BMLG Names Mike Rittberg As Chief Marketing Officer

Mike Rittberg

Big Machine Label Group has named Mike Rittberg as Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Rittberg will be based out of the label’s Nashville headquarters, working on the wide array of superstar talent under the Big Machine Label Group. Rittberg will begin his new role on Feb. 13.

BMLG President/CEO/Founder Scott Borchetta commented, “In this ever-changing environment, what once was is now no longer…Through constant analysis of the marketplace, we have hit on an incredible new marketing formula and Mike is the perfect executive to lead its operations.”

Rittberg will oversee a variety of teams including branding (formerly PMPS), sales, marketing, ecommerce, data and streaming under BMLG’s new super-marketing missive.

Prior to joining Big Machine Label Group, Rittberg worked for Bill Silva Management and was involved with the management of Linkin Park. His past stops include General Manager at Verve Music Group (UMG) as well as Senior Vice President of Reprise Records, owned by Warner Music Group. Rittberg has worked with artists including Michael Bublé, Disturbed, Green Day, Eric Clapton, Josh Groban, Stevie Nicks, Neil Young, Michelle Branch, Iyaz, and My Chemical Romance. Rittberg’s experience also extends into promotion, where he oversaw rock and alternative promotion for Warner Bros. Records for artists including Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Muse and Van Halen.

“I’m grateful to Scott and Andrew for this amazing opportunity to join Big Machine,” shared Rittberg. “I’m excited to work with and for such a talented roster of artists. I look forward to joining the staff in Nashville next week!”

Rittberg can be reached at [email protected] and 615-324-7765.

LifeNotes: Industry Leader Kitty Moon Emery Passes

Kitty Moon Emery

Kitty Moon Emery, one of the most influential figures in Nashville entertainment, has died at age 70.

During her five-decade career, she left her mark on the worlds of music, sports, politics, philanthropy, tourism and more. Kitty Moon Emery was a dynamo who took seats on boards overseeing professional sports, the symphony, film and video production, banks, country music and dozens of charitable organizations. She was one of the most effective civic leaders — male or female — in Music City.

Born Catherine Sue Moon, she was a Nashville native who began her career in public television. She became the press secretary to U.S. Senator Bill Brock in Washington D.C. Next, she served as the assistant national director of advertising for the presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan. Henry Kissinger appointed her to a United Nations advisory committee.

Back in Nashville, she founded Scene Three Inc. in 1974. The company initially specialized in creating political campaign ads, but rapidly diversified. When music videos became popular in the early 1980s, Scene Three was at the forefront of the trend.

The company created video clips for such stars of the 1980s and 1990s as Kathy Mattea, The Statler Brothers, Ricky Skaggs, Sylvia, The Oak Ridge Boys, Ray Charles, Amy Grant, Crystal Gayle, Michael W. Smith, Janie Fricke, Alabama, K.T. Oslin, Reba McEntire, Chet Atkins, George Strait, Tanya Tucker, Patty Loveless, John Michael Montgomery and Sawyer Brown. Among Scene Three’s videos were the career launching “If Tomorrow Never Comes” (1989) and “The Dance” (1990) for Garth Brooks.

Scene Three’s directors included company president Marc Ball, as well as John Lloyd Miller, Larry Boothby, Robert Gabrielsen, Trip Payne and Rob Lindsay. Other key figures at Scene Three at one time or another included Nick Palladino, Dale Franklin, Eric George, Patrice McPeak, Mark Sedgwick and Terry Dull. At its peak, the multi-million-dollar company was the largest video firm in Tennessee and employed more than 50 people.

Under Moon Emery’s leadership, the firm also continued to make waves in the advertising world. In addition to music videos, Scene Three created spots for Toyota, United Cerebral Palsy, Health/Trust, South Central Bell, Northern Telecom, Saturn Corporation, Johnston & Murphy Shoes,

Drexel Heritage Furniture and Bridgestone Tires, among others.

She produced such television specials as A Day in the Life of Country Music (1994), Influences: George Jones & Randy Travis (1991), Jerry Clower Live (1990) and The Gift of Song (1984).

She also founded Scene Three Construction. This firm won a 1995 award from the Metro Historical Commission for its redesign and renovation of the Fitzgerald Hartley Management office on Wedgewood Avenue. Scene Three also began the redevelopment of the Melrose Shopping Center, The firm relocated into the old Melrose Theater there. That building is now the restaurant Sinema on Franklin Pike.

Moon Emery left Scene Three Construction in 2004. Scene Three’s video business was liquidated the following year. She went into the interior-design business at Moll Anderson Home, then became involved in the Global Action Summit Steering Committee and founded Kitty Moon Enterprises. In 2010, she was among the first business figures to back Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam’s gubernatorial candidacy.

Frank Bumstead, Kitty Moon Emery and CMA CEO Sarah Trahern. Photo: Christian Bottorff / CMA

In 1995, Kitty Moon Emery served as the president of the CMA board of directors. She then became president of the CMA Foundation board, overseeing the organization’s charitable donations. These included funds to help build the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame exhibits in the Music City Center.

She was a key figure on the Metro Sports Authority board for more than a decade, and was its chairwoman during the era that lured professional hockey and football franchises to Nashville. As such, she was also part of the team that named the latter the Tennessee Titans.

Her other boards included the Rotary Club, Leadership Nashville, The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and Leadership Music, among many others. She was co-chair of the T.J. Martel Honors Gala of 2013.

Kitty Moon Emery’s honors included the CMA President’s Award and the Easter Seals Nashvillian of the Year award. In 2014, she was given a SOURCE Award as well as Leadership Music’s Bridge Award. She was also an inductee into the YWCA’s Academy for Women of Achievement.

Kitty Moon Emery is survived by her husband of 18 years, Patrick Emery, her sister Lady Bird, sister-in-law Jacque Moon and by nieces, nephews and cousins.

Visitations will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 14, from 4 p.m.-6pm and on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 10-11 a.m. at Woodmont Christian Church on the corner of Woodmont and Hillsboro Road. The funeral service, which was planned by Kitty, will be held at the church on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 11 a.m. following the second visitation. Following the funeral service, there will be a graveside service for only family and close friends.

Grammys Plan Special Tribute to Prince, George Michael

The upcoming 59th Annual Grammy awards will pay tribute to George Michael and Prince in two special segments of the show. Details for the special tributes to seven-time Grammy-winner Prince and two-time winner Michael have not been revealed and are being kept under wraps, but with the star-studded lineup that includes Adele, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood and more, it is sure to be memorable.

“George Michael and Prince were pop icons who showcased rare musical genius and otherworldly charisma,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. “While each possessed a distinct style and sound, they were both adored by audiences worldwide. The passings of two such creative innovators were a huge loss for the creative community; The Recording Academy is humbled to pay homage to their tremendous legacies on the GRAMMY stage.”

The Grammys will air live on CBS-TV on February 12th.

 

Country Music Hall of Fame to Spotlight ‘Nashville Cat’ Jim Horn

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is highlighting the career of saxophone/woodwinds player Jim Horn in the latest installment of its “Nashville Cats” series Feb. 25 at the museum’s Ford Theater. Hosted by musician Bill Lloyd, the discussion will feature stories from Horn’s colorful career, including recording in George Harrison’s bathroom, giving saxophone lessons to Garth Brooks, touring with Duane Eddy, and more.

Horn began his career as a teen, recording and touring in the 1950s with rock & roll pioneer Duane Eddy. As a young man in Los Angeles, Horn played hundreds of sessions with legendary session pros the Wrecking Crew, lending his talents to some of the biggest pop hits of all time, including the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night” and the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” After touring extensively with John Denver, he relocated to Nashville and played on hit records by Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Wynonna, and Blake Shelton.  

Horn will offer a short performance during the event as well, and his interview is included with museum admission and is free to museum members. Passes are required for admittance, and museum members can reserve program passes in advance by phone or via e-mail at [email protected]countrymusichalloffame.org. The program will be streamed live at countrymusichalloffame.org/streaming. Following the program, Horn will sign a commemorative Hatch Show Print poster, available for purchase in the Museum Store.  

“Nashville Cats” honors master musicians who have played an integral role in Nashville and country music. Recent honorees include Richard Bennett, Duane Eddy, Paul Franklin, Mac Gayden, Steve Gibson, Leon Rhodes, Michael Rhodes, Billy Sanford, Pete Wade, Bill Walker, and Bergen White.

Industry Ink: MV2 Entertainment, Cuts For Guts, St. Jude Hero

MV2 Entertainment’s Terry McBride Celebrates Album Release in Nashville

Pictured (L-R): MV2 Entertainment artist David Fanning, John Marks of Spotify, McBride, and Shelby Kennedy of Tunecore.

MV2 Entertainment artist/songwriter Terry McBride celebrated the upcoming release of his first solo project, Hotels & Highways, with notable industry friends and supporters during a listening party Friday in Nashville.

The former frontman for iconic ‘90s country group McBride & the Ride, McBride co-wrote every cut on Hotels & Highways, which is scheduled for release on Feb. 24.

Songwriters Round To Benefit Crohns and Colitis Foundation

Lee Brice, Justin Wilson and Craig Campbell will team for a songwriters round at Nashville’s The Listening Room Cafe on March 6, for the benefit concert Cuts For Guts, which will aid the Crohns and Colitis Foundation.

The event begins at 8:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are $25 online and $35 at the door, and available at thelisteningroomcafe.com.

 

If You Can’t Be A Super Hero, Be A St. Jude Hero

Runners and walkers are invited to participate in the 2017 St. Jude Rock and Roll Marathon and Half Marathon (or 5K) on April 29 as a St. Jude Hero.  Participate as an individual, create your own team or join one of the Country Cares industry teams. For more information, call 615-760-8000 or contact [email protected] or [email protected].

Nashville Industry Veterans Team For New Video Streaming Platform

 

HitsMeUp, a new online platform and app that will give fans access to exclusive content from their favorite artists, including videos, behind-the-scenes coverage, live streaming concerts, exclusive interviews, special announcements, contests and giveaways, and more, is set to launch March 3.

Based in Nashville, the platform was co-founded by five Nashville industry members, Butch Waugh, Skip Bishop, Chris King, Chad Little and Stokes Nielson. At launch, HitsMeUp will feature exclusive content channels from record labels including Big Machine Label Group and Warner Music Nashville.

The new platform will allow artists to create their own dedicated channels and curate an immersive video experience that cannot be found anywhere else. The HitsMeUp founders want to fairly compensate artists and content owners beyond the existing platforms and is powered worldwide by PublicVine’s PaaS technology.

HitsMeUp has also created a proprietary reporting system to ensure that the platform would be music industry and artist friendly. Video views on HitsMeUp will be counted by Nielsen’s consumption charts, allowing artists to share in a more equitable formula for royalties. HitsMeUp channels will also include multi-screen experiences where visitors can find tour schedules, shop for merchandise, and more, while watching videos uninterrupted.

“In today’s connected age, there was something missing in the experience between music artists and their fans,” said Waugh. “We created one place where artists can really connect with their fans in a way that they have never done before. Through exclusive video, live streaming concerts, behind-the-scenes experiences, and contests, HitsMeUp offers artists a direct line to their fans in an engaging and personal way.”

 

 

Natalie Hemby Shines Spotlight On Small Towns, Family On ‘Puxico’

Natalie Hemby

“For 10 years I had tried to write to be my own artist. I would always hit a wall, or the music format would change,” Natalie Hemby told MusicRow on Friday, Feb. 3 during a visit to the magazine’s offices. “Each year that went by I would be told, ‘She’s kind of too old to be an artist,’ which is kind of hilarious to me.”

The singer-songwriter, who has penned chart-topping hits for artists including Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, and Toby Keith, eventually found the inspiration and courage to release her own music. Through revisiting her roots during the making of her 2015 documentary, Puxico, a collection of music was to emerge by the same title.

Though born and raised in Nashville, Hemby would travel to Puxico, Missouri, each summer to visit her grandfather George Hemby, a longtime sawmill worker who played bluegrass music at VFW halls and churches.

For nearly 70 years, Puxico has held its annual Homecoming festival, originally organized to welcome soldiers home from World War II. During the five-day event, the 1000-person-town would swell to between 8,000-10,000 people each evening, as attendees enjoyed square dancing, music, carnival rides and parades.

“I just noticed one year that the attendance was down, and I thought, ‘I hope this is not dying off, because this is part of my history,” Hemby says. “I want to take my kids here and I want them to take their kids here.’ I told my husband that it would be cool if someone did a documentary about what it takes to keep a tradition alive and a hometown alive.”

Hemby spent two weeks filming the residents in Puxico, and then spent the next five years slowly piecing together a documentary and accompanying music. The resulting documentary would give a voice to numerous small-town citizens, whose stories are often overlooked.

“Small towns get a bad rap sometimes, but I feel they make some of the most amazing people you never hear about,” Hemby says.

People like Wayne, a Puxico resident whose family had lived on a farm for five generations. He would rent silos to store his grain until the time was right for it to be sold. When the silo company went bankrupt, a judge ruled that the soybeans stored in the silos belonged to the bank.

“He had to fight tooth and nail,” Hemby says. “He had fellow farmers come from all over and they cut his grain out of the silos and shipped it off to all these different places. He paid a dear price. He went to jail several times, and tried to get pardoned by President Reagan at the time. Bill Clinton came and visited him in jail. But you would never know that. He was a little town in Puxico when he lost that farm because he stood for civil disobedience. That’s kind of why I wanted to do this whole thing.”

Attendees during the Puxico Screening

In 2009, Hemby’s “White Liar,” which she co-wrote with Miranda Lambert, became a No. 1 song. Other chart-toppers would follow, including “Pontoon,” “Tornado,” “Drinks After Work” and “Automatic.”

“Around that time, the heavens opened and all the hits rained down. I was firing on all cylinders. So the documentary was on the back burner for a bit,” Hemby recalls. After the passing of her grandmother, she found a new urgency to complete the project.

“Writing music for a documentary is interesting because you cannot be too specific. For any kind of film, you can’t be like, ‘I went down to the store…’ and show the guy walking down to the store,” she says. “You have almost write the feeling of the documentary or the movie.”

She enlisted the help of fellow songwriter Trent Dabbs. The first song she co-wrote for the album, “Return,” became the closing track on the project. Over time, she accumulated an album’s worth of songs to accompany the documentary, including gems like “This Song Still Talks About You,” “Lovers On Display,” and “Cairo, IL.”

Natalie Hemby visits with MusicRow staff and The Press House’s Taylor Esche.

After hosting screenings of the Puxico documentary both in Missouri and in Nashville, Hemby received feedback from her songwriter friends, including Maren Morris and Ryan Hurd, encouraging her to release the music as an album.

Though emboldened by the positive feedback, Hemby struggled with what the album presented.

“It was a question of, ‘Is this just a soundtrack or is this my first record?’ It’s my heart and soul wrapped into one. I always thought my first record would be really ballsy music. That’s what I love, too. But at this point in my life, I’m like, ‘I already did that through other people. This is really who I am.’ So I put it out as my first record and so far so good.”

Hemby credits fellow singer-songwriters, such as Lori McKenna and Brandy Clark, who have released their own projects of music to critical acclaim.

“I never would have thought my first album would have come out like this. I remember Brandy sitting at my house and saying, ‘I’m thinking about putting out a record.’ I was like, ‘Cool, let me know how that goes because I’m not making one,’” she laughs. “I think for me, it was so ingrained in me that if you are going to put out a record, you have to have a record deal. But times have changed so quickly as far as the outlets you have to get it out.”

Hemby now has a chance to share those stories from small-town Puxico with larger audiences after the release of the January 13th project and for three acoustic shows she is scheduled to peform in August 2017 as an opening act for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s Soul2Soul 2017 tour.

“I’m going to be dying, but I’ll put on my ‘I’m so confident’ face and make it happen.” Hemby quips. “I’m glad they are giving us three nights, so when I mess up the first night, the second night I’ll have it all down.”

Warner/Chappell Nashville Signs Austin Taylor Smith

Pictured (Front row, L-R): Devin Dawson (Atlantic/WMN), Alison Junker, Austin Taylor Smith, Mary Lauren Teague (Loeb & Loeb), Ben Vaughn, Alicia Pruitt. (Back row, L-R): Ryan Beuschel, Will Overton, BJ Hill, Matt Michiels, Phil May

Warner/Chappell Nashville has signed a worldwide publishing agreement with Nashville-based songwriter and musician Austin Taylor Smith.

After earning his degree in Commercial Vocal Music from Belmont University in 2012, Smith joined rock band John & Jacob. The band released their debut album in 2014, performed at Bonnaroo, Hangout Festival, and Firefly Festival in addition to touring with Kacey Musgraves.

The Texas native has also worked with Devin Dawson (Atlantic/WMN).

T.J. Martell Gala Adds Kenny Chesney, Tommy Shaw and Clare Bowen

The T.J. Martell Foundation has added Kenny Chesney, Tommy Shaw of Styx and Nashville actress Clare Bowen for the 9th Annual Nashville Honors Gala at the Omni Nashville Hotel, Monday, Feb. 27.

George Strait, Brad Paisley, Charlie Daniels, Kelsea Ballerini and Frankie Ballard have all been previously announced for the event, which will again hosted by Nashville actor Charles Esten.

This year’s honorees are:
Janet Miller – Spirit of Nashville Award
Dr. Joseph Smith – Medical Research Advancement Award
Scott Hamilton – Lifetime Humanitarian Award
Rod Essig – Frances Preston Outstanding Music Industry Achievement Award
Louis Messina – Tony Martell Lifetime Entertainment Achievement Award

In addition to musical performances, there will be auction packages from Holland America Cruise Line, Lily Pulitzer, Top Golf, Kendra Scott, David Yurman, Colonel Littleton hand-crafted leather, concert packages and music memorabilia.

Honorees are outstanding community leaders, each celebrated with a musical performance and presentation. In total, the event has raised more than $4 million for leukemia, cancer and AIDS research since its inception in 2009. The 9th Annual T.J. Martell Foundation’s Nashville Honors Gala is co-chaired by Ali Harnell and Danielle Bouharoun.

Limited seats remain and may be purchased at tjmartell.org. Tables and journal ads congratulating the honorees are available by contacting 615-256-2002 or [email protected].

Black River Entertainment Signs Abby Anderson As Artist And Writer

Pictured (L-R): Black River’s Dave Pacula, Rick Froio, Abby Anderson and Black River’s Gordon Kerr

Black River Entertainment has added singer-songwriter Abby Anderson to its artist and publishing roster. Anderson celebrated her signing on Thursday, Feb. 2, during the Dustin Wells Foundation’s Gift of Music concert benefiting the W.O. Smith School of Music, held at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.

“What a great night at the Ryman!” said Black River Entertainment CEO Gordon Kerr. “We were humbled to be a part of the Dustin Wells Foundation’s Gift of Music concert. Surprising Abby with her recording and publishing deal in the historic Ryman Auditorium made the beautiful night of celebrating life and music even sweeter. We can’t wait for the world to get to know Abby.”

Anderson signed her formal contracts on the stage at the historic Ryman Auditorium.

“All of a sudden Storme Warren comes walking out onstage and says Gordon Kerr has a present for you,” said Anderson. “And then here comes Papa G walking out with a big ‘ol present in a Black River box with a big black ribbon and presented me with the record deal. I can’t think of a better place to sign a deal than on stage at the Ryman in front of my family and friends.”

A Texas native, Anderson spent most of her early years at a piano singing the songs of her favorite music artists: Ray Charles, Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison, Elvis, Stevie Wonder, and K.T. Oslin. In 2014, her unique arrangement of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” renamed “Let Freedom Ring,” caught the attention of radio journalist/host Glenn Beck who welcomed her to perform the patriotic song on his show, garnering her national attention. With the encouragement of CAA agent Kylen Sharpe Anderson moved to Nashville in February 2015 and began developing her songwriting and refining her sound.

“From the very first moment I walked into the door of Black River, there was just this spirit, this energy,” noted Anderson. “That label is a family. They have the perspective that yes music matters, yes we want to succeed, but at the same time, there’s a bigger picture, and there’s a bigger plan. That for me was the golden ticket. They understand that, I understand that, and when you get a group of people together that understand that, magic happens. I am so excited to be here, this label is incredible, and I’m so blessed to be able to call it my home now.”