see new acts they otherwise would not be exposed to?
Definitely. We see both of these events as great A&R opportunities.

What are some of the benefits international artists receive by attending the events?
It’s a chance for the artists to broaden their horizons by performing in Nashville to a packed house. When acts stay in their own territory, they seem to get a little insulated. But when they go outside their territory, they realize this business is very competitive. They go home with their bars raised a little higher.

Most people are aware of the Country Music presence in Australia and Canada, what other countries do you see gaining traction?
Ireland comes to mind first. We are also seeing a lot of things happening in Scandinavia, particularly Norway where a lot of fairs and festivals are being produced. Those are the key ones. In terms of Americana, there’s a lot of UK interest and there’s a fine line between Americana and Country music overseas since they often do not distinguish between the two.

What do you see in the future related to international presence in Country Music?
The CMA is very committed to international presence and recently formed a group in the organization to push towards those goals. The future will continue to build on the momentum and availability of technology that’s really helping spur this growth in international opportunities. When people can tap into country music on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, etc. and interact with these artists from all over the world, this is where I see the growth coming from. I think there’s lots of opportunities and I’m very bullish about it.

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About the Author

Sherod Robertson is President and Owner of MusicRow Enterprises. He oversees all operations and develops strategic initiatives for MusicRow magazine, RowFax, and MusicRow's CountryBreakout chart. Robertson previously served as Director of Finance of Arista Records after beginning his career as Vice President of Finance and CFO at Reunion Records.

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