Innovation In Music Awards Honors An Industry Adapting To Change

Pictured (L-R) back: John Ettinger, Monica Escobedo, Coran Capshaw, Sally Williams, Pete O’Heeron; (front): John Marks, and Nate Deaton. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Innovation In Music

The IMA’s (Innovation In Music Awards) were held the evening of Sunday, June 3, for the second year at Nashville’s Westin hotel.

Three of the eight honorees sent video remarks with regrets of previous commitments. Among them was Joe Galante, who received the Impact In Innovation Award for his former leadership of Sony Nashville and efforts to boost the notoriety of country music with Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, Alabama and Ronnie Milsap.

“You couldn’t get a conversation with your distribution company to be able to work the product and push it out [because nobody cared],” said Gallante of the early days in Nashville. “I got pissed off and started directing our people to bypass the distribution company—so we had major battles. But it was about controlling your destiny, or someone else will. The term ‘innovation’ for us was really about survival.”

Carried throughout the evening was a common theme of adapting to change—what seemed to spark the innovation achievements that were recognized. Among those were Coran Capshaw.

“I remember putting up flyers, selling tickets pre-internet, putting things on a Greyhound bus to ship them last minute, fax machines, the offers went in by Western Union,” said Capshaw, who accepted Innovator of the Year from his artist and radio personality Bobby Bones. “I feel grateful. At my age, I don’t feel innovative, but it can come in many ways. I believe in building teams, letting everyone play to their strengths and listening to people that have ideas.”

Pictured (L-R): Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley, Spotify’s John Marks, and Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard. Photo: Mickey Bernal/Getty Images for Innovation In Music Awards

Florida Georgia Line was on hand to deliver congrats to Spotify’s John Marks for the Innovation in Music, Digital Media/Marketing award, crediting him entirely for their career when he added them on SiriusXM. The duo played acoustic versions of that first hit, “Cruise” and a love song, recognizing Marks’ love story with wife Colleen, “H.O.L.Y.”

“Was that six years ago?” Marks commented of his first meeting FGL. “It’s exposure, no doubt, but it’s also [FGL’s] hard work. What they did to lay the groundwork in their business and brand before it even got to me is part and parcel to what everyone can learn…It has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with fans.”

Marks thanked Spotify among guests at his table, noting his lesson in the genreless possibilities of programming music and inspiration to teach him the music business.

Set to retire this month as Executive Vice President of Ryman Hospitality Properties and President of Opry Entertainment, Steve Buchanan introduced his friend and co-worker for over twenty years, Opry Entertainment Senior Vice President Programming & Artist Relations/General Manager of the Grand Ole Opry Sally Williams for the Innovation in Music, Executive award.

“Innovation is almost meaningless without execution,” said Buchanan. “[Sally] is diligent, pragmatic and passionate. She doesn’t settle for the status quo. She is an agent for change, and not just change, but to ensure the longevity and prosperity of these great American institutions.”

“My parents have always been very tolerant of my interest in doing things and going places that were different from anything they experienced,” said Williams. “My guiding principal is to ensure what we’re doing today, resonates with people in 50-100 years as strongly as what was happening at the Opry/Ryman 50-100 years ago resonates with us today. It’s essential to evolve and innovate.”

ABC’s Monica Esobedo (L) and artist Kelsea Ballerini (R). Photo: Mickey Bernal/Getty Images for Innovation In Music Awards

New York’s Good Morning America producer Monica Escobedo was honored with the Innovation in Music, Broadcast award by Kelsea Ballerini.

“Music can be so powerful and healing, and I want to continue to find new ways, with all of you, to make a difference,” said Escobedo. “I always follow my gut and I like taking chances. Like the time I took a chance and started booking country artists.

“One of the most rewarding parts of my career is discovering new talent and giving them a chance,” she continued. “Growing with an artist is just as rewarding. We collaborate, challenge each other, bounce ideas off each other and ultimately produce one-of-a-kind TV moments that reflects each artist’s vision.”

Nate Deaton (L) and Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum (R). Photo: Mickey Bernal/Getty Images for Innovation In Music Awards

Innovation in Music, Radio Programming award recipient, Nate Deaton, accepted from Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley for his work as General Manager, KRTY San Jose.

“No one needs our product, it’s old and tired,” said Deaton. “The only chance we have is to win our audience. We win our audience by playing new artists. It’s a lot better to make them fans of you, then they become fans of who you promote. We sell tickets, we sell shows, we sell music—that’s what we do. Some people think we sell advertising. [Radio] can survive and thrive in 2018.”

Kenny Chesney received the Innovation in Music, Creative/Artist award.

Ed Warm, owner of Joes in Chicago received the Innovation in Music, Live Performance.

Previous awards recipient and 2018 Awards Committee person David Macias offered a 10 minute TED Talk-esque guide to his thoughts on the future of the music business, which included autonomous cars.

YEP Nashville’s Andrew Cohen was surprised with the Make Shit Happen Award, along with iHeart Nashville’s Coordinator/Artist Content Jackie Tigue and Charlie Worham’s mother Sherry Worsham, a veteran teacher who works with Project Lead The Way, pushing for arts education.

Lucie Silvas, Striking Matches and Worsham also offered performances.


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Eric T. Parker oversees operations and contributes editorial for MusicRow's print magazine,, 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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