Chief Zaruk And Simon Tikhman Talk Launching Well-Rounded Artists At The Core [Interview]

The Core’s Kevin “Chief” Zaruk, Simon Tikhman

When veteran music manager Kevin “Chief” Zaruk and successful business investor Simon Tikhman met after their mutual attorney set them up, they knew they had to work together.

Chief was a founding partner of the Nashville-based Big Loud, and was instrumental in the careers of Florida Georgia Line, Jake Owen, Morgan Wallen, Chris Lane, Hardy, and many more. The Vancouver, British Columbia-native began his career as the tour manager for Nickelback before helping start Big Loud in 2011.

Simon started his career in business while still in college, founding Interactive Athlete, a company that helped professional athletes and coaches create content and merchandise directly for their fans. He then became a strategic investor in companies Monclarity and TikGames, before starting his own Simont Enterprises, an innovative spirits company. Simon was managing partner at the Fund by First Access Entertainment, and has also invested independently in a growing portfolio of companies.

The two came together to found artist management company The Core in 2019, in partnership with Live Nation, and have built its roster to include country and pop artists including Grammy-winning pop artist Emily Weisband, genre-bending country duo After Midtown, alt pop band Valley, soulful country singer Nate Smith, and hybrid rock and country artist Dillon James. In addition to traditional music management, The Core also form strategic joint ventures with athletes, technology startups, and develop television and film projects that align with the company’s vision.

“When I met Chief it was truly love at first sight,” Simon jokes. “We knew right away that we were going to do something together.”

Chief and Simon are interested in building artist careers that touch multiple parts of the entertainment business.

Chief says, “We wanted to have a company where we can touch not just one part of the music business with management, but in investments, sports, entertainment, branding, sponsorships, TV and film—and Live Nation allows us to do that with their platform. But I think the difference for us, especially in Nashville more than other places, is we really want our artists to not only become successful artists, but we’re asking them, ‘While you’re building your career, what else do you want to do?'”

“We’re telling our artists, let’s get your career going but once it takes off, do you want to have your own management company one day? Do you want to do a JV publishing deal? Do you want to do a JV record deal? Do you want to do your own clothing company? A lot of what we did with FGL is asking ourselves what are the other businesses we can create? So during a pandemic when you can’t tour, they were fine. They have a record label, a publishing company, a clothing company—they made as much money last year as any other year without touring.”

Pop singer-songwriter Emily Weisband was the first artist that The Core picked up. Weisband has had hits with artists including Camila Cabello, Danny Gokey, Dan + Shay, BTS with Halsey, Jeremy Camp and Keith Urban, and recently released her own pop EP Call It Being Human on Warner Records.

Emily Weisband

“She’s just incredible,” Chief says. “She has massive hits worldwide with all sorts of different artists, she has her Grammy, but when she wanted to do the artist thing, it felt like nobody really believed her or bought into it because she was so successful as a songwriter. So it’s our job to change the narrative for her and really try to get people to understand that she’s really an artist.”

The Core’s After Midtown, who is managed in partnership with 10th Street Entertainment, have created a genre-bending sound that is quickly creating a buzz with their recently released EP Don’t Give Away The Ending. The duo comprised of Adam Ernst and Michael Rotundo have signed with Sony Music Publishing Nashville and CAA.

After Midtown

Simon says, “They were brought to us and they didn’t have that many songs. They had ‘Boys Like Us’ and maybe a few others. But when we heard it and we were like, ‘This is country, but you can hear rock influences. You can hear all these different influences that are so unique to like a quote unquote country duo.’ With Michael, his influences are very little country yet he has this voice that’s so recognizable and country. So for us, we never wanted to take that away from them. I think in a lot of ways in country, everybody puts artists in a box, like, ‘This is how you’re supposed to look and how you’re supposed to sound.’ They don’t look that way or sound that way, and we want to harness that. We want them to stay like that.”

“We went through the same thing with FGL, they couldn’t get arrested in town. We ended up getting signed in New York because no one here got it. But that’s how you build career artists. They’re the ones that are leading the next wave,” Chief says. “I look at After Midtown and say, ‘You guys aren’t going to get signed right away because you’re the next wave and people don’t like that. That’s a risk and they don’t want to take that chance when they can just sign somebody who fits in the box and they can promote and have some success with short term. So, for [After Midtown], it’s touring, touring, touring. While we keep releasing music and content, we build the fan base, build a body of work and just keep making fans out of promoters and radio stations, and other acts in town.”

The Core’s Nate Smith broke through in 2019 when he released the song “Wildfire,” which has now garnered more than 15 million streams. The single went viral on TikTok and Smith has since signed a publishing deal with Sony in addition to his management deal.

“That voice, it’s unbelievable,” Simon says. “Everyone’s still a little bit hesitant when it comes to TikTok because sometimes it has this flash in the pan type of connotation. But he dropped ‘Wildfire’ and the streaming numbers were just out of this world on Spotify. We flew to Nashville and met with Nate, and then we actually heard him live. He got on stage and you could just hear the crowd just get quiet. The guy just sucked up the whole room.”

Traveling between Nashville and Los Angeles, Chief and Simon are building The Core team members. They just announced the appointment of Tracy Martin to President of The Core Canada. She will open the Toronto office.

Martin arrives at The Core from her position as President of the Canadian Country Music Association, a post she held since July of 2017. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Simon and Chief,” Tracy says. “Watching what they have built at The Core in one short year is beyond exciting. Their specialized approach is driven by values that have defined my career—teamwork, innovation and respect—and I cannot wait to get started in building sustainable careers for the talent we represent.”

Tracy Martin

“I have personally known Tracy for well over a decade and she has always been a powerhouse in the music business,” Chief says. “Simon and I could not be more excited to have her join us at The Core, bringing a reputation and skillset that sets her apart. She will immediately help us grow, not only in Canada, but globally.”

”Tracy has been a leader in the music industry in Canada for many years and her addition to The Core is a real coup for the company,” says Simon. “She is going to be an integral part in making our artists known around the world.”

Now in Nashville, Los Angeles, and Toronto, The Core Entertainment is building well-rounded artists from country to pop, and spreading their strategy across North America.

Luke Combs Lands Two Week No. 1 On MusicRow Radio Chart

“Forever After All” by Luke Combs remains the No. 1 single on the MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart for its second consecutive week. The single was penned by Combs, Drew Parker, and Robert Williford. It appears on Combs’ deluxe album, What You See Ain’t Always What You Get.

It was announced yesterday  (April 29) that Combs was nominated for Top Country Artist and Top Country Male Artist at the Billboard Music Awards (airing Sunday, May 23 at 7 p.m. CST on NBC.) He took home Top Country Artist, Top Country Male Artist, and Top Country Album at last year’s awards.

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

Warner Music Nashville Welcomes Zac Brown Band

Warner Music Nashville has signed Zac Brown Band via a deal with Warner Music Nashville / Home Grown Music. New music is expected soon from the band that has tallied more than nine billion streams and 15 No. 1 radio singles over the course of more than a decade.

“Warner Music Nashville and Zac Brown Band share a fundamental value: forging connections through amazing and heartfelt music,” says Warner Music Nashville Chairman & CEO John Esposito. “Their songs have ceaselessly fed our hearts and souls, and I am so proud to welcome them to our label home as we journey together into this new chapter.”

The multi-Platinum, three-time Grammy-winning band has had six consecutive albums reach the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 and five consecutive albums debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart.

Warner joins the band’s team which includes managers David Plyler and Dirk Lemmenes at Home Grown Music, Scott Clayton and Matthew Morgan at WME, Cameo Carlson and Michael Corcoran at mtheory, Stephanie Jones at JONESWORKS and Reid Hunter at Serling Rooks Hunter McKoy Worob & Averill LLP.

“We couldn’t be more excited to become part of the Warner Music Nashville family,” says Zac Brown. “We feel incredibly blessed to be working with John Esposito, Cris Lacy, Ben Kline and their talented team. We’ve been hard at work in the studio and can’t wait to share our new music with our fans!”

Adds WMN EVP A&R Cris Lacy: “Zac Brown Band is known worldwide for their consummate musicianship, litany of timeless hits and incomparable live shows. From the moment they stepped onto the scene, they were grinding out this game-changing vision. When we heard the new music our only question was, ‘How quickly can we get this to the fans?’ It was absolutely, positively undeniable. Enough said. It feels good to have them back in the Warner family, and we’re excited to make some new history together.”

2021 AIMP Nashville Awards Winners Announced at 6th Annual Event

The AIMP Nashville Chapter Board of Directors; Back row, (L-R): Mark Brown (Round Hill), Mike Sistad (ASCAP), John Ozier (Reservoir), Michael Martin (Endurance Music Group), ET Brown (SESAC), Chris VanBelkom (Combustion), Courtney Crist, and Alex Heddle (Big Machine). Front row, (L-R): Duff Berschback (Concord), Shannan Hatch, Courtney Kruckeberg (Endurance Music Group), Kendall Lettow (Peer), and Emily Boardman (Hipgnosis). Not Pictured: Robert Carlton, Ree Guyer, Tim Hunze, Leslie Roberts, and Shannon Sanders.

The Nashville Chapter of the Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP) announced the winners of its 6th Annual AIMP Nashville Awards at a special socially distanced event hosted by Charles Esten at The Listening Room Café in Nashville on Tuesday, April 27. The ceremony was also livestreamed to AIMP members.

During the ceremony, Big Machine Music was named Publisher of the Year, with Songwriter of the Year going to Hillary Lindsey (Concord Music Publishing) and Artist-Writer of the Year to Ashley McBryde (Jody Williams Songs).

In addition, Song of the Year went to Lee Brice’s “One of Them Girls” (written by Ashley Gorley, Ben Johnson, Dallas Davidson, and Lee Brice). Hardy’s “Give Heaven Some Hell” (written by Ashley Gorley, Ben Johnson, Hunter Phelps, and Michael Hardy) was named Publisher’s Pick.

AIMP Nashville also recognized Matt Alderman (Curb | Word Music Publishing) as Rising Songwriter of the Year and Ruston Kelly (Concord Music Publishing) as Rising Artist-Writer of the Year. The Song Champion award was presented to Ward Guenther (Whiskey Jam).

The event featured live performances of many of the Song of the Year and Publisher’s Pick nominees, including Ashley McBryde performing Jon Pardi’s “Ain’t Always the Cowboy,” Carly Pearce performing Maddie & Tae’s “Die from a Broken Heart,” Hardy performing Jameson Rodgers’ “Some Girls” (which he co-wrote), Jon Pardi performing Miranda Lambert’s “Bluebird,” Maddie & Tae performing Ashley McBryde’s “One Night Standards” (with McBryde accompanying on Jon Pardi’s guitar), and Tenille Arts and Adam Hambrick performing Carly Pearce and Lee Brice’s “I Hope You’re Happy Now.”

Video performances of Lee Brice playing “Give Heaven Some Hell” and Ryan Hurd playing “One of Them Girls” were also presented.

“Last night was a reaffirmation of the Nashville independent music community and the powerful work they have done to get us through this past year,” said Ree Guyer, Vice President of the AIMP Nashville Chapter and Co-Chair of the AIMP Nashville Awards. “As we approach the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are excited about the return of in-person songwriting sessions, writers’ rounds, and live performances, and know our winners and nominees will continue to create amazing music to soundtrack the hopefully joyous year ahead.”

“Congratulations to all the independent publishers and songwriters who won or were nominated for AIMP Nashville Awards this year!” said John Ozier, AIMP National Chair and President of the AIMP Nashville Chapter. “In an unprecedented and dark time, their songs provided a light for so many. It is a testament to the power of music, which would not exist without those who do the difficult and sometimes unheralded work of songwriting. We are happy to shine a light on them today.”

The full list of winners and nominees by category can be found below.

Big Machine Music celebrated another major milestone when they took home Publisher of the Year for the first time at the 6th Annual AIMP Nashville Awards. BMM’s dynamic catalog features over 12,000 songs and three dozen chart-toppers, including five-week No. 1 “Better Together” (written and recorded by Luke Combs) as well as works from Grammy-nominated songwriters Laura Veltz’s “The Bones” (recorded by Maren Morris) and Jessie Jo Dillon’s “10,000 Hours” (recorded by Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber), which holds the highest streaming first-week in country music history. Pictured back row, (L-R): Catalog Manager Taylor Courtney, Vice President Tim Hunze, Vice President Alex Heddle, Sr. Director of Royalties and Finance Grayson Stephens; Front row, (L-R): Creative Director Michelle Attardi, General Manager Mike Molinar, and Creative Coordinator Lizzy Gallatin. Photo Credit: Katie Kauss

 

RISING SONGWRITER OF THE YEAR
Alex Kline (Ziggys Z Music)
Benjy Davis (Big Machine Music)
Jake Mitchell (Reservoir Media / Patrick Joseph Music)
WINNER – Matt Alderman (Curb | Word Music Publishing)
Neil Medley (Mojo Music & Media / Son of a Carl Music)
Nicolette Hayford (River House / SMACKSongs)
Steph Jones (Disney Music Publishing / Hipgnosis Song Group)

RISING ARTIST-WRITER OF THE YEAR
Avenue Beat (Tape Room Music)
Jameson Rodgers (Combustion Music)
WINNER – Ruston Kelly (Concord Music Publishing)
Ryan Hurd (Big Machine Music)
Tenille Arts (Oven Music)
Tenille Townes (Big Yellow Dog)

ARTIST-WRITER OF THE YEAR
WINNER – Ashley McBryde (Jody Williams Songs)
Brothers Osborne (King Pen Music)
Carly Pearce (Altadena)
Eric Church (Little Louder Music)
Jon Pardi (Song Factory Music)

SONG CHAMPION OF THE YEAR
Allison Jones (Big Machine Label Group)
Ciara Shortridge (Curb | Word Music Publishing)
Jake Gear (Hang Your Hat Music)
Laurel Kittleson-Cobb (Curb | Word Entertainment)
Trina Smith-Dort (Me Gusta Music)
WINNER – Ward Guenther (Whiskey Jam)

PUBLISHER’S PICK
“Beautiful Noise” written by Alicia Keys, Brandi Carlile, Brandy Clark, Hailey Whitters, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, Linda Perry, Ruby Amanfu.
 Independently published by Atlas Music Publishing, Big Machine Music, Carnival Music, Concord Music Publishing, Creative Nation, Deep Dark Robot Music, Happy People Music, Like Butta Baby Music, Maps and Records Music, peermusic. 
Recorded by Brandi Carlile & Alicia Keys

“Better Than We Found It” written by Jessie Jo Dillon, Jimmy Robbins, Laura Veltz, Maren Morris
. Independently published by Big Ass Pile of Dimes Music, Big Machine Music, Heroes and Halos Music, Millicent Hill Music, JRM3, Muse Magic, Round Hill Music. 
Recorded by Maren Morris

“Chasing After You” written by Brinley Addington, Jerry Flowers. 
Independently published by Adding Tone Music, Combustion Music, Downtown Music Group, Mojo Music & Media, Tape Room Music
. Recorded by Maren Morris & Ryan Hurd

WINNER – “Give Heaven Some Hell” written by Ashley Gorley, Ben Johnson, Hunter Phelps, Michael Hardy
. Independently published by Big Blue Nation Music, Caleb’s College Fund, Relative Music Group, Round Hill Music, Tape Room Music
. Recorded by HARDY

“Janice at the Hotel Bar” written by Hailey Whitters, Lori McKenna. 
Independently published by Carnival Music, Creative Nation, Concord Music Publishing, Maps and Records Music, Pulse Music Group
. Recorded by Hailey Whitters

“Things a Man Oughta Know” written by Jason Nix, Jonathan Singleton, Lainey Wilson. 
Independently published by Big Machine Music, Spirit Music. 
Recorded by Lainey Wilson

SONG OF THE YEAR
“Ain’t Always the Cowboy” written by Brandon Kinney, Josh Thompson. 
Independently published by Big Machine Music, MV2 Music, peermusic, Whiskey Tub Music. 
Recorded by Jon Pardi

“Bluebird” written by Luke Dick, Miranda Lambert, Natalie Hemby. 
Independently published by Emileon Songs, Little Louder Songs
. Recorded by Miranda Lambert

“Die From a Broken Heart” written by Deric Rutan, Jonathan Singleton, Madison Marlow, Taylor Dye
. Independently published by Big Machine Music, Jehovah Nissi Music, Seven Red Birds Publishing, Spirit Music
. Recorded by Maddie & Tae

“I Hope You’re Happy Now” written by Carly Pearce, Jonathan Singleton, Luke Combs, Randy Montana. 
Independently published by 50 Egg Music, Altadena, Big Machine Music, Jett Music, Spirit Music, Straight Dimes Publishing
. Recorded by Carly Pearce & Lee Brice

WINNER – “One of Them Girls” written by Ashley Gorley, Ben Johnson, Dallas Davidson, Lee Brice
. Independently published by 8Minute Publishing, Artist Publishing Group, Big Blue Nation Music, Caleb’s College Fund, Play It Again Music Group, Natalia’s Music Money, Round Hill Music. 
Recorded by Lee Brice

“One Night Standards” written by Ashley McBryde, Nicolette Hayford, Shane McAnally. 
Independently published by Canned Biscuit Songs, River House, SMACKSongs, Smackstreet Music, Tempo Investments
. Recorded by Ashley McBryde

“Some Girls” written by CJ Solar, Jake Mitchell, Michael Hardy
. Independently published by Harding Road Music, Sea Gayle Music, Relative Music Group, West Pass Music. 
Recorded by Jameson Rodgers

SONGWRITER OF THE YEAR
Michael Hardy (Relative Music Group)
Ashley Gorley (Round Hill Music)
Shane McAnally (Tempo Investments)
Josh Thompson (MV2 Entertainment)
Ernest K Smith (Big Loud Music)
WINNER – Hillary Lindsey (Concord Music Publishing)

PUBLISHER OF THE YEAR
WINNER – Big Machine Music
Downtown Music Publishing
Kobalt Music
peermusic
Round Hill Music
SMACKSongs

 

AIMP Nashville Awards:
Founding Chairman: 
Michael McAnally Baum, 
Ree Guyer
2021 AIMP Nashville Awards Committee:
 Ree Guyer, Courtney Crist, Shannan Hatch, Alex Heddle, Abbe Nameche, Sophie Moll
Production Team: Tim Fink, Nic Dugger
Graphics: Andy Sundin, Molly Bouchon

BREAKING: ‘MusicRow’ Parent Company Launches New Sports Publication

Music Row Enterprises, LLC, the parent company of MusicRow magazine is launching a new Nashville sports industry trade publication, The Sports Credential.

MusicRow Publisher/Owner Sherod Robertson says, “Last year I asked myself, ‘What if there was a MusicRow-type trade publication for the exploding Nashville sports industry?’ and that idea proved to be one I could never shake off.”

Robertson adds, “After a lot of hard work and planning the last few months, I am pumped to have our new sister publication, The Sports Credential, come to fruition. I personally know that I want to be part of the growing Nashville sports industry and I think many others do to. It’s a natural fit for us because we can use our incredibly successful MusicRow model and apply it to the sports industry here in Nashville and do so successfully. We’ve added great talent to our team who will be laser focused on this venture and my excitement is honestly, hard to contain. Come join The Sports Credential. It’s going to be a fun ride!”

With sports being a dynamic and growing industry, The Sports Credential serves as a helpful resource, the kind of publication that focuses on the sports industry and its decision makers, in order to connect and inform those of who want to be ‘in the know’ and on the front row as Nashville inevitably becomes a national sports hub.

Whether it’s Darius Rucker joining the effort to bring Major League Baseball to Nashville, Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine becoming title sponsor for IndyCar Music City Grand Prix, or the Nashville Sounds affiliating with Milwaukee Brewers, there’s no doubt Nashville’s explosive growth in sports is just beginning.

Since The Sports Credential is a separate publication from MusicRow, those wishing to receive information and news will need to sign up directly to receive its FREE weekly and breaking news emails. Click here to sign up.

The new publication’s website and social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) are live now.

Downtown Music Lays Off Nashville Employees

Downtown has laid off a portion of its Nashville-based employees following the sale of its portfolio of 145,000 owned and co-published music copyrights to a Concord affiliate.

In an official statement provided to MusicRow, Downtown confirmed that, “a limited number of job functions have been deemed redundant,” and that the company is “looking for opportunities to reassign impacted employees elsewhere within the organization or with other employers.” It was also revealed that Downtown will end their lease in the Nashville office.

Downtown’s official statement in full: “As part of Downtown’s strategic shift towards music services, a limited number of job functions have been deemed redundant. Where possible, we are looking for opportunities to reassign impacted employees elsewhere within the organization or with other employers. We have decided to end our lease in our physical Nashville offices, which were designed primarily for creative operations, and explore our options to support the needs of our ongoing business. We continue to employ Nashville-based executives at Downtown Music Services, Songtrust, and Songspace.”

Billboard reports that executive vp A&R Steve Markland was among those let go, but that has not been confirmed by MusicRow at this time.

Among the works acquired by Concord are songs popularized by Adele, Aretha Franklin, Beyoncé, Blake Shelton, Bruno Mars, Carrie Underwood, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, the Grateful Dead, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Maroon 5, Marvin Gaye, Mary J. Blige, Mos Def, Mötley Crüe, New Order, Rage Against the Machine, Ray Charles, Santigold, Sam Smith, Stevie Wonder, and The 1975 among many others.

This is a developing story…

Josh Hoge Signs With Kane Brown’s Verse 2 Music

Pictured (top row): Josh Hoge; (L-R, middle row): Rusty Gaston, Kent Earls; (bottom row): Kane Brown

Josh Hoge has signed a global publishing deal with Kane Brown‘s Verse 2 Music.

Hoge has penned chart-topping hits including Chris Young’s “I’m Comin’ Over” and “Think of You,” and Kane Brown’s “Cool Again,” “Used To Love You Sober,” and “One Thing Right” with Marshmello. He has received numerous honors for his songwriting, including SESAC’s Songwriter of the Year award in 2016; a Grammy nomination for Young’s “Think of You;” a CMA award nomination for Young’s “I’m Comin’ Over;” and several RIAA multi-Platinum certifications.

Hoge is the first songwriter to sign with the new venture, which was recently launched in partnership with Sony Music Publishing by Brown and music industry veteran Kent Earls. With the establishment of Verse 2 Music, Kane and Earls aim to discover and develop emerging country hitmakers.

“Josh is just a great guy and an incredible songwriter,” says Brown. “He is one of the first songwriters I ever wrote with in Nashville and I’m really excited he’s part of the team.”

“Josh is a proven hitmaker who is writing at the top of his game. We are so proud to partner with Verse 2 Music to wave his flag,” says Sony Music Publishing Nashville CEO, Rusty Gaston.

Earls, Partner, Verse 2 Music adds, “Josh has been involved in Kane’s writing career with great success from the beginning, and he has only scratched the surface of his career as a hitmaker. When the opportunity arose for him to become our first signed writer, the answer was a resounding YES. Welcome to the V2 family, Josh!”

“Kane and I wrote ‘Used To Love You Sober’ the first day we met back in 2015, and since then we have never stopped creating,” says Hoge. “Kent and I have also worked together, and I was hoping to get that opportunity again. I’m honored to be the first writer signed to Verse 2—I want to be known as a fearless, versatile writer, and with Kane, Kent, and Rusty, I can be myself and create exactly the way I want.”

Big Machine Music Adds Tim Hunze As Vice President Of Publishing

Tim Hunze

Big Machine Music adds Tim Hunze as Vice President of Publishing, whose career spans nearly three decades in Nashville’s music publishing community.

His experience includes work with current hitmakers and hall of fame inductees such as Jordan Davis, Kip Moore, Chris Janson, Joey Hendricks, Justin Wilson, Tom Shapiro and Tony Martin, among others. Notably, Hunze managed Bobby Pinson (2009 BMI Songwriter of the Year) and Brett James (2009 ASCAP Songwriter of the Year). His previous stops include Anthem Entertainment, Parallel Entertainment, Stage Three Music and legendary publisher Hamstein Music.

“Tim’s name is synonymous with the best of Nashville music publishing,” says BMM General Manager Mike Molinar. “Not only does he fit our work ethic, vision and advocacy for songwriters, his addition complements Big Machine Music’s stellar team and allows us to stay service-minded to our songwriters as we continue to grow.”

Pictured (L-R): Sr. Director of Royalties and Finance Grayson Stephens, Vice President Alex Heddle, Creative Director Michelle Attardi, Vice President Tim Hunze, Creative Coordinator Lizzy Gallatin, General Manager Mike Molinar, Catalog Manager Taylor Courtney. Photo: Courtesy of Big Machine Music

A graduate of MTSU’s Recording Industry program and a member of Leadership Music’s Class of 2013, Hunze currently serves on the board of the Association of Independent Music Publishers and as the host for their AIMP Nashville: Pubcast.

Hunze shares, “when Mike approached me about the possibility of working together at Big Machine Music, I was honored that he’d consider me to join his already amazing team. I feel like I’m joining the all-star team! I can’t wait to see what we can do joining forces.”

Hunze can be reached [email protected].

BBR Music Group Names Jay Jones Sr. VP Of Publicity

Jay Jones. Photo: Cody Heckber

BBR Music Group announced the promotion of Jay Jones to Senior Vice President of Publicity.

His responsibilities include strategy and oversight of publicity campaigns for BBR Music Group/BMG Nashville’s recording artists across the label’s imprints, including Broken Bow Records, Stoney Creek Records, and Wheelhouse Records. Additionally, he directs corporate communications and messaging for all three imprints. Jones will continue reporting to President of BMG Nashville, Jon Loba.

As the first executive hire at BBR Music Group following its acquisition by BMG, Jones has led publicity campaigns including the debut of Blanco Brown and his triple Platinum hit “The Git Up,” Jimmie Allen’s breakout as he became the first Black artist to launch his career with two consecutive No. 1 singles at country radio, and Lindsay Ell’s debut album The Project and powerful sophomore concept album Heart Theory. He has also been instrumental in recent campaigns for Granger Smith, Lainey Wilson, Elvie Shane, and Brooke Eden.

Prior to joining BBR, Jones career stops include time at CMA and his own Jay Jones Music, a public relations and marketing company where his clients included The Beach Boys. He attended the University of Alabama and graduated from Belmont University with a degree in Music Business and is a member of CMA, ACM and the CCMA’s.

“Jay was the perfect addition to the BBR Music Group at the perfect time,” says Loba. “His previous experience as both an independent publicist and working for the CMA served him well as the BBR Music Group transformed from a family-owned domestic country label to a strong and diverse music entity with global reach. Jay’s track record of securing significant media and press speaks for itself and we look forward to he and his team continuing their strong role telling our artists’ stories.”

Jones can be reached at [email protected].

Veteran And Contemporary Agents Launch Reliant Talent Agency [Exclusive]

Steve Lassiter, Matt McGuire, Heath Baumhor

Talent agents Steve Lassiter, Matt McGuire, and Heath Baumhor have announced the launch of the full-service entertainment company Reliant Talent Agency.

Headquartered in Nashville, Reliant Talent is comprised of a growing team of veteran and contemporary agents with decades of experience spanning major talent agencies. Lassiter, who got his start in the music business at age 19, most recently served as Co-Head of Worldwide Music at APA Nashville. Baumhor worked in a few different areas of the music industry before landing at APA, where he spent the last 15 years and was part of their contemporary music department. McGuire spent time at Buddy Lee Attractions before joining APA in 2013 to help form their club and small theatre department and rose to line agent just a few years after joining the company.

“Unfortunately COVID took out a lot of companies, and a lot of companies just had to make do with what they had. Fortunately for us, it created an opportunity for some of us to regroup and start our own thing,” Lassiter tells MusicRow. “We wanted to start an independent boutique operation instead of a corporate operation. We all spent many years at APA, and still have a lot of respect for those people as they were always really good to us through the years, but we just saw this opportunity and felt it was the right thing to do.”

Since its inception, Reliant has brought on other agents and expanded its artist roster to include talent representing Americana, comedy, country, rock, jazz, and more. Reliant’s roster currently includes Travis Tritt, Kenny Loggins, Everclear, Rodney Carrington, Phil Vassar, Yacht Rock Revue, Take 6, Average White Band, Sister Hazel, and more. Additional artists continue to be added to the roster, and more will be announced in the coming weeks.

Reliant artist Travis Tritt says, “Steve Lassiter has been in my corner for many years as a loyal agent and friend. I look forward to what’s on the horizon for Steve and the entire team at Reliant Talent Agency.”

In addition to its fundamental base of booking and live event services, Reliant continues to expand into a full-service agency, offering representation in TV/Film, commercials, voiceovers, and endorsements. They have formed strategic alliances with other global branding agencies to maximize opportunities and deals for the clients they represent.

Lassiter says, “The staff is about one quarter of the staff that we had. With a smaller staff, it creates more of an opportunity to focus more on the clients and not have to deal with a lot of the corporate agency minutia. It frees up a lot of time to act independently and be a smaller shop where the result is more focused on the clients, better routing for the clients, being able to work on each deal a little bit more and maybe squeeze in a little bit more money out of it.”

Additional agents that make up the Reliant Talent team include Chris Burke, Chris Gaulke, Fred Hansen, Jeff Howard, Chris Looney, and Frank Wing.

“Through the pandemic, there’s been quite a few independent boutique agencies to spring up that consists of agents from Paradigm, WME or CAA. For the last many years, they’ve all been competitors and now they found themselves working together. They’re starting from scratch. Whereas in this situation, all of us have already been working together for 10 to 20 years. So we were able to hit the ground running and really just blast out of the gate.”

Reliant continues to add partners, agents, and staff, who will be announced in the coming months.