My Music Row Story: WME’s Beth Hamilton
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.
Beth Hamilton is a seasoned veteran in the music industry and has been with WME since 2016. In her role as an agent, she manages the daily touring opportunities for multiple artists, including Chris Stapleton, Eric Church, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Brothers Osborne, Ashley McBryde, The Cadillac Three, Caylee Hammack, Caitlyn Smith and others.
Prior to being an agent, Hamilton began her career working at music venues—notably the Lucas Theatre in Savannah, Georgia—before joining the former William Morris Agency as an assistant booking the Northeast territory. In 2008, she transitioned into artist management at Modern Management working with Josh Turner, Sara Evans and Diamond Rio before returning to the agency side of the business in 2016 to work alongside WME Nashville office Co-Head Jay Williams.
Outside of being a respected agent, she actively volunteers her time supporting the Women of Endeavor mentorship program and offering career guidance to young females aspiring to make an impact in the music business.
Hamilton will be honored as part of the current class of MusicRow’s Rising Women on the Row on March 23.
MusicRow: Where did you grow up?
I grew up in northeast Ohio on a 200-acre farm. My grandparents lived next door. My mom still lives in my childhood home.
What were your dreams then?
It was very much a small town life centered around church, family and farming, which was great in a lot of ways. But I always, from the time I was little, wanted to live in a big city. I now appreciate where I came from, but I had dreams outside of my hometown.
Were you musical as a kid?
I liked music and a lot of it was centered around church. When I was 12 or 13, I started playing piano in church. That was my musical start. I went to a few Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant concerts. I listened to a lot of rock music, but did not really get into country until college.
What did you do in college?
I got a degree in psychology, but I didn’t really know what I wanted my path to be. I just knew I wanted to do something different, something fun. I had a couple of friends who were moving to Nashville—some of them were trying to be artists and some of them were on the business side. I thought, “That actually sounds kind of fun. I’m just gonna go on a whim.” So I moved down here without a job and I didn’t really know anyone.
How did you get your start?
I had a couple of temp jobs at first. I had a friend at the Dove Awards, so I worked for them for a couple of months to help with the show. I worked in the office at the Ryman as an assistant and I got to know people at the Ryman. I got a little disillusioned—I thought I would move here and would have this certain level of success really quickly and it was a little bit frustrating. I decided go back to grad school, so I actually went back to Virginia to James Madison University for a year. The second I got there, I thought I made the biggest mistake of my life. [Laughs]
Near the end of my first year, my old boss at the Ryman—Paul Couch—called me and said, “I was just offered a job and took it. I’m going to be the Executive Director of this small performing arts theater in Savannah, Georgia. If you want to come work for me, move here and you can have whatever job you want.” My immediate response was, “Yes, I’m there.”
What was that time like?
It was an old, 1920s movie theater that was turned into a 1,200 seat theater. It had been under this huge restoration project for over 12 years and it was finally going to open. Paul and I were the ones laying the groundwork to get the theater operating. I was very young and very green, but was given a tremendous amount of responsibility. For example, I was just shown a blank space in the lobby and told, “That’s going to be your box office. Figure it out.” I was the Events Manager there, but we were a really small team, so I did a little bit of everything and I loved it.
I was there a couple of years. It was operating as a nonprofit and long story short, they gave it to the Savannah College of Art & Design who brought on their own staff to run it. I loved Savannah so much and I tried to stay there, but I knew returning to Nashville would give me more opportunities to work in music.
What was your next move?
Barry Jeffrey—who works at WME and has been responsible for so many hires—knew I was really interested in this side of the business. I came back to town and started as an assistant at WME, which was the William Morris Agency at the time, and was an assistant there for about three and a half years and got accepted into the agent trainee program.
Paradigm soon offered me an agent job. They were expanding their fair and festival department, so I went over there and was the first female agent in their Nashville office. After about a year, I joined Ted Greene and Modern Management to oversee touring for their clients including Sara Evans, Diamond Rio and Josh Turner. I already had great relationships with them from working with their team on the agency side.
What did you learn from your time in management that you bring into your role as an agent now?
As an agent, you are taking into account so many factors in touring. On the management side, you have a whole set of additional details to consider. You’re looking at budgets and every little expense that goes into being on the road. You are leasing buses, hiring band and crew, and you’re seeing some of the challenges we don’t see as much on this side. I was talking to production managers and tour managers all day long every day, and having to solve problems from that side of things, so coming back here I’ve gained another set of knowledge. I’m certainly not a production or technical expert, but I can talk that language.
What brought you back to WME?
I will say this: from the second I left, my inner circle was either still at the agency or they were people that I had met there. I missed the people and culture. I don’t have regrets because I think things happen the way they should, but I always missed it. Keith Miller—who I worked for here and is my biggest mentor—I was still talking to him multiple times a day. I went to lunch with him at least once a week.
I got a call from Becky Gardenhire and she said, “Hey, I have this idea that I wanna throw out to you and I think you’re going to say no, but I just want you to listen and think about it. Jay Williams is in need of a right-hand person, not just another assistant. With his roster and the amount of responsibility he has, I think that you would be perfect for it and it could be the next step that you’re looking for.” I respect her so much, so I told her I would think on it, but in my mind I was concerned I’d be taking a step back. I decided to go to lunch with Jay and just talk it over. We ended up having a two-hour lunch and I left so excited. It was an amazing opportunity. So I returned to WME to work alongside Jay and then in 2019, I was officially promoted to agent. I still work really closely with him on everything, which has been a great working relationship.
Now, with Jay, you work with Chris Stapleton, Eric Church, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Brothers Osborne, Ashley McBryde and more. What was it like when you first came on?
When I started with Jay, Chris Stapleton‘s big shift was happening where he was becoming an arena and amphitheater headliner. That was really exciting to be a part of. At the time, Brothers Osborne was just in the middle of their first club tour. I’ve been able to have a big hand in their growing success as touring artists. I now also work closely with Ashley McBryde and I’ve seen her grow so much as an artist, and I’m excited to help take her headline touring to the next level.
What’s a day in the life like for you?
It’s a little bit of everything. We’re working with artists on the club and theatre level, all the way up to stadiums and everything in between. I’m constantly on the phone with managers and interacting with other agents in the office. A lot of days it is putting out fires.
As an agent, we cover more than just routing tours. It’s podcasts, television, film, brand partnerships, books and more. We’re having those bigger conversations and figuring out what other paths an artist wants to explore and how we can bring those opportunities to them.
Which part of your job is most fulfilling?
When a tour you’ve been working on for months gets announced, it’s fulfilling to see everything come full circle. Going to live shows is always fulfilling too, especially when I’m surrounded by my colleagues. Everyone contributes to the success of our clients and it’s rewarding to see our hard work come to life. I am also so lucky to work with artists whose talent and music I truly admire.
Who are your mentors?
Keith Miller is by far my biggest mentor. He retired a couple of years ago from WME. I was his assistant when I worked at the William Morris Agency. To be honest, I was a little scared of him at first. [Laughs] But he quickly became one of my closest friends. He is so smart about deals and numbers. He pays attention to the smallest detail and every dollar matters to him. He remains one of my closest confidants to this day and I still go to him for guidance.
Jay Williams is one of the best in the business. He’s genuine. His relationships with his clients are like nothing I have ever seen. He’s friends with them and he knows them well. He knows music. He treats people with a great amount of respect and I feel lucky to be able to work with him every day.
What is some of the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Have thick skin and the best advocate for you is you. Your family, your mentors and your coworkers all care about you, but you still have to advocate for yourself. You know in your gut if something is right or something is wrong. You also can’t assume that someone else knows you have a passion for something.
You will be honored as one of MusicRow‘s Rising Women on the Row tomorrow. What has your experience been like as a woman in the industry?
I will say from the time I first became an agent at Paradigm to now, it’s significantly different. It’s significantly better. There are certainly still challenges, but we have so many more women working here now and in leadership positions. Becky is a Co-Head here in Nashville and Lucy Dickins is the Global Head of Contemporary Music and Touring. I have spent a little time with her and she’s incredibly smart, a great person and a great advocate for women.
We have a mentorship program here where you’re paired with an assistant or a newer hire, and I think that’s really important, especially females supporting other females. You should always look out for the future leaders who are coming up behind you. It’s important to spend time with not only your peers in this industry, but also those aspiring to learn and grow in their careers.