John Marks Exits Spotify

John Marks

John Marks is leaving his position as Global Director of Country Music at Spotify, effective March 31, 2021.

Marks joined Spotify in 2015, as one of only two Nashville Spotify employees covering the country market. While at the company, Marks was instrumental in growing the music streaming platform’s Hot Country brand, championing new artists, and establishing Spotify’s footprint in Nashville. He was an integral figure in building Spotify’s reputation as a global symbol for music consumption and discovery and a driver of country music culture; culminating 6 million followers and 5 billion streams as of 4th Quarter 2020.

Marks spent most of his career in programming and operations in terrestrial radio. He moved to Nashville in 2010 to work at SiriusXM, where he became Head of Country Music Programming. During his 5-year tenure at SiriusXM, he brought The Highway to prominence, helping to bring artists like Florida Georgia Line, Old Dominion, Kelsea Ballerini, Chase Rice, and Russell Dickerson to a national audience.

“It has been a privilege to work at Spotify since the beginning of its Nashville journey,” says Marks. “But I am also excited about what adventures lie ahead. I want to thank Jeremy Erlich, Rachel Whitney, our editorial team and the entire Spotify crew for the work that we have accomplished both in the United States and internationally.”

“When John Marks joined Spotify, he brought a wealth of knowledge and passion for the country genre—and has been an incredible asset to the Nashville team,” says Jeremy Erlich, co-head of Music, Spotify. “John will be truly missed and we wish him well.”

Marks has served on the Board of Directors of the Country Music Association since 2012, and served on the Board of Directors for the Academy of Country Music between 2018 – 2019. He is also the recipient of the 2018 Jo Walker-Meador International Award from the CMA and the 2018 International Services to the Industry Award from the British Country Music Association. Marks can be reached at

Rachel Whitney, who joined Spotify over a year ago as Head of Editorial for Nashville, is leading the team that covers all things country, Christian, gospel, folk, Americana and roots music. Whitney has over 15 years of experience in Nashville working at music companies such as Pandora and Youtube, where she led country music programming.

Scotty McCreery Signs With Universal Music Publishing Nashville

Pictured (L-R:) Scott Stem (Triple 8 Management), George Couri (Triple 8 Management), Terry Wakefield (UMPG), Scotty McCreery, Troy Tomlinson (UMPG). Photo: Danielle Del Valle

Scotty McCreery has signed an exclusive, worldwide publishing agreement with Universal Music Publishing Nashville.

McCreery won the American Idol competition 10 years ago, and since then has become an award-winning country artist with many accolades under his belt. He’s a three-time BMI Award winner as the writer of one of the top 50 country songs of the year in 2015 for “See You Tonight,” in 2018 for “Five More Minutes,” and in 2019 for “This is It,” as well as winner of the NSAI Songwriter Award for One of the Top Ten Songs I Wish I’d Written for “Five More Minutes” in 2018. The multi-Platinum selling singer-songwriter co-wrote all 11 songs on his most recent album, the RIAA Gold-certified Seasons Change, including his three consecutive No. 1 hits: “Five More Minutes,” “See You Tonight,” and “In Between.” McCreery is also a co-writer of his current single “You Time.”

“We all watched as Scotty came onto the scene as a high school athlete who simply loved to sing and entertain,” says Terry Wakefield, Senior Vice President of A&R, UMPG Nashville. “He has now grown into one of country music’s most consistent hit makers. We are thrilled to represent him and his songs.”

“Writing songs is one of my favorite things to do,” says McCreery. “I’ve written nearly all my life, and since coming to Nashville ten years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to co-write with many talented songwriters in town who have both taught and encouraged me. Signing with Universal Music Publishing and working with Troy Tomlinson, Terry Wakefield, and all the great folks on their team is another big step in my songwriting journey. I am proud to call Universal Music Publishing my home.”

McCreery is currently writing and recording the anticipated follow-up to his acclaimed Seasons Change, with “You Time” as the lead single. Written by McCreery, Frank Rogers and Aaron Eshuis, and produced by Rogers, Eshuis and Derek Wells, the track has garnered nearly 11 million streams since its release and is steadily climbing up the country charts.

McCreery is represented by Triple 8 Management’s George Couri and Scott Stem for management, as well as WME’s Nate Towne for booking.

FGL’s Brian Kelley Partners With Warner Music Nashville For Solo Music

Brian Kelley. Photo: Ben Christensen

Florida Georgia Line‘s Brian Kelley has announced a new partnership with Warner Music Nashville. The label will represent Kelley’s solo music venture, Nashville South Records, Inc.

The news comes months after the ACM nominated duo announced on social media that they will be releasing their own music as individuals.

“I couldn’t be more grateful for everyone who has helped me on my journey to get here. I’m humbled to team up with Warner Music Nashville to take the music I’ve been dreamin’ and schemin’ up to the next level,” says Kelley. “This is just the beginning of a whole new adventure. My vision for what’s next is a vibe and state of mind—get ready to ride the wave with ya Beach Cowboy, y’all!”

Kelley teased new music on his Instagram yesterday (March 30).


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A post shared by Brian Kelley (@briankelley)

“We are honored that Brian Kelley chose WMN as home to his solo endeavors,” says Warner Music Nashville EVP A&R Cris Lacy. “I’ve been an FGL believer from day one, and BK’s clear vision for himself and his upcoming project is a testament to his heart, soul, and talent. His new music is the perfect antidote to 2020, and what an incredible way to start 2021!”

Kelley is represented by Full Stop Management (Irving Azoff, Jeffrey Azoff) in partnership with WHY&HOW (Bruce Kalmick, Eddie Kloesel).

Blake Shelton Announces New Album ‘Body Language’

Blake Shelton is planning the release of his first full-length album since 2017, with Body Language due out May 21 via longtime label home Warner Music Nashville. Among the project’s 12 tracks are the No. 1 duet “Happy Anywhere” (featuring fiancée Gwen Stefani) and current hit “Minimum Wage.”

“We’ve been working on this album on and off for two years now, and I’m very proud of what we have put together,” said Shelton. “We certainly had some unique challenges with the pandemic, but we also had a lot of fun. We explored new sounds while making sure to get in some classic country. I’m also thrilled to have my buddies The Swon Brothers featured on the title track as both co-writers and vocalists. Can’t wait for y’all to hear it!”

Over the course of his career Shelton has released 11 acclaimed albums, the last four of which have debuted at No. 1 on the country charts. Since 2002, these records have spawned an almost unparalleled 28 chart-topping singles. The superstar has notched more than five billion on-demand streams, and 11 million career album sales in the U.S.

Shelton’s successful career dates back to his No. 1 debut single, “Austin.” April 16, 2021 will mark the 20th anniversary of the day he released the song and he’s commemorating the occasion with a limited edition 7″ vinyl on his website featuring “Austin” on the A-side and “Problems At Home” on the B-side, just like the original single.

Body Language Track Listing
1.    Minimum Wage (Nicolle Galyon, Jesse Frasure, Corey Crowder)
2.    Body Language (feat. The Swon Brothers) (Colton Swon, Zach Swon, Matt McGinn, Ryan Beaver)
3.    Happy Anywhere (feat. Gwen Stefani) (Ross Copperman, Josh Osborne, Matt Jenkins)
4.    Now I Don’t (Jessi Alexander, Alysa Vanderheym, Michael Hardy)
5.    Monday Mornin’ Missin’ You (Jessi Alexander, Deric Ruttan, Josh Thompson)
6.    Corn (Craig Wiseman, Matt Dragstrem, Chris Tompkins, Rodney Clawson)
7.    Makin’ It Up As You Go (Brad Tursi, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne)
8.    Whatcha Doin’ Tomorrow (Dallas Davidson, Kyle Fishman, Casey Beathard)
9.    The Girl Can’t Help It (Ben Hayslip, Josh Osborne, Mark Holman)
10.  The Flow (Shane McAnally, Ross Copperman, Josh Osborne)
11.  Neon Time (Jaron Boyer, Michael Tyler, Ben West)
12.  Bible Verses (Joe Fox, Andrew Peebles, Brett Sheroky)

The Mechanical Licensing Collective Expands Leadership Team By Three

Kristen Johns, Nathan Osher, Andrew Mitchell

The Mechanical Licensing Collective has added three new members to its leadership team. Kristen Johns has joined the organization as Chief Legal Officer, Nathan Osher has been named Assistant General Counsel—Publisher Relations, and Andrew Mitchell has joined the team as Head of Analytics and Automation. All three joined the MLC earlier this month and will be based in Nashville.

“I am thrilled to welcome Kristen, Nathan and Andrew to The MLC’s growing team,” said Kris Ahrend, The MLC’s CEO. “Each of them possesses many years of experience in their respective areas of expertise, which will enable them to begin contributing immediately to the important work we are doing. All three are fully committed to serving our members and fulfilling our important mission to ensure that our members are paid properly.”

Johns will lead the organization’s strategic legal affairs, manage the statutory blanket licensing process for digital service providers, and oversee compliance with statutory obligations. An experienced intellectual property and technology lawyer, she comes to The MLC from Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP in Nashville, where she was a partner. During her tenure at Waller, she advised clients on a variety of IP-related issues, including data security, privacy laws, and emerging technologies. She also helped found and lead Tokenize Tennessee, a Nashville-based organization dedicated to the development of blockchain-based businesses in Tennessee. Prior to joining Waller, Johns served as General Counsel for a technology start-up and in-house Counsel for a healthcare IT company. She holds a J.D. from the Saint Louis University School of Law and a B.S. in Engineering Science from Vanderbilt University.

Osher will serve as The MLC’s primary in-house expert on publishing and copyright issues, and will also oversee the management and resolution of claims and litigation-related matters. An entertainment attorney and executive for more than 20 years, Osher has extensive experience in music publishing, and he has counseled clients on a variety of matters related to intellectual property rights, contracts, licensing and litigation. He most recently served as Senior Vice President of Legal & Business Affairs for Warner Chappell Music, Inc., and was previously the General Counsel and Vice President of Business Affairs at Wixen Music Publishing, Inc. Osher holds a J.D. from the University of West Los Angeles and earned a B.A. in Political Science from Loyola Marymount University.

In his new position Mitchell will lead The MLC’s analytics and automation activities, oversee the design and implementation of business intelligence reporting for The MLC’s internal teams, and develop strategies and tools for analyzing the usage reporting data from DSPs. He will also manage The MLC’s manual sound recording and musical works matching processes. Mitchell has more than 15 years of experience in operations, analytics, business intelligence, automation, process improvement, lean six sigma and global business transformation. He comes to The MLC from Warner Music Group, where he was the Vice President of Analytics & Process Automation, and previously spent a decade working in financial planning and analysis for Ingram Content Group. Mitchell graduated from Miami University (Ohio) with a B.S. in Business and holds an M.B.A. from Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, where he graduated at the top of his class.

Sony Music Publishing Nashville Renews Deal With Tom Douglas [Exclusive]

Tom Douglas. Photo: Courtesy Sony Music Publishing

Sony Music Publishing Nashville has renewed its worldwide deal with legendary, award-winning country songwriter Tom Douglas.

The lauded songwriter, known for crafting No. 1 songs for artists including Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood, Lady A, Miranda Lambert, George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, and more, has been a mainstay on country radio for the past three decades. He is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and he has been honored with an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, Grammy nominations, and more.

Douglas launched his songwriting career in his late thirties with his first cut in 1994 entitled “Little Rock” performed by Collin Raye, which reached No. 1 in country charts. Since then, Douglas has written classic modern country hits including “Grown Men Don’t Cry,” “Southern Voice,” “My Little Girl” and “Meanwhile Back At Mama’s” by Tim McGraw; “God’s Will” by Martina McBride; “I Run To You” and “Hello World” by Lady A; ACM Song of the Decade “The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert; “Raise ‘Em Up” by Keith Urban and Eric Church, and many more.

“The most exciting thing about all Tom has accomplished is that there are so many more successes in front of him. Opportunities for Tom transcend the genre, and even go beyond music,” Sony Music Publishing Nashville CEO Rusty Gaston tells MusicRow.

“I am as excited about the next song that I’m going to write as I ever have been. I love the creative process, I love the gift of creativity. There’s just so much to write about and to explore, the world is ever changing and I like to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the culture and let those events infuse my songs,” Douglas says.

Douglas has been a career songwriter at Sony Music Publishing, never having signed anywhere else. He was signed by the late Donna Hilley in 1993.

“It’s the only publisher I’ve ever had and I’ve been really delighted to be there,” Douglas says. “There have been many regime changes, people have come and people have gone, but every time somebody has moved on to another opportunity, another great creative collaborator has come along and picked up where the other person left off, and a lot of cases elevated it to a new level.”

Gaston says, “Simply put, Tom is awe-inspiring. He speaks and creates from a level of vulnerability that is hard to come by, and it’s what makes his music so special.”

Carrie Underwood Deepens Her Musical Legacy With ‘My Savior’ [Interview]

Carrie Underwood. Photo: Joseph Llanes

Country music mainstay Carrie Underwood goes back to her musical and spiritual roots on her album of gospel hymns, My Savior, that released today (March 26).

The hymns honor the sacred music Underwood grew up singing in her rural Oklahoma church, and her incomparable voice and the diverse arrangements bring the collection to present day. My Savior follows her first-ever Christmas album, 2020’s chart-topping My Gift, which partly inspired the project.

Traditional gospel hymns like “How Great Thou Art,” “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” “Blessed Assurance” and “Amazing Grace” are among the 13-tracks, co-produced and arranged by Underwood and David Garcia (Cry Pretty).

When it came to picking which hymns to record, Underwood says it was no easy task.

“We had a big list,” she says. “I definitely had my pillars, like ‘How Great Thou Art,’ I wanted to have a proper studio recording of that, and ‘Softly And Tenderly’ and ‘Just As I Am.’

“We tried to go about it having some of my absolute favorites, but we also wanted to make it a musical journey as you would an album. We wanted to have places to go and have a little bit of tempo and things that we could do differently as far as instrumentation to give enough variety. So it was tough, but I’m very happy with the ones we ended up recording.”

The hymns are carefully arranged, adding elements of classic country, church music, folk, and bluegrass. “Amazing Grace” is translated as a sing-along campfire song, featuring harmonies from Underwood’s family and friends. “Victory In Jesus” is colored with a bluesy swagger, “Because He Lives” moves like folk-pop. The ethereal production of “Nothing But The Blood Of Jesus,” is perhaps the most contemporary sounding, while songs like “Blessed Assurance” and the outstanding “How Great Thou Art” don’t waver much from the traditional versions.

“Initially I wanted everything to be very traditional and standard, the way that it was rolling around in my head from when I was a child and growing up, but then once we got into it, we did want to explore a little bit,” Underwood says.

“We wanted to keep the heart that was behind them, but we wanted to try to—I don’t want to say modernize—but we just wanted to give a fresh take on some of them. A lot of these songs, there’s no chorus. It’s verse after verse after verse, there’s like eight verses and no chorus. So we tried to play just a little bit and push some boundaries to try to create a chorus with some ‘oohs’ or something like that. We tried to decide what the song wanted to do, and follow that.”

Carrie Underwood and David Garcia. Photo: Jeff Johnson

One of the two collaborations on My Savior, “Nothing But The Blood Of Jesus,” features the harmonies of NEEDTOBREATHE’s frontman, Bear Rinehart.

“That was one that when we were sitting down trying to figure out what that song wanted to do, David would just pick up a guitar, I start singing, we were both fiddling around on the piano just trying to figure out what [the songs] wanted. We sped it up, we wanted it to move and [Bear’s] was a voice that felt like it was easy to hear on it. Before we even asked him to be a part of it, we were like, ‘Wow, his voice would be really cool.’ I’m a fan of NEEDTOBREATHE and he has such a unique, very cool voice.”

The most-awarded female gospel artist of all time, CeCe Winans, joins Underwood on “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” In a recent interview with MusicRow, Winans talked about the collaboration, and how she asked Underwood if she was prepared to release such a powerful project.

Underwood feels that the process has touched her. “Going into this, we just wanted to do right by the songs. I mean this is a bucket list album for me, this is something that I’ve always wanted to do. It means a lot to me, so I wanted to have this recorded, just for me and for my heart. I definitely hope that other people listen to it and hear that,” she says. “If one person listens to it and feels a closer connection with their creator, I think that it was worth it. I know I did when making this project.”

Underwood will be bringing these powerful songs to life with a virtual live concert performance from the Ryman Auditorium at 11 a.m. CST on Easter Sunday (April 4). The event will stream live globally on her Facebook page, and will benefit Save the Children. Southern gospel and harmonica legend Buddy Greene and 10-time CMA Musician of the Year Mac McAnally, both of whom played on the album, will also appear with Underwood.

The global superstar is excited to have an opportunity to sing these special songs live.

“The live stream that we’re doing on Easter will help to fill that void. Normally I would have an album out and I would get to go sing these songs somewhere. It was like, ‘Man, you don’t want it to just come out and you never get to sing them.’ It feels good to sing them and I’m glad that’s happening.”

Fans can RSVP for My Savior: Live From The Ryman via Facebook here. It will remain exclusively on Facebook for 48 hours.

Tim McGraw And Tyler Hubbard Earn MusicRow No. 1

Tim McGraw’s collab with Tyler Hubbard, “Undivided,” rises to No. 1 in just 11 weeks on the MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart. Hubbard co-wrote the single with Chris Loocke, and co-produced it with McGraw, Corey Crowder and Byron Gallimore. The inspiration for the song came out of Hubbard’s time spent soul searching on his bus while waiting out a positive COVID-19 quarantine.

“Undivided” will be included on the deluxe version of McGraw’s No. 1 album Here On Earth, due out later this spring on Big Machine Records.

The music video features behind the scenes footage of the two in the studio and has amassed over 1.8 million views.

Click here or above to view the latest edition of The MusicRow Weekly.

BBR Music Group Signs Byron Kennedy To Brand New Comedy Record Deal

Pictured (L-R:) Neal Spielberg, Spielberg Entertainment; Peter Strickland, Marathon Talent Agency; Byron Kennedy; Jon Loba, President, Recorded Music, BMG Nashville; JoJamie Hahr, SVP, BBR Music Group Not Pictured – Daniel Novick, Novick Law PLLC. Photo: Cody Heckber

Comedian Byron Kennedy has signed with BBR Music Group.

With the signing Kennedy finds himself among a familiar artist roster, since he was a recent executive at the label group. Formerly the VP of Promotion for Stoney Creek Records, an imprint of BBR Music Group, Kennedy comes from years of radio/music industry experience. Doing comedy on the side as often as he could, Kennedy was eventually encouraged to follow his true dream in the entertainment business: comedy. The trajectory of his comedy career took him from open mic nights to featuring, performing in Las Vegas, and beyond. The explanation for his fast start is exceedingly simple: he hated sitting in meetings.

Quickly switching gears from working to help build artist careers to now building his own as an artist, Kennedy kicked off an ongoing residency at the LA Comedy Club in the newly renovated STRAT Hotel, Casino and Sky Pod in Las Vegas on March 21. He’s planning a stop in Nashville in mid-July as he tours comedy clubs across North America.

“Byron Kennedy is one of the funniest people I have ever met,” says Jon Loba, President of Recorded Music at BMG Nashville. “Having worked with Jeff Foxworthy and Bill Engvall among others, that says a lot. While he was a very capable label and radio executive, I always encourage our staff to follow their passions. Comedy has always clearly been his. We are so excited to join him in that journey and look forward to helping the world laugh at and with Byron, just as anyone who personally knows him has.”

“What is this life!?! The first time I signed a contract with BBR Music Group it was to promote their artists, the second time I signed a contract with BBRMG it was to BE one of their artists! THIS IS NUTS! I’d like to thank Jon Loba for his belief in me,” says Kennedy. “This is a dream come true and I don’t think anything I say here could possibly capture how grateful I truly am. We have all been through some crazy times the last 12 months and we need to laugh now more than ever. Getting to bring joy and laughter to people every week is such a blessing and BBR Music Group is now going to help me do that on a much larger scale! I hope we can all laugh together soon!”

Kennedy is managed by Neal Spielberg of Spielberg Entertainment and Peter Strickland of Marathon Talent Agency, who together helped launch the careers of Jeff Foxworthy and Bill Engvall. Daniel Novick of Novick Law PLLC serves as Kennedy’s attorney.

Iconic Music Industry Leader Connie Bradley Dies

Connie Bradley

Iconic industry leader Connie Bradley, who spent more than three decades with ASCAP, passed away Wednesday morning (March 24) in Ft. Myers, Florida.

Bradley joined ASCAP in 1976, and rose to Senior Vice President and Nashville Head. Under her leadership, ASCAP signed and supported the careers of Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley, Garth Brooks, Rodney Crowell, Billy Currington, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Brad Paisley, Kellie Pickler, Rascal Flatts, John Rich, George Strait, Trisha Yearwood and Chris Young, among many. She led the ASCAP Nashville office until 2010, when she stepped back to take the role of strategic advisor.

Bradley was born Connie Darnell in Fayetteville, Tennessee on October 1, 1945. She grew up in Shelbyville, Tennessee, studied at Middle Tennessee State University, and worked at News Channel 5 and in the mortgage industry before starting her career in the music industry. She spent time at Famous Music/Dot Records, the Bill Hudson & Associates public relations firm, and RCA Records before joining ASCAP.

Bradley was among a handful of pioneering women in the Nashville music industry that also included Jo Walker-Meador, Donna Hilley, Frances Preston, and more.

Connie Bradley with husband Jerry Bradley at his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2019. Photo: Donn Jones/CMA

The Music Row stalwart was honored many times for her legacy and contributions to the music industry. Bradley was awarded the Nashville Symphony’s highest honor, the Harmony Award, in 2006. She was inducted into the SOURCE Hall of Fame in 2012.

The main conference room at ASCAP’s Nashville office was named the Connie Bradley Board Room in 2010.

She received the Country Music Association’s Irving Waugh Award of Excellence in 2018. Bradley served on the CMA Board of Directors from 1983 to 2012, having been elected both President and Chairperson.

(L-R) Connie and Jerry Bradley with Harold and Patsy Bradley at the Owen Bradley statue on Music Row. Photo: Courtesy of Jerry Bradley

Bradley is survived by her husband, renowned music executive Jerry Bradley, and step-children, Leigh Jankiv and BMI’s Clay Bradley.

Plans for memorial services have not been announced at this time.

“As head of ASCAP’s Nashville office for more than three decades, Connie Bradley was a mentor to so many of country music’s greatest songwriters and an indelible part of ASCAP’s history. She was a maverick leader in country music with an enormous heart who passionately advocated for the songwriters she loved so much. ASCAP and country music lost an iconic leader today. Our hearts go out to her family and the large community of songwriters who loved her,” says ASCAP Chairman and President, and songwriter Paul Williams of Bradley’s passing.

“I am so saddened to hear the news of Connie’s passing. She was one of the many trailblazers, along with Frances Preston and Jo Walker Meador, for women in the Nashville music business. Her passion for artists, songs and the Country Music industry as a whole paved the way for so many. Personally, I will miss her class, her stories and her humor. I am heartbroken for Jerry, and offer my deepest condolences to him and their family during this time,” says Sarah Trahern, Country Music Association CEO.