Industry Leaders Exemplify Importance Of Building Your Circle

Pictured at the recent reunion (L-R): Front Row – Melissa Kij Bailey (MTSU), Kelly King (King Pen Music), Autumn House-Tallant (Red Light Management), Stephanie Green (Gravity Gone Music); Middle Row – Bob Berg (Air Deluxe Music), Ben Vaughn (Warner-Chappell), Kent Earls (UMPG), Rusty Gaston (This Music), Dan Hodges (DHM); Back Row – Jeremy Stover (Red Creative Group), Kyle T. Jones, Jayson Wyatt (SESAC), Tom Luteran (Sony/ATV), Rod Parkin. Not pictured – Cris Lacy (Warner Music Nashville), Paul Compton (Music Highway), Steve Carmack (manager), Shannon Myers.

Songplugger Reunion Shows The Importance of Networking

More than 20 years ago a group of young songpluggers started a monthly tradition of gathering at a restaurant on Music Row called Sammy B’s. Today, these friends have weathered the ups and downs of the music business and become leaders in their fields. Even though Sammy B’s is now an abandoned building on 16th Ave. and the meetings eventually dissipated, the group recently reunited to reminisce and celebrate their lasting bond.

Publisher Dan Hodges recalls the group’s early days. “We decided to band together and share information on what types of songs the artists and producers were looking for and any other happenings on Music Row,” he says. “It was an attempt to build friendships, but also to stay informed.

“At the time, we were all just trying to break into the industry, so most of us didn’t yet have all of the relationships with the major producers or artists to be as effective as we wanted. We found that each person might have stronger connections than others in certain areas. We also found it much easier to book a meeting with a label head, producer or artist if we did so as a group. That person could hear the best couple of songs for a particular artist from each person and knock out 15 companies at once, saving them time. It proved fruitful for all.”

Sony/ATV’s Tom Luteran learned a lot from his peers in the group at the time. “One of the best parts of being involved with a plugger group, especially early in your career is to see how other personalities interact with artists, producers,” he says. “My style tends to be excited, emotional and usually loud. To be able to incorporate other members of the group’s different styles and strengths definitely made me a better plugger and helped me grow as a music professional.”

Warner/Chappell’s Ben Vaughn enjoyed reconnecting with longtime friends. “Having a reunion with the first publishing group I was ever a part of in my early 20s really reinforced how special we all have it living and working in the Music Row community in Nashville,” he says. “There are so many stories of connection that built great music and furthered careers of talent up and down Music Row. And these same special people continue to be friends and colleagues to this day.”

Kelly King of King Pen Music has benefited from her wide network. “Relationships are the key to this industry,” she says. “You have to know music, but you also have to be able to connect with each other. It’s the only way we can make things happen. We have to support each other, challenge each other, and help each other succeed. Everyone has a different area of expertise, and without every specialty present, nothing gets done.”

Hodges agrees, “In the long run, those relationships will serve you well.”


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Sarah Skates has worked in the music business for more than a decade and is a longtime contributor to MusicRow.

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