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.
As SVP of Business Development at Wasserman Music, Chappel McCollister is devoted to leveraging synergies between the company’s music, sports, film, marketing and social media divisions to build unique, high-profile and profitable campaigns for clients.
Prior to joining Wasserman, McCollister spent five years spent running Taylor Swift’s tour partnerships, during which he represented brands such as Covergirl, Keds, Diet Coke and Elizabeth Arden. He also executive produced Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s documentary Tim & Faith: Soul2Soul and sold it to Showtime, where it aired in 2017. In addition, he activated Covergirl’s partnership with the NFL for an innovative 2011 campaign involving pop-up nail salons to provide team-themed manicures in stadium parking lots.
More recently, McCollister collaborated with Kacey Musgraves early in the pandemic on a candle line with Boy Smells, which has sold more than 100,000 units and earned the Candle of the Year award for 2021 from the Fragrance Foundation. In addition, he negotiated George Strait‘s H-E-B Super Bowl commercial, LeAnn Rimes‘ partnership with Novartis and brokered CAAMP‘s “See the World” sync for the TV and digital campaign Ohio.
MusicRow: Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Montgomery, Alabama. I was there until I was a sophomore in high school. Then I moved to Birmingham and finished out high school there.
Were you into music as a kid?
I wasn’t musical at all. I was a runner. I ran track and ultimately went to college for track. I went to UNC Charlotte and ran freshman year at UNCC. The only music I absorbed was whatever my brothers were introducing me to.
What was college like?
Freshman year I ran for UNCC and then I decided that my running career was over and decided to transfer to Auburn University. At Auburn, I took up rowing. I rowed on their crew team for three years. In addition to that, I started working with the Auburn University Programming Council. I started focusing on booking university-funded entertainment, specifically their music. I booked two big shows a year, one per semester. I eventually ran that department. That’s where I fell in love with music and the music industry.
In the summers, I would go back to Birmingham and intern. I did a free internship for a little club called Work Play in Birmingham. I was a local stage hand for them at night to make a little extra money. In the summer, I worked for a music festival in Birmingham that no longer exists called Birmingham City Stages. With the university side of things, I learned about the booking side; I learned a little bit more of the production elements being a stage hand at Work Play, and then I learned even more doing production work for the festival.
What an education! Were there any shows you booked during college that affirmed that you wanted to pursue a career in the music industry?
We were fortunate at Auburn that we had a pretty deep budget, certainly for 12 years ago. I had to alternate the genre every semester. Auburn is an agriculture and engineer school—so I couldn’t neglect country. At the same time, when I was in college, rap and hip-hop was super big so I had to make sure I facilitated that genre. We also had some rock fans, so it was a bunch of different stuff. The show I was probably the most excited about was when I had Ben Harper play with Citizen Cope. I also had O.A.R. play, which was a huge college band at the time. My hip-hop show was Soulja Boy opening for Akon. That was a really fun one. I did a rock show that was Live and Collective Soul.
It gave me the bug. I’ve never been an agent, nor wanted to be an agent necessarily, but being on the booking side gave me the bug for the industry.
What did you do after graduation?
I graduated in the summer of 2009, which was pretty deep into the recession, so there weren’t a lot of “dream jobs” that you think you’re going to get. I was fortunate enough to get a contractor position with a company based in Detroit that had just opened a Nashville office called George P. Johnson. They were an experiential marketing company that focused on auto shows, but they were starting to get into other elements of experiential marketing. They had just sold this tour sponsorship for an insurance brand named Country Financial Insurance. They were sponsoring two separate tours, Jason Aldean and Jewel. They needed somebody to go out on the road to help fulfill all those elements that had been agreed upon. They needed someone that would work hard for like 18 hours a day and be grateful for the opportunity, so I did that as a contractor for George P. Johnson for a year. I went out on the road with Jason and Jewel and enjoyed that, but realized that I didn’t necessarily want to be on the road full time. I was fortunate enough to get a full-time job with GPJ, managing those tours from the office and going out occasionally.
Later, three or four of us spun that group off into a side agency called G7 Entertainment Marketing. For the next five or six years, I ran our tour sponsorship division. I helped pitch, sell and manage those tour sponsorships.
What was next?
[My nearly 7 years at] G7 were great for me. I was helping advise brands on how to spend their money in live music. Tour sponsorships started shifting, money was shifting, and [brands became] very much focused on content opportunities. I had been on the brand side of the coin and I was interested in being on the artist’s side. I felt like I would have a more holistic view of what an artist was working on. There weren’t a lot of people on the artist side who had previously been on the brand side, so not a lot of people had that perspective. I felt like there was value there and I looked for the right opportunity. I also wanted to expand outside tour sponsorships; I wanted to touch other aspects of an artist’s career.
I was fortunate enough to connect with Jason Owen and his team at Sandbox. At Sandbox, I was able to focus on endorsement, licensing opportunities, and VIP opportunities. I packaged and sold the Tim & Faith: Soul2Soul documentary and helped launch Little Big Town‘s wine brand, along with Jason and the team. My time at Sandbox helped expand my horizons as to what was possible, and ultimately grow my skill sets.
Next you joined Paradigm, which became Wasserman in 2021. How did you get there?
Paradigm was looking for someone to help grow some non-touring opportunities for the roster, specifically in Nashville. Most of the Nashville office were agents or agent support teams, so there weren’t a lot of people that were focusing on things outside of touring or performance-based opportunities. I came over and, at the time, the only artist that Sandbox and Paradigm shared was Kacey Musgraves and the Johnny Cash Estate. I was lucky that I got to continue to work with them [when I went to Paradigm].
Early in my time at Paradigm, I was focused on trying to get some wins on the board and provide value for our artists in the brand space. That has grown into licensing and I do some sync work. My job at Wasserman is solely focused on growing the country and Americana genre for the roster and bringing opportunities for that roster that may live outside of traditional touring.
Your role is unique at an agency. Did you feel a lot of pressure during the pandemic to find other ways for artists to make a living?
Absolutely. I have a colleague here that works with me and the two of us were some of the only people that could produce revenue during the heat of the pandemic. The pressure to bring opportunities and to retain clients was really high. I’m very glad that we’re out of that. The pressure is always high in the agency world based on the competitors, but it was just a very different environment.
During normal times, when do you feel most fulfilled in what you do?
I think there sometimes is a misconception that, in some of these partnerships, there’s a winner and a loser. At the end of the day, I wear the artist jersey and I always will. So I feel the best when the artist is happy [with a partnership]. But for the sake of a partnership, assuming everyone is playing by the rules, I think there’s a lot of opportunity to have both parties feel really good. When both parties feel good about a launch, a partnership or a collaboration, that’s when I feel the best. But like I said, at the end of the day, my sole job is to represent the artist and make sure that they feel heard and represented appropriately.
Have you had any mentors along the way that have been important to you?
When I joined Jason and his team at Sandbox, it really opened my world as to artist representation and what that meant. The way that Jason thinks outside of the traditional model of artist representation is, to this day, something that I think is unparalleled. I feel really fortunate to have had that time with him and I still work very closely with him.
Louis Messina has been a friend and a mentor for me for over 10 years. My wife works with Louis, but he’s been kind enough to give me some time over the years. I have an immense amount of respect for what he’s built, how he’s built it, and how he’s evolved over his career. This year is his 50th year in the industry. How he’s been able to evolve as a promoter and as a leader in the industry over five decades is pretty amazing.
What have been some moments in your career that you’ll always remember?
Touring internationally was an amazing experience. I got to do that with a couple of Taylor Swift tours as well as U2. Those were really big moments. At Wasserman, we just launched this full Blake Shelton/Lands End lifestyle collaboration that involves apparel, pet and home. It was almost two years in the works. It takes a long time and it’s a really cool feeling to get it out there into the world. That has been a moment we’ve been really excited about as well.
What does success mean to you?
It’s cheesy to say, but I haven’t dreaded going to work in probably 10 years. I’m excited to get in the office and see what the day brings. There’s definitely days that are tough and annoying that will wear on you, but as a whole, I get excited to come into the office. I really enjoy what I do. If you don’t, it’s worth taking a look at making a change.
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