LEADERSHIP: A Conversation 30 Years In The Making With Jim Ed Norman, Tony Brown, And Joe Galante

Pictured (L-R): Jim Ed Norman, Tony Brown, Joe Galante. Photo: Haley Crow / MusicRow

Founded 30 years ago, Leadership Music has become a mark of excellence in the Nashville music industry. When respected label head and producer Jim Ed Norman found himself inspired by Leadership Nashville, a broad spectrum program for leaders started by Nelson C. Andrews and C. Brent Poulton in 1976, he brought the concept to the figureheads of the Nashville music business community. At a small luncheon in the old Warner Bros. building, Norman proposed a similar program focused on communication and education within the Nashville music industry. The group agreed, resulting in the birth of Leadership Music in 1989.

The founding council for Leadership Music was made up of 12 power players from Nashville’s music industry, including Norman, Rick Blackburn, Tony Brown, Tom Collins, Bill Denny, Joe Galante, Bruce Hinton, Dale Franklin, Bill Ivey, Joe Moscheo, Tandy Rice and Roger Sovine.

Norman, Galante and Brown recently visited the MusicRow offices to discuss the establishment of Leadership Music 30 years ago, as well as its importance to the Nashville music industry with MusicRow‘s Owner/Publisher Sherod Robertson. The article appeared in MusicRow‘s 2019 InCharge, a directory of 388 key decision-making professionals within the Nashville entertainment community.

Leadership Music’s Founding Council with Leadership Nashville founder, Nelson Andrews. Pictured (L-R): Bruce Hinton, Joe Moscheo, Rick Blackburn, Tony Brown, Bill Ivey, Dale Franklin, Jim Ed Norman, Joe Galante, Nelson Andrews, Bill Denny, Roger Sovine, and Tom Collins. Not pictured is Founding Council member Tandy Rice.

“We had a framework because of Leadership Nashville,” said founding council member and renowned music industry executive Joe Galante. “That was such a great program for us to follow. What Leadership Nashville does is cover the city–an even more daunting challenge than what we were about to do. This is probably the only town you could pull this off in. This is not, in my mind, an exportable model, not only because of the dedication of the founding council, but of everybody that came after.”

The goal was clear from the start: inspire camaraderie amongst the companies within the Nashville entertainment industry, provide an education of various roles, and improve communication up and down Music Row. The council went to work on creating program days and activities that would benefit the first class of attendees. “We had many new people moving to town. Some people had been friends for a long time, but there were a lot of new people coming in. Leadership Nashville had been such a great catalyst for bringing people together of diverse opinions and points of view,” said Norman.

Galante added, “You would think after all these years, we would know more about each other’s jobs, and that’s what Leadership Music does. Not only does it give you the ‘Rolodex’ and the introductions to people, but it gives you the knowledge that you didn’t have before. That was Nelson’s vision for Leadership Nashville. Jim Ed took up the challenge and then we all rallied around him. I actually think it’s helped strengthen the town.”

Pictured (L-R): Owen Bradley, Chet Atkins, and Scott Hendricks.

Creating significant change was crucial to the mission of Leadership Nashville, as well as Leadership Music. Norman recalled, “At the end of each year at the Leadership Nashville graduation, Nelson Andrews would say, ‘Okay. You’ve had this amazing experience. You’ve gotten a chance to meet people from different facets of the community. You see how it operates and works, and you’ve been inspired, hopefully, by all of that. What are you going to do with it?’”

When Leadership Music started, the music industry as a whole looked very different. Vinyl was on its way out, country music was fighting for its own charts and although artists and songwriters were making money, the genre had not gained universal acceptance or recognition outside of Nashville. This was about to change. The offices up and down Music Row, that were reporting to their parent companies in New York or L.A., were about to be heard.

“We were an island to ourselves to a large degree,” Galante said. “The reality was that it was a real investment in education for the executives in this town, which I think only strengthened us. We did have people here that were tied in, but this really strengthened that process to bring speakers in from a broad standpoint. We still were considered backwoods by most people. Maybe once or twice a year, you got a New York executive here but they didn’t come on a regular basis, and they couldn’t wait to get the hell out of dodge. When Country Soundscan happens, all of a sudden everybody goes, ‘Hell, you guys are actually selling music down there. When did that start happening!?’ But prior to that we were fighting on a continual basis to get the support, to get the charts to recognize us. All that stuff didn’t happen by itself. I think people forget, to a large degree, when we all started working together, this was largely a regional format.”

Leadership Music not only seeks to identify problems in the music industry, it addresses them and looks for solutions. “It was a male-dominated industry,” Norman said of the time Leadership Nashville was started. “All the stuff that you go through to make sure the class, in any given year, represents not only the particular disciplines, but all the other things that we’re trying to work on in our society and our culture, give the class the chance of becoming a microcosm of America.”

Leadership Music is celebrating its historic 30th year, with alumni totaling more than 1,200, including nearly four dozen current and former heads of record labels; executive directors of the CMA, GMA, CRB, CMF, Folk Alliance, Americana Music Association, International Bluegrass Music Association, International Entertainment Buyers Association and NSAI; executives from The Recording Academy, the National Endowment for the Arts, RIAA, the First Amendment Center, Nashville Symphony, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, MusicRow, SoundExchange, CMT, GAC; the Country Music Hall of Fame; Microsoft; Samsung, Twitter, Amazon, YouTube, Pandora, two Nashville Mayors, a U.S. Congressman, a past editor of USA Today; deans of three universities, attorneys, accountants, publishers, publicists, journalists, booking agents, artist managers, artists, songwriters, radio executives, entrepreneurs, record producers and engineers, video producers, musicians and bankers.

Getting into Leadership Music was no easy task. Candidates were already established leaders in their varied professions in the music industry, and getting selected was sought after, as Leadership Music quickly became a symbol of status and accomplishment.

“This was music’s version of the Masons, nobody knew what they did,” legendary producer and A&R man Tony Brown joked. “I think this was a great way of networking. If you could get into Leadership Music, you could network with the people you couldn’t get in to see. I loved the fact that it covered everybody from the soldiers up to the executives, and everybody in between. It became a real status symbol– if you could be in the program.”

Thirty years later, Leadership Music remains a symbol of status, and a sought-after opportunity. “There’s been so many organizations that people will poke at and say, ‘It’s been the same group of people for 25 years’,” Galante said. “This group continues to morph, and it reflects the general music business. It doesn’t get stuck, and that is the strength of Leadership Music. It just naturally evolves and adapts to its environment. And that’s the best thing that we could hope for.”

“I think the thing that Leadership Music does do though, is that passion statement,” Galante continued. “All during the program days, as you’re all aware, it’s not just business. It’s the creative and what it means for these artists, and I think people walk away with a newfound respect, because it’s hard. No matter what part of the process it is, everybody in this room signed somebody, believes in it, and you get the shit knocked out of you several times along the way.”

Inspiring leaders have been strengthened from Leadership Music, including the likes of Mike Dungan, Leslie Fram, Bart Herbison, Robert Oermann, Scott Borchetta, Jackie Patillo, Kyle Young, Sally Williams, Terry Wakefield, John Esposito, Dave Cobb, Barry Dean, Liz Rose, Mary Gauthier and many more. Participants make an extensive time commitment when they are selected to Leadership Music. The program lasts eight months, with the first and last meetings being weekend retreats. Within six monthly meetings, which average 12 hours each, the participants make on-site visits around the community, focusing on such subjects as Songwriting/Publishing, the Artist, Studio/Audio, Record Company, Live Music and Media.

Pictured: The first class of Leadership Music displays their certificates in 1989. Members of the first class included: Janice Azrak, Eddie Bayers, Jeffrey Beals, Ed Benson, Connie Bradley, Jerry Bradley, Donald Butler, Vincent Candilora, David Conrad, Tony Conway, Paul Corbin, Tim DuBois, Jim Foglesong, Joanne Gardner, Lon Helton, Scott Hendricks, Stanley Hitchcock, W. Michael Milom, Robert K. Oermann, Kerry O’Neil, Chip Peay, Joyce Rice, Pat Rogers, Thom Schuyler, Nancy Shapiro, Harold Shedd, Connie Westfall, Jack Weston, and Roy Wunsch.

“One of the things I had tried to point out over the course of time is following the money,” Galante said. “I really think part of our responsibility was to show people things like ‘What is a mechanical?’ Most people go ‘Mechanical? What is that?’ Still to this day, I’m always amazed at how often people say, ‘How does that work again?’”

“We have so many people that are coming in from other disciplines around the country, and it helps us stay abreast of the issues,” Galante continued. “I think bringing people in from YouTube and SoundExchange is all good news for us, as opposed to getting the news secondhand.”

Brown suggests that Leadership Music is crucial to the Nashville music business now more than ever. “I think Leadership Music keeps people in line with the fact that the business is so fractured,” he said. “I don’t know everybody at every label like I did back in the day, and I don’t think that’s because I’m not at a record label now. I read every magazine in the music industry, and I stay up on who’s going where. I think that Leadership Music now is probably more important than it was when we started it.”

Galante agreed. “Music still is under-appreciated,” he said. “We’re still going through the same conversation about being compensated and protecting the copyright. How many decades, and we’re still arguing about this stuff. We just include the term ‘metadata’ now, that we never used to talk about, which is an important issue.”

“I remember getting a call at the end of the year from someone who’d been in the business, who was well known, and said, ‘I’ve been in the business for 20 years. What are you going to teach me?’ to start, and at the end it was, ‘I’ve been in the business for 20 years, and I can’t believe what I learned,’” said Norman.

Pictured (L-R): Robert K. Oermann, Brenda Lee, Sally Williams, and Jeff Gregg.

Norman, Galante and Brown are unquestionably in the class of excellence personifying Leadership Music. When it comes to leadership, the three have valuable insights on developing such an important trait.

Norman touts respected United States Army General Norman Schwarzkopf’s notion of leadership, saying, “Schwarzkopf had that wonderful quote on leadership about it being this potent combination of strategy and character and if you must be ‘all in’ on one, make sure it’s character. We would go into these [programs] and be strategizing about business and how to get better. People came to appreciate that we’re in this together and what it meant to maintain high character and integrity as you walk through this process.”

“And it’s a lonely job,” Galante added. “I think that character is essential because if your team doesn’t trust you, you have the basis removed. [This includes] being able to listen, seek as much council as you possibly can before you make a decision, and let people feel like they have been heard. You may not agree with them, but that’s your responsibility. And there’s the accountability–you have to be able to stand up and say, ‘I made that decision. Yes, I’m responsible for that. I’ll take the hit.’”

Brown referred back to his star-making days at RCA, saying, “I think the employees have to know you have a passion, and that you have knowledge about what’s happening and what’s going to happen, and standing up for the history of the music that you’re working in. They have to think that you know what you’re doing. You’ve got to have taste. You can have good taste, and good taste could mean commercial music that sells, but then you’ve got to have taste that is a little eclectic, to where they think you’ve got a set of balls and you have blind faith.”

“It’s really your ability to provide insight, inspire, to be there, available for counsel,” Jim Ed Norman summarized. “ I think it might have been Colin Powell that said, ‘When a soldier stops bringing you their problems, is when you stop being a leader.’ You have to build an environment that encourages people to feel comfortable and safe, to tell you the truth, and you have to be prepared to listen to the truth and respond to it as productively as you can. I think the number one trait is character and integrity.”

Pictured: Tim DuBois

The three music industry giants also keep close to heart that even though the music business is a business, the music and artists must remain the prime focus.

“We can get consumed with the business,” said Norman. “It’s vital to remember that the business is built on the shoulders of artists, and they hold us up.”

“We are in the artist business,” Galante agreed. “I used to tell people all the time they are the ones in front of the microphone. Our job is to support them.”

Breaking: Nominees Revealed For 31st Annual MusicRow Awards

MusicRow is pleased to announce the nominees for the 31st Annual MusicRow Awards, Nashville’s longest-running and now newly expanded industry trade publication honors.

Download the PDF and see the complete list of nominees.

Subscribed members of MusicRow will receive ballots by email on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. Voting closes on Tuesday, May 21 at 5 p.m. CT. The 2019 MusicRow Awards will be presented during an invitation-only event on Wednesday, June 26. To receive a ballot and invitation for balcony seating at the MusicRow Awards, become a MusicRow subscriber here.

Supporting Sponsors of the event are Vaden Group | Elliott Davis, Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and Keller Turner Andrews & Ghanem, PLLC. Partner level sponsors include Ram Trucks and City National Bank.

Nominees in all eleven categories are determined by the MusicRow selection committee. Winners are selected based on votes from the publication’s subscribed members. Outside submissions were accepted for the Breakthrough Songwriter and Breakthrough Artist-Writer categories, which honor writers and co-writers who scored their first Top 10 single during the eligibility period (May 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019).

MusicRow will also honor the Top 10 Album All-Star Musicians Awards at the event, recognizing the studio players who played on the most albums reaching the Top 10 of Billboard‘s Country Album Chart during the eligibility period.

Winners will be announced at the 2019 MusicRow Awards. MusicRow‘s June/July print magazine will also debut at the awards ceremony.

If you do not have a MusicRow print news subscription, you may subscribe to receive your ballot and invitation.

Mentoring And Inspiring Women In Radio Group Releases Gender Analysis Research Findings

The Mentoring And Inspiring Women in Radio Group (MIW) released its annual Group Gender Analysis Study, which examines the advancement of female radio professionals. This year’s study showed growth in roles including general manager, sales manager and program director positions, though not in radio programming roles.

Females held 19.05 percent of general managers roles at radio stations in 2018, rising from 18.1 percent in 2017. That growth has been steady since 2004, when females held 14.9 percent of the GM roles. Female GMs held those roles in 19.2 percent of the Top 100 radio markets, a rise from 2017’s 18.5 percent.

Female sales managers held the role at 32.6 percent of stations in the study, rising from 31.9 percent in 2017. Females held 32.97 percent of the sales manager roles in the Top 100 radio markets in 2018, up from 2017’s 32.7 percent.

However, the study showed that growth has been relatively flat for the past 12 years when it comes to program director roles; in 2018, females held only 10.6 percent of radio programming roles, which is a drop from 11.4 percent in 2017.

“This meaningful annual exercise reminds us why we volunteer our time, and share our expertise, with other women in radio,” said MIW Group spokeswoman Denyse Mesnik. “The MIW Group is committed to encouraging growth, and honing careers, so that the road to management will be more easily attainable by women dedicated to our profession. Although 2018 numbers reflect some growth, there is still work to be done.”

Weekly Chart Report (9/14/18)

Click here or above to access MusicRow’s weekly CountryBreakout Report.

Weekly Chart Report 3/16/18


Click here or above to access MusicRow‘s weekly CountryBreakout Report.

Blake Shelton Re-Ups “For Many Years” With Warner Bros./WMN

Pictured (L-R): Warner Music Nashville Chairman & CEO John Esposito and Platinum-selling Recording Artist Blake Shelton

Country music superstar and multimedia entertainer Blake Shelton has inked a deal, extending his 17-year partnership with Warner Bros. / Warner Music Nashville record label.

Together, Shelton has gone on to achieve 25 No. 1 singles, 10 Gold and Platinum-selling albums, seven Grammy nominations and five CMA Male Vocalist of the Year Award wins. One of the most visible and constant ambassadors of country music, Shelton has reinforced the genre’s value in front of more than 12 million viewers two nights a week for 13 consecutive seasons and counting as a coach on NBC’s The Voice. A member of the Grand Ole Opry, Shelton served as co-host of the ACM Awards for five years.

“I remember my first trip to Nashville in 1994,” said Shelton. “I drove down Music Row and don’t know why, but when I passed the Warner Bros. building I said, ‘That’s the label I want to be on!’ Now, all these years later, I’m proud to have spent my entire recording career with such a great company. I look forward to more incredible years with my Warner family.”

The acclaimed recording artist celebrated his re-signing Wednesday night (Dec. 20) alongside WMN Chairman & CEO John Esposito, who added: “Blake Shelton is a cornerstone artist for Warner Music Nashville. Blake, Narvel Blackstock [management] and the whole label team put a stake in the ground years ago to prove that Blake was going to do unprecedented things in this business and be the artist to help us bring Warner back to greatness. Blake indeed has and will continue to break new ground. I am thrilled beyond words, and there is no better Christmas present than Blake committing to Warner for many years to come. He is a brother, and I love him and his humanity!” To that point, Esposito emphasized exclulsively to Billboard, “[Shelton] re-signed with us to basically end his career here. That’s a long time.”

Shelton last re-upped with the label eight years ago and most recently released his 10th studio album (not including a holiday or greatest hits), Texoma Shore in 2017, which became his sixth record to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and 11th all-genre Top 10. With his third No. 1 single in 2017 (in addition to “A Guy With A Girl” and “Every Time I Hear That Song”), Shelton’s “I’ll Name The Dogs” made him the first artist in Country Aircheck / Mediabase history to have six songs chart simultaneously. Shelton continued traction at radio this week by being named the No.1 most-played artist of 2017, reigning on both the Billboard and Aircheck year-end airplay charts. The songs previously went No. 1 on the MusicRow CountryBreakout Chart.

Shelton will headline his 2018 Country Music Freaks Tour alongside Brett Eldredge, Carly Pearce and special guest Trace Adkins. He will again team with CID Entertainment for VIP Experiences with 2018 packages offering new perks including an autographed ‘Country Music Freaks’ Tour plaque and an exclusive BS’ers Lounge baseball cap. VIPs will also get access to the BS’ers Lounge where Blake will perform an acoustic set and answer fan questions.

COUNTRY MUSIC FREAKS TOUR DATES
Date City Venue
2/15/18 Tulsa, OK BOK Center
2/16/18 Lubbock, TX United Supermarkets Arena
2/17/18 Las Cruces, NM Pan American Center
2/22/18 Grand Rapids, MI Van Andel Arena
2/23/18 Moline, IL TaxSlayer Center
2/24/18 St. Louis, MO Scottrade Center
3/2/18 Dallas, TX American Airlines Center
3/3/18 Bossier City, LA CenturyLink Center
3/8/18 Atlanta, GA Philips Arena
3/9/18 Greenville, SC Bon Secours Wellness Arena
3/10/18 Greensboro, NC Greensboro Coliseum
3/15/18 Columbus, OH Nationwide Arena
3/16/18 Baltimore, MD Royal Farms Arena
3/17/18 Philadelphia, PA Wells Fargo Center

Warner Music Nashville Celebrates 2017 With CMA After-Party

Warner Music Nashville toasted awards season ahead of the 51st Annual CMA Awards this week with a spirited celebration surrounded by its label family, artists and management teams, gathering with WMN Chairman and CEO John Esposito to celebrate the year’s accomplishments. From Chris Janson, RaeLynn and Brett Eldredge’s No. 1 debuts on the Billboard country albums charts, to Blake Shelton, High Valley and Cole Swindell’s sold-out tour stops, the WMN family had much for which to be thankful for.

Additionally, following the 51st Annual CMA Awards, artists, staff and industry guests gathered at the George Jones Museum downtown, pictured below.

Photos by John Shearer/Getty Images for Warner Music Nashville

Pictured (L-R) Row 4: Monique Benjamin (SVP Finance), William Michael Morgan, Megan Joyce (SVP Business & Legal Affairs), Curtis Rempel (High Valley), Brad Rempel (High Valley), Matt Signore (COO), Morgan Evans, Ben Kline (SVP Global Revenue & Touring)
Row 3: Cale Dodds, Tim Foisset (VP Streaming), Frankie Ballard, Cole Swindell, John Esposito (Chairman & CEO), Brett Eldredge, Chris Janson, Sophie Dawn (Walker County), Ivy Dene (Walker County)
Row 2: Shane Tarleton (SVP Artist Development), Dan Smyers (Dan + Shay), Shay Mooney (Dan + Shay), Scott Hendricks (EVP A&R), Michael Ray, Devin Dawson, Ryan Kinder, Ashley McBryde, Cris Lacy (SVP A&R)
Row 1: Tegan Marie, Kristen Williams (SVP Radio & Streaming), RaeLynn, Hunter Hayes, Bailey Bryan, Wes Vause (SVP Publicity), Randy Travis.

Pictured (L-R): Michael Ray, Curtis Rempel, Brett Eldredge, Brad Rempel, and Cale Dodds.

Pictured (L-R): Chairman & CEO Warner Music Nashville John Esposito, Ashley McBryde, and Brett Eldredge

Pictured (L-R): Devin Dawson, Chairman & CEO Warner Music Nashville John Esposito, and Morgan Evans

Luke Combs, Thomas Archer, Taylor Phillips Celebrate First No. 1 Song “Hurricane”

Pictured (L-R): “Hurricane” co-writers Thomas Archer, Luke Combs and Taylor Phillips. Photo: Steve Lowry

On Tuesday (July 11) River House Artists/Columbia Nashville breakout singer/songwriter Luke Combs joined his BMI co-writers Thomas Archer and Taylor Phillips at downtown Nashville’s ACME Feed and Seed to celebrate their two-week No. 1 and Platinum-certified hit single, “Hurricane.” The momentous occasion marked the very first No. 1 at country radio for all three writers.

BMI’s Bradley Collins welcomed an overflowing crowd of friends, family and industry members to commemorate the success of “Hurricane” as the first debut artist single to top the country radio charts for multiple weeks since Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” and the first debut solo male to accomplish the task since Darius Rucker in 2008. To date, “Hurricane” boasts more than 134 million streams and is the lead single from Combs’ debut album This One’s For You.

“I came out here in September of 2014 and had made some connections and started writing with some people and a lot of those people are in this room today. Obviously it’s super special to have your first No. 1 song and to be able to share it with all these people in this room,” Combs shared.

BMG’s Chris Oglesby honored Archer, while InTune Entertainment’s Jeff Catton and Warner/Chappell’s Will Overton took the stage to honor Phillips.

“Nashville’s one of those towns where you write a bunch of songs and you get told ‘no’ day in and day out. So it just makes that one ‘yes’ a whole lot sweeter,” Archer said. “It’s not an individual sport, it’s a team sport. Both of these guys have put teams around them, as all of us have, and I think that was the catalyst for the whole song…surrounding ourselves with good people.”

“I met this guy named Jeff Catton and Jeff took a chance on me. I didn’t know what I was doing, I just told you I’d do something,” Phillips said. “Warner/Chappell thank y’all for letting me be a part of y’all’s family and BMI and anybody else I forgot. From the bottom of my heart thank y’all for everything and God bless every one of you.”

Pictured (Back row L-R): Shane Allen, VP Promotion, Columbia Nashville; Steve Hodges, EVP Promotion, Sony Music Nashville; Randy Goodman, Chairman & CEO, Sony Music Nashville; Ken Robold, COO, Sony Music Nashville; Jim Catino, SVP A&R, Sony Music Nashville; (Front row, L-R): Thomas Archer, Luke Combs and Taylor Phillips. Photo: Steve Lowry

Joint publishers Jonathan Singleton, 50 Egg Music, and Mike Molinar, Big Machine Music, congratulated Combs and his co-writers and honored each of them with their first No.1 plaques. Molinar also presented plaques to Lynn Oliver-Cline, who signed Combs to a deal with her newly-established River House Artists last year, and Combs’ manager Chris Kappy of Make Wake Management.

David Smith honored the songwriters on behalf of Pinnacle Bank with a donation to Camp Sunshine. Country Radio Broadcasters’ Holly Lane was on hand to celebrate the chart-topping hit with another plaque for each writer. Other presenters included Country Aircheck’s Chuck Aly, MusicRow‘s Sherod Robertson, and Carolyn Tate and Lisa Davis Purcell from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Pictured (back row L-R): Chris Kappy, Make Wake Management; Bradley Collins, BMI; Scott Borchetta, Big Machine Music; Jonathan Singleton, 50 Egg Music Publishing; Chris Oglesby, BMG Music Publishing; Mike Molinar, Big Machine Music; Jeff Catton, InTune Entertainment; Will Overton, Warner Chappell; Lynn Oliver-Cline, River House Artists; Randy Goodman, Sony Music Nashville. (Front row, L-R): Thomas Archer, Luke Combs and Taylor Phillips. Photo: Steve Lowry

Oliver-Cline took the stage again to congratulate Combs and thank the industry before Sony Music Nashville Chairman and CEO Randy Goodman introduced Columbia Nashville Senior Vice President of Promotions Shane Allen. Allen remarked, “Every No. 1 is special, but there are certain No. 1’s that you just know it’s the start of something so much bigger.”

Combs closed the event by thanking his co-writers, team, and family. “I just really thank you guys for being here today and not only believing in me but believing in yourselves and believing in this song. Thank you guys so much, let’s have some drinks!”