Janine Appleton has been promoted to Head of WordCountry, the country publishing venture she helped develop from the ground up, four years ago as part of Word Music Publishing. Her previous title was Creative Director.
“Janine is a passionate advocate for each of our writers and works tirelessly to maximize every opportunity,” says Word Entertainment president/CEO Rod Riley. “I am thrilled with what she has accomplished over the last four years since the launch of WordCountry and am excited for her continued partnership with this great roster of writers.”
Since WordCountry launched in 2013, the publishing company has grown to represent writers including Steven Dale Jones, Justin Ebach, Jason Blaine, and Brice Long, as well as more recently signed singer-songwriter Hannah Ellis, who joined in late 2015.
WordCountry’s first official single came in 2015, with “When I’m Gone,” a 100 percent Word published song penned by Jones and Ebach, and recorded by Craig Morgan.
“It was a 100 percenter right out of the gate,” Appleton tells MusicRow. “It showed the creative mojo those two have together.”
WordCountry reached chart-topper status in 2016 with its first No. 1 song, Brett Young’s “Sleep Without You,” co-written by Ebach. Jon Pardi’s “Heartache On the Dance Floor,” co-written by Long, is currently in the Top 5. WordCountry also has writing representation on the current Jordan Davis outing, “Singles You Up,” in addition to cuts on albums from George Strait, Jon Pardi, Josh Turner, Dustin Lynch, Dan & Shay, Love & Theft, Parmalee, Lindsey Ell, Randy Houser, Eric Paslay, Trent Harmon, Russell Dickerson, Danielle Bradbery and more.
Appleton is uniquely qualified for the role at WordCountry. In 2006, she made her foray into the music industry by working for another then-fledgling publishing company, Rusty Gaston’s THiS Music. Appleton met Gaston while spearheading a student songwriting showcase at Belmont University. She interned for THiS Music before officially joining upon her graduation from Belmont in 2007.
“I was lucky enough to get in on the ground level of what is an incredibly successful independent publishing company at THiS Music,” Appleton says. “I got to learn from one of the best publishers in this town. I learned how to take care of writers, pitch songs, manage a writer’s calendar, and everything that you don’t really learn from a class, but that you have to learn just by doing.”
That experience learning to operate, promote, and essentially brand a new publishing company proved invaluable when WordCountry came calling.
“I said the only way this is going to work is if we brand WordCountry as a unique boutique company within the walls of Word Entertainment,” Appleton recalls. “Otherwise it would be confusing to people and they wouldn’t understand what kind of songs are coming out of WordCountry.”
MusicRow spoke with Appleton about the state of the publishing industry, and the increasing role publishers play in developing new artists.
On writing for multiple genres:
If writers are versatile enough to write for multiple genres, why wouldn’t a publisher utilize their talents? For a first time country writer, it can easily take years to have a single that generates income. With the way the business is changing, we as publishers have to get creative. Sync placements, Canadian singles, cuts in other markets, all help us keep a writer on our Roster long enough to have significant success in the country genre. Time is the biggest thing a publisher can give to their writer.
On the expanding role of music publishers:
Publishers are starting to take the role of artist development out of the labels’ hands. Labels simply don’t have the time and resources these days to spend two to three years developing an artist’s writing skills, honing in on their sound, and grooming their live performance.
Using Hannah Ellis as an example, I signed her as a writer, but believed in her artistry from the beginning. Our end goal has always been to find a record label to champion her but we have been getting cuts along the way—Danielle Bradbery, Russell Dickerson, Tim and Faith—while perfecting her sound and live performance.
I am the kind of publisher who acts more like a writer manager than anything. I’ve done everything from watch someone’s child so they could write, to introducing them to bankers who understand our world, to booking shows and writers rounds for exposure. I try to do whatever is necessary to help each of my writers succeed, remain in a good headspace, and able to focus just on being creative.
On investing in songwriters and artists for the long-term:
I’ve been a publisher in town for 11-plus years now, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s just how LONG everything actually takes. Time is the biggest thing you hope you have enough of with your writers enough time for the seeds you planted to come into fruition, for the cuts to turn into singles, for the singles to generate income.
Loyalty and community are two things that make Nashville such a vibrant and unique place for creatives to plant their roots, meet their ‘people’ and create great music. I hope to work with every writer I represent for a long, long time. For a young writer or artist who blows up, you hope that they remember who believed in them first; the co-writers who took a chance on them when no one understood yet, and the publisher who was the believer, risk taker and champion. As a publisher too, you find that in a very similar way, with setting up co-writes, and the early on meetings people take to hear your songs, because you have that music row fire.
- CMA Honors Robert Deaton With Chairman’s Award - December 4, 2020
- Nashville Symphony, Nashville Musicians Association Reach Agreement - December 4, 2020
- Zach Williams’ “Chain Breaker” Is Most-Added On ‘MusicRow’ CountryBreakout Radio Chart - December 4, 2020