On Aug. 31, 2005 Scott Borchetta and Toby Keith took the stage at Nashville’s Global Cafe to announce their respective record labels, Keith’s Show Dog and Borchetta’s Big Machine, would launch the following day. Today (Sept. 1) marks that 10-year anniversary.
A celebration was held this morning at the Bridgestone Tower’s SiriusXM studio for the latter company; which has gone on to boast five imprints with 65 No. 1 hits, more than 50 million albums sold and more than 200 million singles sold. A staff of 93 now oversees a talent roster of 30 recording artists in addition to three racing drivers. To boot, Borchetta’s personal garage contains 19 cars.
“Each time I sign an artist it’s a $1 million gamble,” said Borchetta to MusicRow. “I told our investors from the beginning, if they didn’t have the money to lose, don’t come along with us. Go to the horse races. I wanted investors who felt it will be fun, if it works or it doesn’t.
“I bought out our main shareholder, Ray Pronto, earlier this year so I own 90 percent of the label. Toby Keith is still a silent partner. I never hear from him except for when I see him out. We’ll usually give each other high-fives.”
As part of the celebration, a $100,000 donation was made by Borchetta to Metro Nashville Public School’s Music Makes Us initiative. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Chris Henson (Interim Director of Schools), Dr. Jay Steele (Chief Academic Officer) and Dr. Nola Jones (Coordinator of Visual and Performing Arts) were on hand to accept the charitable gift. Hume-Fogg students sat front row at the event, wearing Music Has Value-branded apparel, courtesy of the label group’s brand, for which it has even launched a digital and physical storefront.
“In three years we restored band programs at all 33 middle schools; created new choral programs in 10 schools; established 45 new classes in 18 schools including mariachi, rock band, world percussion, country and bluegrass songwriting, and hip-hop,” declared Mayor Dean. “We’ve also opened a world-class recording studio, student-run record label and launched an online hub connecting Nashville music professionals with teachers.”
“To think for one minute that music wouldn’t be in schools? No! Not on our watch,” supposed Borchetta of his contribution to the initiative. “There’s a lot of pride today about music, about Nashville and about the great artists that have been a part of the Big Machine Label Group.
“I have always found that when I save up for something and buy it, I have great value in it. It means that much more to me. One of the things that is happening in real-time is adding value back to music so we can all continue to invest and make sure this great art form has a home for the rest of our lives and beyond.”
Recording artists The Cadillac Three and Danielle Bradbery were also present in support of their label head. The events aired later in the day on SiriusXM’s The Highway.
Looking back on his decade of impact on the global music industry, Borchetta said, “It’s still an outlier to invest in a brand new record company. But if you look back at the prospectus I wrote, it’s really a crazy look-in-the-future moment.”
At launch, Show Dog and Big Machine equally shared staffing resources, including promotion team and administrative resources, although financing remained separate. Keith footed a reported $5 million bill for his financing, and Borchetta’s investors in the other. Meaning, sooner or later Big Machine was to become profitable based upon its own roster which at the time included Danielle Peck, Taylor Swift, and Jack Ingram.
“Our early vision was survival,” recalled Borchetta. “It was get your boots on the ground, get these records played, get these artists exposed, and music in the stores wherever those stores were. There was a limited window where I only wanted to give up so much of the company for investment. I never wanted to go back to have a stock sale.
“I was part of startups before with MTM Records (30 years ago) and DreamWorks (1998),” said Borchetta. “You look at both of those situations in particular, DreamWorks staffed-up but we didn’t have records. Every day money is going the wrong way. I made sure that when Big Machine opened we had records out. Jack Ingram had a No. 1 on his first single and Taylor’s first single came out in June of 2006 (“Tim McGraw”) and her album in October 2006. We were very blessed with early success.”
What’s next for the 21st century music mogul? “We’re going to expand into a lot of other medias by survival, demand and opportunity,” he proudly concluded.
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