The “My Music Row Story” weekly column features notable members of the Nashville music industry selected by the MusicRow editorial team. These individuals serve in key roles that help advance and promote the success of our industry. This column spotlights the invaluable people that keep the wheels rolling and the music playing.
This edition of “My Music Row Story” is sponsored by Worldwide Stages.
Daniel Miller is Managing Partner of Fusion Music where he and his team guide the careers of Martina McBride, Riley Green, Lily Rose, Cassadee Pope, Laine Hardy, and pop artist Jeffrey James. Miller, who has 20-plus years of management experience, opened Fusion Music in 2013 and aligned with Red Light in 2014. In 2015, he was named to the MTSU College of Media and Entertainment Wall of Fame, and has served as an adjunct professor there.
MusicRow: Where did you grow up? How did you get into the music business?
It’s hard to believe that this August will mark 25 years from when I moved here. I grew up on a small family farm in rural Missouri. My only exposure to the outside world was the local country radio station and the three or four TV channels our antenna would pick up. I was a finance and banking major at the University of Missouri in the early ’90s when I made friends with the owner of the local country nightclub who managed a band out of Nashville. I soon transferred to MTSU for their Recording Industry Management program. On the day I moved, my mom took me to lunch at the old Shoney’s on Demonbreun and said, “I have no idea what you’re about to do, but I know you’ll figure it out.”
Take me through your career journey thus far.
I had only been at MTSU a few weeks when I had the chance to volunteer for the radio remotes at the 1997 CMA Awards. I met Wes Vause, who eventually got tired of me badgering him over email and introduced me to Schatzi Hageman. They ran their independent PR firms out of a shared office space and gave me my first opportunity to learn the business. It’s hard to even remember how we got so much done without Internet access or cell phones back then, but we did.
After graduating from MTSU, I took a position with Simon Renshaw’s management company handling ticketing for the Dixie Chicks 2000 “Fly Tour.” Later that year, I moved over to Borman Entertainment in the middle of the first Tim McGraw and Faith Hill “Soul2Soul Tour,” assisting the great, late Joni Foraker. I spent the next 13 years there working in various support positions. In 2007, Lady A walked in the door and that was my first real shot at being an overzealous day-to-day manager. Gary Borman was a brilliant visionary to learn from.
When did you start your own company?
In the summer of 2013, I was convinced it was time to step out on my own, so I created Fusion Music. It was the wrong time, and I made every mistake imaginable, but no one could have convinced me otherwise. I quickly found out what I knew and mostly what I didn’t. Six months into it, Coran Capshaw extended the opportunity to partner with Red Light Management. His knowledge and intuition are highly underrated and Red Light gave us a place to incubate our business. We still work with them across all our artist projects.
Today our roster includes Martina McBride, Riley Green, Lily Rose, Cassadee Pope, Laine Hardy, and developing pop artist, Jeffrey James. My original business plan had a concept for content development but aside from a couple TV production credits, it didn’t pan out as I had hoped…until now. We recently started consulting on brand direction for The Morning Hangover, and have begun looking at unscripted TV concepts. We’re also about to start construction on a content studio adjacent to our new office in Berry Hill.
We’re not the biggest or flashiest—nor will we ever be—and I’m fiercely protective of our team and the culture we’ve built. Chris Ferren was our first intern eight years ago, and he was recently elevated to VP of Artist & Business Development. He, Nicholas Garvin, Danielle Broome, Dylan McGraw, our co-managers and the extended management team we work with are relentless in finding the best opportunities we can to set our artists up for success.
When did Martina join the roster? How did you two come together?
We met with Martina in the fall of 2015 and I told her, “I know your catalog. I know your career.” Working with an iconic artist was a bucket list dream of mine and over the past six years, we have worked to build upon her incredible catalog and touring history.
You have several artists who are owning their own lane such as Lily Rose and Riley Green. What would you say is the ticket to developing a new artist who is different from your ordinary country artist?
It’s important to me that each of our artists have a unique career path and none are too similar or in direct competition with another. We don’t commit to a client relationship unless we can make a significant difference. The vision is ultimately theirs and we work to surround them with the resources needed to reach their goals. Then we move the goalpost. The secret recipe lies within the artists themselves, whether they know it at first or not.
I don’t think this is unique to us, but we look closely at each artist’s life—from childhood to the present moment—and try to understand their values and what motivates them. The superstar armor comes off at the door and we work as partners to create the most authentic connection between who they are and what they sing about. That’s easier said than done.
Riley Green knows his brand with laser-sharp precision and is a natural-born entertainer. He already had an incredibly passionate team around him when we came on board a few years ago. Our focus has been to show how who he is off stage informs the lyrics in his songs.
WME brought Lily Rose to us. I was not familiar with her music yet and until then had refused to use TikTok or take artists emerging from the platform seriously. She showed me how wrong I was. Her progressive approach challenges us to find a unique cross-section of fans influenced by a completely different generation of music and her fans are unconcerned with the genre confines.
What is something people might not know about what you do?
Philanthropic work is required of the team and expected of our artists. We owe our privilege and success to society whenever possible. The Academy of Country Music gave me an opportunity to serve on their board of directors a few years ago and I quickly learned more about ACM Lifting Lives and the significant impact it makes on our community and countless other benefactors. After witnessing the insurmountable reach of their COVID-19 Response Fund, I was honored to accept a leadership position on Lifting Lives’ board of directors.
When do you feel most fulfilled in your role?
We encourage all our artists to be completely unrealistic with their dreams and then we try our damnedest to bring them to life. Every big “first”—single release, album release, or tour—is uniquely special. Nothing is more magical than standing at front of house for the top of a big show and hearing the thunderous crowd respond to an artist’s entrance onto the stage. That beats any amount of money you could ever earn.
My other passion is mentoring people up. I had the great privilege to be an adjunct professor for a few semesters at MTSU and loved sharing our daily experience with excited young students. After my time is done on Music Row, I hope to bore students with my stories.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Don’t go bankrupt buying your own hype.
Who are some of your mentors?
I was raised by strong, independent women so it’s not surprising that my mentors are also. Schatzi Hageman, Karen Krattinger, JoAnn Burnside, Joni Foraker, Donna Jean Kisshauer, and Sandra Westerman gave me opportunities I didn’t deserve and taught me the business. Ed Hardy, Joe Galante, Clarence Spalding and Paul Worley have been incredible resources over the years.
If you could change anything about the Nashville music industry, what would it be?
We have a songwriting community in Nashville like none other in the world but can’t find a way to properly pay them for their works that fuel the entire industry.
What is one of your favorite experiences in the industry that you will share for the rest of your life?
This job isn’t real life. Most of the world works a whole lot harder for much less money. We have been fortunate enough to have artists tour the world and it is overwhelming when an audience in a foreign country sings back every word of their songs.