CMT Expands ‘Next Women of Country’ with Nashville Event

Pictured (L-R Seated): Rachel Farley, Lauren Alaina, Danielle Bradbery, Ashley Monroe, Holly Williams; (Standing): Kacey Musgraves, Jana Kramer, Angaleena Presley, Sarah Darling, Rose Falcon, Kristen Kelly, Sarah Zimmermann (Striking Matches), Cassadee Pope, Kelleigh Bannen. Photo: Rick Diamond/WireImage

Pictured (L-R, seated): Rachel Farley, Lauren Alaina, Danielle Bradbery, Ashley Monroe, Holly Williams; (L-R, standing): Kacey Musgraves, Jana Kramer, Angaleena Presley, Sarah Darling, Rose Falcon, Kristen Kelly, Sarah Zimmermann (Striking Matches), Cassadee Pope, Kelleigh Bannen. Photo: Rick Diamond/WireImage

CMT SVP Music Strategy Leslie Fram hosted an industry gathering for the network’s Next Women of Country franchise on Monday, Nov. 4 at The Farm House, a new restaurant in Nashville’s downtown Encore Building. First introduced in January 2013, the CMT franchise is dedicated to showcasing the new generation of signed and unsigned female artists across CMT platforms and at nextwomen.cmt.com.

Several music row executives, including Scott Borchetta (President and CEO, Big Machine Label Group), John Esposito (President and CEO, Warner Music Nashville), John Grady (President, I.R.S. Nashville) and Mike Dungan (Chairman and CEO, UMG Nashville) brought up-and-coming female artists for a one-song acoustic performance, including Danielle Bradbery, Ashley Monroe, Holly Williams and Lauren Alaina. Bradbery was announced as the newest addition to the CMT franchise, to include more than a dozen taped performances throughout the year on CMT, CMT Pure and CMT.com.

“Many of Country music’s most memorable voices belong to its strong women, and I’m honored to stand behind the rising stars like the talented ladies present today,” said Fram. “Signed and unsigned, these women are making their careers happen on their own terms, and CMT is proud to introduce them to a new generation of fans.”

Dungan highlighted three women on his roster, including Kacey Musgraves whose “astute observationalist” song lyrics helped earned her six CMA Award nominations this year; Kelleigh Bannen, who spent three weeks in a development deal before the label executive signed her to a full deal; and Alaina, saying, “I’d put her vocal up against any of the greatest singers in our genre.” Alaina performed “Same Day Different Bottle” after noting: “I’ve grown a lot as a person since I started writing songs three years ago after Idol.”

Grady, who runs double duty at Crush Management, introduced Monroe after mentioning, “I would be the antithesis of Dungan’s ‘astute observationalist.’ I’ve been told it’s near impossible to break females, and my roster includes [Kristen Kelly, Monroe and Striking Matches].” Monroe performed her Warner album’s title-track “Like A Rose.” “We have an album that pushes the boundaries,” said Esposito of Monroe’s Vince Gill-produced album. “Leslie [Fram] changed the game for us.” The Warner executive cited the “profound” impact CMT has made on the careers of Jana Kramer and Sheryl Crow.

Holly Williams, now managed by Fusion’s Daniel Miller, performed her title-track “The Highway” with her musician husband Chris Coleman. “Holly makes her own videos,” said Fram. “CMT will soon premiere a video for ‘The Highway.'”

Borchetta, who was a part of CMT’s first docu-series with Cassadee Pope, said, “I’ve never been afraid to take on the dragons of breaking a female artist.” The executive who helped launch the careers of Reba and Trisha encouraged the ladies to be strong, loud, and true to themselves. With Pope in the audience, Bradbery performed “Heart of Dixie” on behalf of the Big Machine Label Group.

Also in attendance were Sarah Darling, Angaleena Presley, Rachel Farley, Musgraves, Bannen, Kramer, Rose Falcon, and Sarah Zimmermann (Striking Matches).

CMT’s current video playlist is nearly half female, with a handful of emerging artists from the Next Women of Country franchise including Brandy Clark, who will be featured as part of its upcoming Listen Up series, that showcases artists on the verge of breaking out.

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Eric T. Parker oversees operations and contributes editorial for MusicRow's print magazine, MusicRow.com, the RowFax tip sheet and the MusicRow CountryBreakout chart. He also facilitates annual events for the enterprise, including MusicRow Awards, CountryBreakout Awards and the Rising Women on the Row. [email protected] @EricTParker

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