My Music Row Story: WME’s Kevin Meads

Kevin Meads. Photo: Hunter Berry Photography

The “My Music Row Story” weekly column features notable members of the Nashville music industry selected by the MusicRow editorial team. These individuals serve in key roles that help advance and promote the success of our industry. This column spotlights the invaluable people that keep the wheels rolling and the music playing.

As a partner in WME’s Nashville office and a 16-year veteran with the agency, Kevin Meads oversees the daily touring, television, literary, and sponsorship for Brooks & Dunn, Cole Swindell, Chris Lane, Gabby Barrett, Michael Ray, Jon Langston, and others. Meads currently works across WME’s country roster to book large venues in the southeast region. In addition to his work at WME, Meads regularly serves as a mentor to students at Napier Enhanced Option Elementary school and consults on the establishment of various enrichment programs focusing on music and art for the schools.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a small town in northeast Alabama called Ragland. It’s about 1,500 population, one stoplight, a stereotypical small town. The closest landmark that you would probably know is the Talladega Motor Speedway. It’s about 20 minutes down the road.

Kevin Meads performing with Maynard Ferguson

Were you musical at all?

I didn’t come from a musical family at all, but when I was in elementary school, I picked up the trumpet. I didn’t really practice a lot, but my music teacher at the time felt like I had some natural talent with the trumpet, and I loved it. He constantly encouraged me and in the eighth grade, he took me to a concert of a legendary jazz player, Maynard Ferguson, who was playing at my local college. He took me as a way to inspire me and encourage me to practice. Believe it or not, Ragland, Alabama isn’t a big hub for jazz music, so I didn’t know anything about jazz or what I was going to see. Maynard just blew me away with what he did musically. I remember looking over at my music teacher and saying, “When I grew up, I’m want to play with him.” He laughed. Four years later, I ended up getting a scholarship to play trumpet at that college.

Kevin Meads and Snoop Dogg

Is that how you got into the music business?

I encouraged the college to promote another Maynard Ferguson show. They let me be the runner for the concert, and I got to know the tour manager, Ed Sargent, really well. I kept in touch with him and anytime they would play in the area, I would go see them. Fast forward, a few years later, I was still in college, no closer to knowing what I wanted to do in my life.

All I wanted to do was play trumpet with Maynard Ferguson, so I went to another one of his shows and Ed pulled me aside and said, “Hey, would you want to go on the road with us? I have a spot, it’s not to play, but it’s to be Maynard’s personal assistant on the road.” Needless to say, I left school, traded in the books for the tour bus, and went on the road with Maynard and toured the world for four years. I was his personal assistant and got to hang out with him all day and hear the great stories. About a year in, one of the trumpet players in the band left and moved on to another job and Maynard asked me to be in the band. For the next three years I was able to live out my dream and play was with Maynard Ferguson.

The coolest part was one of the last gigs I ever played with him, which was going back to my college where I saw him in the eighth grade perform for the first time. My high school music teacher was in the crowd. At that point, I started thinking, “What’s next?” As a kid, that was the only goal I ever had and I was able to accomplish it. I had to start thinking about what was next.

Kevin Meads, Cole Swindell, Kerri Edwards

What was next?

Growing up, I always loved live music and going to concerts. Being on the road, I was so intrigued with touring and the live show aspect, how shows got booked and why we played certain cities on certain nights. Growing up in a small town, I really didn’t know the music business even existed. I was naturally drawn to touring. At that point, I had to make a decision. I knew I would either move to Nashville, New York or LA. In the back of my mind, I was like, “If I move to Nashville, I’ll be there the rest of my life.” That was my forever goal. I’m not a big New York person, so LA was what I picked. I moved to LA and ended up getting a job at a large artist management company called The Firm with an artist manager named Constance Schwartz. I spent the next couple of years working with Constance and one of her large clients, Snoop Dogg.

I learned so much from that experience. After a couple of years, I realized I was ready to go ahead and make the move to Nashville. I called up Snoop’s agent, Brent Smith, who was at the William Morris Agency at the time. I said, “Hey, do you think you can make a call and get me an interview in Nashville?” He did. That was 17 years ago.

Kevin Meads and Chris Lane

What was the transition like from management to touring?

When I took the job at The Firm, I also had an interview set up with the William Morris Agency in LA, but I took the job at The Firm because I felt having management experience would help me become a better agent in the long run. When I first started at William Morris, I took a job in the mail room. Then I worked with Jay Williams as his assistant for a year and a half, and soon after became an agent.

Who were some of your first big signings as an agent?

Cole Swindell was one of the first artists that I signed. I was booking clubs in the southeast. We had a lot of the same friends and I was hearing about him from everyone. He was selling t-shirts for Luke Bryan, so we knew each other. I called him and said, “Hey, I’ve been hearing about all the stuff you’re writing. I want to hear it.” He had Sony send me a CD. I looked at it the other day and four of the songs on the demo ended up becoming hits.

Jon Langston and Kevin Meads

Who have been some of your mentors over the years?

It would go back to Ed Sargent, who has now worked with Joan Jett for 20 years. He took a chance on me, a kid from a small town that knew nothing about touring, but had a passion for music. I’m not sure if I would have hired myself! (Laughs) Back in those days, jazz artists would tour a lot like rock artists where we would get on a tour bus and be gone for two months. It wasn’t the weekend warrior stuff that so many country artists do. Ed tells a funny story of when I called him before the first tour and said, “Hey man, I was just curious, do I need to bring my own pillow for the tour bus?” (Laughs) As if I were going to a summer camp.

In LA, Constance Schwartz taught me so much about how to treat people with respect, whether it be someone in the mail room, a bus driver, or an A-level client. She also taught me a really valuable lesson that I still use today, which is if you make a mistake, you do three things—you admit it, you fix it and you don’t do it again.

Since I started here in Nashville, definitely Jay Williams, Joey Lee and Greg Oswald. They all have such a unique perspective on the business. Greg, specifically, has a way of looking at big picture things that I may not see. Whether it’s a problem you’re dealing with at work or something you’re dealing with in life, I always feel better after I talk to Greg—which is ironic since I spent the first half of my career being terrified of him. (Laughs)

What are some of your goals now?

The goal has always been happiness. To be able to do what I love with the people I love—artists, coworkers and industry partners. I moved to town not knowing anyone, so this company—WME—became my extended family. My best friends are here. If I’m going to go into battle, these are the people I want to be in the trenches with.

My Music Row Story: SESAC’s Shannan Hatch

Shannan Hatch

The “My Music Row Story” weekly column features notable members of the Nashville music industry selected by the MusicRow editorial team. These individuals serve in key roles that help advance and promote the success of our industry. This column spotlights the invaluable people that keep the wheels rolling and the music playing.

As VP of Creative Services at SESAC, Shannan Hatch leads the Nashville-based creative team in supporting SESAC-affiliated songwriters and publishers. She also works closely with senior management to support creative-focused initiatives and goals. As a gifted songwriter advocate, Hatch and her team are responsible for the recruitment, signing and nurturing of songwriters and publishers and the retention of existing SESAC-affiliated writers and publishers.

During her time with SESAC, Hatch has worked closely with affiliates Lee Brice, Jamey Johnson, Runaway June, Craig Campbell, Josh Hoge, Jesse Lee, Richard Leigh, Jaron Boyer, Cary Barlowe, Lance Miller, Monty Powell, and Michael Tyler, along with Americana tunesmiths Hayes Carll, Jim Lauderdale, and Allison Moorer, among many others.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Tennessee. I was born in Knoxville, but I came to Nashville when I was in fourth grade, so I spent most of my growing up years here in Nashville.

Cary Barlowe, Shannan Hatch, Rob Hatch

Did growing up in Nashville make you want to be in the music industry?

No, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. Being here in Nashville, you’re surrounded by it. When I got out of high school, I didn’t want to go the traditional college route because you have to get a degree even though you don’t know what you want to be. My boyfriend at the time, his whole family was in the music industry. They were like, “We think you’d be really good at PR. You should give it a shot.” A lady named Susan Collier, who had just left Capitol and had started an independent PR company, was looking for an intern or somebody to help. I started doing tour and album press for her. I got to do my first CRS and it was so much fun. I was like, “Wow, I really like this.”

She introduced me to Ed Morris, who was writing a book at the time, so I researched his book and had a great time doing that. I spent a summer in the old Hall of Fame library. I ended up going to college at MTSU and got a degree in public relations.

Shannan Hatch, Jimmie Allen, Josh London

What was next?

When I got out of college, I started working for AristoMedia. Jeff Walker and Kay Clary hired me. I worked with Kay for years through a couple of different companies. She started her own company called Commotion PR and I helped her there. She and I got along great. I learned a lot about the history of music and how to do things differently.

How did you end up in the publishing side of the business?

All of my social group were getting into publishing or writing songs, so I was out at the songwriter nights watching the shows—and eating it up—Monday through Thursday night every week. SESAC called and they were looking for somebody in their creative department. It was a natural fit because I was going to the shows, the songwriters were my friends, and we were all growing up together. I will celebrate 20 years at SESAC in August.

What was something you learned when you started working with songwriters?

A lot. The whole craft of a song… there’s so much that goes into that. I didn’t realize what all went into writing a song. People move to Nashville and think that they can do it, but not everybody can. I learned what it takes to put all the pieces together.

I have a special relationship with a lot of our writers and artists. It’s because of my husband Rob [Hatch], too. Our best friends are uncle Lee [Brice], uncle Randy [Houser], uncle Jamey [Johnson] and uncle Dallas [Davidson]. My best friend, Juli Griffith, is in publishing. We are surrounded by it and it’s the family we get to choose.

Shannan Hatch, Lee Brice, Lydia Schultz

Who are some affiliates that you’ve gotten to work with that you’re really proud of?

Jimmie Allen is one that I’m so proud of because he’s just worked so hard. He came into my office eight to 10 years ago. He was a little bit more pop-leaning at the time and country wasn’t really going in that direction. He moved out to LA for a little while and when he came back, he knew exactly what he wanted to be and exactly what he wanted to do. He’s also just a good person, so watching him have success makes me so happy.

I’m also very proud of Niko Moon. He’s always been an artist, but he was writing with Zac Brown at the time [that I met him]. I remember him calling me and saying, “I’ve got this record and I really think it’s going to do something. I’m really excited about it.” It had a total different feel with Caribbean and beach vibes. I was driving through Atlanta when he sent it to me, we were on our way to Florida to see Rob’s parents. Then a year later, he gets a record deal and the singles start coming out. Seeing somebody like that who knows their vision and puts the pieces together… I’m so proud of him.

I’m also so proud of Lee Brice and what he’s accomplished. I’m just very blessed that I get to work with the people I work with.

Niko Moon, Shannan Hatch

What goes into your role at SESAC?

A lot! That’s what’s wonderful about it. It’s different every day and moment by moment. It’s very fluid. I love [getting to organize and host] No. 1 parties. I love awards shows. I love getting to celebrate the writers and artists, but that’s not the day-to-day.

Helping songwriters is however it looks for that person. If they’re looking for a publishing deal, I’m picking up the phone and calling publishers or sending music to publishers for them. I don’t schedule co-writes but I’ll make introductions—I call it blind dating.

A lot of it is the administration side: making sure that they’re registered properly, they’re getting their songs in the system properly, they’re getting their MP3s uploaded, the splits are correct, the publisher names are correct, and more. There are a lot of people that think that just magically happens on their behalf, but we are behind the scenes tidying it up. We make sure the songs are encoded properly, that they’re being tracked properly, and the payments are getting to them. The ultimate job is making sure the songwriters and the publishers get paid.

What is something people might not know about you?

I like to bass fish and I’m a winged-huntress, [or a hunter that only hunts winged animals]. [Laughs] My husband is an avid hunter for mostly white-tailed deer. He started a hunting camp up in southern Illinois. A lot of songwriters are involved in it. He’s been able to put the passion of music and the passion of hunting together, and it’s created a little family atmosphere at the lodge. The kids and I will go up there. I love to cook and I like to hear the stories. The guys play music, so it’s the best of both worlds.

Shannan Hatch, ET Brown, Lydia Schultz

Who have been some of your mentors?

Kay Clary was a big mentor when she took me under her wing at Aristo Media. I still admire her. She has such a rich knowledge of the history of music. Kelli Turner, who left SESAC last year, is a good mentor and friend. I miss her not being here. Being at SESAC for so long, I’ve been here through three different owners. Kelli has been the only female. Cathy Grizzell, who runs HR, has been there from the beginning. Those ladies were really good about giving the women at the company strength. They helped everybody really realize their potential.

If someone was describing you, what would you want them to say?

I hope that somebody would say that I am kind, that I’m sincere, and that I would help anybody, because I think of myself that way. Not only on the business side, but on the personal side of helping.

My Music Row Story: Eighteen Company’s Basak Kizilisik

Basak Kizilisik. Photo: David Bradley

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.

Basak Kizilisik is the founder and CEO of Eighteen Company. She has influenced the careers and conceptualized and executed marketing strategies for artists such as George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Sam Hunt, Old Dominion, Kacey Musgraves, Jon Pardi, Carly Pearce, Martina McBride, Little Big Town and Jake Owen.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I was actually born in Turkey. My family is from there and most of my extended family still lives there. We lived there for about four years before my dad got a job in Canada. He’s a surgeon and had aspirations of practicing medicine in the U.S., which is a very difficult thing to do when you go to med school in a different country. We were in Canada for several years and then we moved to Saudi Arabia. We spent four years in Saudi Arabia and then moved to the States.

We lived in Virginia for a while where my dad took three or four years to redo his exams from the beginning [so he could practice medicine in the U.S.]. We went from Virginia to Memphis, where he worked in a hospital. That was eighth and ninth grade for me. Then we moved from Memphis to Nashville for my second half of high school. I went to Orlando for college and then moved back to Nashville.

Kizilisik with George Strait and members of the UMG Nashville team during preparations for Strait’s “The Cowboy Rides Away Tour”

When in your upbringing did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in the music business?

I started as pre-med in college. At some point I said, “I’ve got to figure out where my passion is. I don’t want to be in a hospital all day.” So then I went pre-law and thought, “This is not going to fire me up either. There’s no passion here for me.” I sat down and started thinking about what made me truly happy. Music has always been one of those things. I never really found any fire on the performing side, but I loved the effect that music could have on people. After seeing how that happened to me, I realized I wanted to be part of the process of getting music out to fans.

I had lived in Nashville and I had a few connections—really one main connection. That was a friend of mine from high school. His older sister worked for Shaun Silva, who is one of the premier directors in town. I ended up interning and working for her and him right after college. That was a really great foot in the door for me.

What did you do with them?

I basically did anything and everything. I took out the trash, I was up at the front desk, I ran tapes to artists, and I edited Shaun’s treatments. I’ve always loved the English language, and I was good at formatting and editing, so he had me edit the treatments that he would pitch out to labels and to artists. I ended up being a PA on music video shoots. Eli Young Band‘s “When It Rains” was the first music video that I worked on. I got great experience on the creative side, like how to bring a story to life, how to tell a story with a visual medium, and how that can play a major role on the music side of things.

Kizilisik and Matthew Ramsey of Old Dominion in St. Augustine, Florida

What was next for you?

From there I ended up doing a stint on a publishing side with a tiny publishing company. After that I ended up in the digital marketing space at a time where it was super early for Nashville. I worked over at Music City Networks with Lang Scott. While there, I worked with most of the Capitol roster, such as Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, and Lady A. I worked really closely with the Capitol team doing lots of websites, fan engagement, and strategy on how to engage a fan base and how to build a fan base. Through that, I got in really tight with Capitol and the UMG team. When the EMI merger happened, they were hiring. I knew that I wanted to have some experience on the label side, so I applied for that role, got that role, and worked over at UMG Nashville for a couple years.

What was your time at UMG like?

We referred to it as the championship years. We launched Sam Hunt. [I worked with] Chris Stapleton, Kacey Musgraves, Little Big Town… We did George Strait‘s “60 for 60” campaign and Luke Bryan‘s Crash My Party album. It was this really incredible era at that label. I’m so lucky to have been a part of so many incredible things over there.

How did you pivot into management?

I was at UMG for a couple years and then got a call from Clint Higham at Morris Higham management. They were looking for a marketing person, but I wasn’t looking to leave UMG. I was so happy where I was and had so much more to learn. Clint said, “We need what you do. What will it take?” We figured it out and he brought me on not only in a digital role, but in a comprehensive, overall VP of marketing role. That’s what excited me about it. It was, “Take this and run with it. Grow it and build it.” When I started, it was Kenny Chesney, Jake Owen, and Martina McBride on the roster. We had just signed this little unknown band named Old Dominion. Over the course of seven years, it ended up turning into a 17 or 18-artist roster and a marketing team of five. It was an incredible ride.

In April of last year, I had brought Alana Springsteen in as a management client for myself. I had gotten to a place where I felt like I had done everything that I had set out to do with Clint and as part of that team. The next logical step for me was management. I stepped down from Morris Higham in April. Alana came with me and we started Eighteen Company.

Kizilisik, Alana Springsteen, Mitchell Tenpenny and crew backstage during Mitchell’s “To Us It Did Tour,” for which Springsteen opened

Tell me about Eighteen Company.

I feel like, in some ways, this has been something that I manifested a long time ago. I walked into the business knowing that I wanted to be a manager. I also knew that I wanted to have a ton of different experience. I wanted to have worked on the publishing side, the creative side, and the label side. I wanted to have all of this different knowledge and wisdom to bring to an artist roster, so that I could be the most valuable manager that I could be for them. That’s exactly what happened. Whether I tell you I planned it or not, I got this incredible set of skills and experiences that I honestly don’t know where I would be without.

At the core of Eighteen Company is the understanding that all creatives are storytellers and that they are, in and of themselves, a story that needs to be told. I believe that a manager’s role is to help artists find the most original way of telling their stories to the world by building a bespoke culture around their music. This starts with the songs, but extends far beyond them [into] songwriting, fan engagement, marketing, social media, touring, branding, creative direction, content, style, press, and narrative. All of these facets of an artist’s career are pivotal to the intentional brick-by-brick development of an artist. Crafting that nuanced approach is what Eighteen is all about.

Kizilisik, Alana Springsteen and Kenny Chesney backstage in Kansas City, Missouri

Who have been some of your mentors over the years?

I’m lucky enough to have learned from some of the best in the business. Having time at UMG with Cindy Mabe and Dawn Gates was a masterclass. Clint Higham is one. The skills and the approach to the business that I learned from him are second to none. To this day, I respect so much the way that he does business with the utmost integrity and moral fortitude. Joe Galante has been a really great resource for me. Even just saying that is a little bit wild, since he’s an icon. He leans in to the people that he believes in and that he sees something in.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

It has to be launching this company. I’m lucky enough to have stood on the shoulders of giants throughout my career. There have been people that I’ve worked with that, at the time, I maybe had no business working with. To have been able to learn from some of the best, to watch some of the best do what they do and then to become better for it and start this company… I’m not necessarily a small guy working her way up the totem pole anymore. I’m shoulder to shoulder with some of these giants now and that’s not lost on me.

Figuring it out from the bottom up and taking a big, giant leap is what I’m most proud of. This is just the beginning in a lot of ways. I’ve been in this town for over a decade, but it feels like the beginning. It feels like a new chapter. I’m super proud of that and the community that I’m a part of.

My Music Row Story: Warner Chappell’s Ben Vaughn

Ben Vaughn

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.

Ben Vaughn is President & CEO of Warner Chappell Music Nashville, where he has spent the last decade overseeing all creative and commercial activities across A&R, administration, business development, finance, and human resources. Vaughn also works with staff songwriters, while actively engaging in songwriter advocacy and rights protection initiatives. The company has been named Country Publisher of the Year at ASCAP eight times, BMI four times and SESAC twice. In 2019, Warner Chappell won the coveted Triple Crown for the first time, sweeping the ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC Awards.

Vaughn was the youngest executive to ever head a major publisher in Nashville when he became EVP and GM of EMI Music Publishing. During his career, he has worked with songwriters who have been honored by the CMA, ACM, Grammy and PROs, collectively winning Songwriter of the Year 19 times and Song of the Year 32 times. His industry honors include being named Billboard‘s 2020 Nashville Executive of the Year, multiple times listed in 40 under 40, Country Aircheck‘s Power 31, and receiving Belmont University’s Music Milestone Award.

Vaughn as an intern at Warner Chappell in 1994

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a map dot town in Kentucky called Sullivan. It’s about 500 people. It was an awesome place to grow up. My father was a coal miner and a mechanic. My family is very blue collar.

How did you get into music?

When I was 16, I wanted to get a job. I liked country music, so I just went to the local radio station. They played country music, ran all of the high school football and basketball games, and played the St. Louis Cardinals’ baseball games. It was called WMSK.

That’s where I got my love and deep knowledge of country music. That place was like a library. At the time, CDs would come in every couple of weeks from Nashville on a service called CDX. I would just devour that. I would look at who wrote the songs, who published the songs, the record label names, the producers… I was fascinated by all of it.

How did you end up moving to Nashville?

I was a good student in high school. I was at the top of my class, the newspaper editor and the school bank president. Most of my friends knew where they wanted to go to college and what they wanted to do, but I didn’t. One night when I was working at the radio station, I was driving home really late because of a late St. Louis Cardinals baseball game. I remember this stretch of road in the back woods in Kentucky. I’m driving and have the windows down, blasting ’90s country music. All of a sudden I just thought, “I want to do this. I love country music and I want to do something around country music.” It wasn’t more evolved than that, but that was my light bulb moment. I found out about Belmont University, which was also a light bulb moment. I was like, “Wow, you can actually go to college to study the music industry?” I had gotten some scholarship offers from some other schools, but I didn’t even visit any other places. I was like, “I want to work in the music business and this is what I need to do. I’m going to go figure it out.” So I moved to Nashville.

I didn’t really know anybody when I moved to Nashville. I was in school for about two weeks and I was told by a professor, Bob Malloy, to look to your left and look to your right. He said, “You will end up working with some of your classmates,” and he was completely right.

Vaughn (far right) attends a No. 1 party for Randy Travis

How did you get your career started while at Belmont?

There was a paper that you had to do at Belmont where you had to interview someone in the music industry. I found out that I had a middle school computer teacher who had moved to Nashville and had gotten a job as a staff songwriter at Warner Chappell. I called her out of the blue and asked her to help me find someone to interview. She said, “Let me bring you to my publisher.” So she walked me around the Warner Chappell building—the same building we just re-opened this year. I remember meeting Josh Leo, who produced Alabama, and Jeff Stevens. I was totally fan-girling. I had an interview with Kurt Denny, who was one of the publishers there. I walked into the tape room and I just asked, “Can I intern here?” They were like, “Sure!” (Laughs) You’re not supposed to intern as a freshman, so I had to get special permission from Bob, but I got an internship within two weeks of being in town.

Did you know from that point on that you wanted to be a publisher?

I just wanted to work in country music. I didn’t know what that would mean at all. I feel like I got really lucky that my first experience was in music publishing, because what I’ve learned about myself is that I’m one of those left brain and right brain people. I equally love the creative part of publishing as I do the administrative and licensing side of it. They both are fascinating to me—the business side and the creative side. Publishing is where you can marry the two together, so it’s always been really suited for my personality type because I can click in either and be really happy.

Vaughn (left) with Arturo Buenahora, after Buenahora lost a bet

What followed your Warner Chappell internship?

I got this opportunity to go to a partner company of Warner Chappell’s called Big Tractor Music. They asked me to come over and intern for them. I was getting ready to start my junior year and they were going to pay me $5.50 an hour. It was a small office of just myself, another person that ran the office, and three writers. The person that was running the company ended up leaving. I had been there about six months and I’d been hustling. I had been pitching songs for the writers, I was driving around trying to find Garth Brooks‘ truck and put cassette tapes on the windshield—I got a cut out of that. (Laughs) I was doing anything possible to try to make something happen for those songwriters. [When the person running the company left], Warner Chappell was trying to figure out who they were going to hire for that position.

The writers were like, “Why don’t you get Ben a shot?” I had just turned 21, which is crazy. Scott Hendricks owned that company at the time and at that point in his career, he was running Capitol Records. He was a really successful producer and was busy, so he called me in his office and basically said, “Listen, the writers really like you. We’ll give you six months to take a shot at this, but if you quit school, I’ll fire you.” I was a junior in college at that moment, and it took me about six and a half years to finish college, but I did it.

Big Tractor was amazing. We became a really successful small publishing company. It afforded me the ability to learn a lot about the nuts and bolts of music publishing, not necessarily just on the creative side, but also on the deal making side, the administration side, and just how it all fits together.

Did you have people doubt you because you were so young?

All the time. I’m 46 now and I’ve had the opportunity to run major publishing companies for almost 14 years, which is crazy. For so long I was always the kid just trying to prove that I could actually be in a room and be heard, compete and contribute. Now it’s flipped where I’m viewed as the mentor, so that’s an interesting feeling.

Age is just a number. It’s really about how much heart and effort you put in it. No matter what it is. I was thrown into the lake and told to swim. I think it’s an awesome way to do it, personally. You can see pretty quickly if someone us going to be able to figure it out or not.

Vaughn (right) and Guy Clark

After your work at Big Tractor, you went to EMI Music Publishing where you eventually became the youngest executive to head a major publishing company in Nashville. Tell me about that transition.

I was at Big Tractor for about six years and we had a lot of success. I try to make a lot of my decisions based on education and what I can learn. I was definitely a self-taught publisher at that point. At the time, EMI was losing a couple of their vice presidents. Gary Overton ran EMI for a number of years very successfully. He was a very smart executive, and knew everything about the publishing business. They approached me about joining the company, so I decided to leave Big Tractor based on what I could learn and the platform of the company.

Gary was a wonderful mentor. He was very open and willing to share his knowledge of the business. For me at the time, it was absolutely perfect. I was there for 10 years and ran the creative department for seven of those years. When I was 34, I got the chance to run the company. I was the youngest person to do that, which is nuts. The executives at EMI gave me a lot of trust and I worked really hard to earn that. It was a great experience to be at that company. We helped a lot of songwriters break through that have gone on to become some of the biggest writers and artists in the format.

Vaughn (right) with Rhett Akins after Akins won his first BMI Songwriter of the Year award

How did you wind up back at Warner Chappell, all those years later?

There was a big acquisition with all of the EMI companies. The record labels when to Universal and the publishing company went to Sony. I learned a lot during that transition. You could argue that was the biggest seismic shift that has ever happened in this town, in terms of affecting the most amount of people. My part of that story was I wasn’t able to stay with the EMI company. It was not a possibility. I had about six months of a sabbatical and was doing lunches, talking to people, and trying to figure out what I was going to do next. I had a few really good opportunities and options, but this Warner Chappell opportunity came up. [Working at Warner Chappell] has really been one of the best things I’ve ever gotten to do in my life. I got to go back to a company where I started as an intern. How cool is that? Some of our administrative folks were there when I was an intern. This year is my tenth year. We’ve grown a lot in 10 years. We’ve been able to be a part of so many people’s stories.

What are some of the best qualities about our industry?

The community, first and foremost. The real celebration of songwriting. That’s so special and it’s, in some ways, very unique to Nashville. I see it getting a little better in some places, but the songwriters here are really celebrated in so many ways and that’s so wonderful.

If someone were to ask you how to be successful in this business, what would you say?

Do well in the little things. Always follow through. I feel like that is a skill that has gotten in short supply in so many ways. Be somebody that does what you say you’re going to do and follow through.

My Music Row Story: The Gospel Music Association’s Jackie Patillo

Jackie Patillo

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.

Industry veteran Jackie Patillo has spent decades of her life working in the music business launching and advancing the careers of various Christian and gospel artists. In 2010, she became President and Executive Director of the Gospel Music Association, merging her gifts to serve and be an advocate for all gospel music makers.

Founded in 1964, the Gospel Music Association (GMA) serves as the face and voice for the gospel/Christian music community and is dedicated to exposing, promoting, and celebrating the Gospel through music of all styles. In addition to ongoing education, advocacy and networking efforts, the GMA also produces a variety of programs designed to expose music to new audiences through TV and online broadcast specials like the annual GMA Dove Awards and Because He Lives: An Easter Celebration.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Mill Valley, California. It’s a little town right outside of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate bridge.

Were you musical at all growing up?

No. I mean, I took piano lessons. My parents, God bless them, spent a lot of money and effort sending me to piano lessons. But all that classical training that teachers started us off with was not really interesting to me. And there’s something about having natural talent with an instrument that is really important. (Laughs) So as much as I love music and always have, I don’t play an instrument.

Pictured (L-R): Jeff Moseley; Jackie Patillo; Dan Dean, Randy Phillips and Shawn Craig of the group Phillips Craig and Dean in 1995.

How did you get into the music industry?

I married an artist. I married an artist who was evolving from his rock career into his Christian music career. It was our family business. We traveled the world and spent 180 dates a year doing concerts. I did everything from production, to merch, to whatever was necessary. I learned that if I could pack up our stuff at the end of the night, I could get home quicker. (Laughs) It started really small and then it just grew into a large music ministry.

How did you get to Nashville?

When I was faced with divorce. I had two young children and was asking God what was I going to do to feed them, since they still wanted to eat three times a day. (Laughs) They had every expectation that that wasn’t going to change. I really heard that still small voice that people talk about saying, “Go to Nashville. I’m going to continue to use you in Christian and gospel music.” I put out a couple of fleeces to make sure it wasn’t just the pizza I’d eaten the night before and really felt a strong conviction that that was the direction that I should move in. So in ’89, I came to Nashville.

I was knocking on doors. I was looking for work. I was trying to figure out who I was as this newly single woman in the south—in a town that was foreign to me. It just so happened that a man named Stan Moser, who had been the head of Word Records for many, many years, had moved to Nashville from Texas to help develop a little label called Star Song. I called Stan—he was familiar with my story and he knew what I was capable of because my ex-husband had been signed to the Word label. He saw me looking for work and he just told me, “Jackie, you’re an A&R person. We don’t have that job for you yet, but if you’ll come here and just do anything, I’ll get you there.” And sure enough, he did. I started as the receptionist at Star Song and eight years later when they sold the label, I was Vice President of A&R. I had quite a journey there.

What were some of your biggest victories at Star Song?

One of the thrills there at Star Song was when we signed a group called Phillips, Craig and Dean. They were the most unlikely threesome in that they each lived in a different state, but they were great songwriters and had wonderful harmonies. We signed Phillips, Craig and Dean and they turned out to be the fastest selling debut artist in the history of the label.

I was able to explore all kinds of music there because the leadership at Star Song was very innovative. I A&R-ed rap records, comedy records, and Christian pop records. We branched out into distributing gospel music. That was the birthing in me of, “I want to also do gospel.”

Pictured (L-R): Danny Gokey, Natalie Grant, Jackie Patillo

What was next for you?

I went from Star Song to the Benson Label. Jeff Moseley, who had been a VP at Star Song, moved to the Benson Label and brought me over there as part of his A&R team. There, we got to sign Natalie Grant. I signed her and did her first record. I’m very proud of Natalie and her successes. I also worked with Russ Taff there, who is a real icon within our industry.

I went from the Benson Label to Integrity, which was in Mobile, Alabama. It was the largest praise and worship label in the world. I was the general manager of what we called Integrity Gospel. It was there that I really got to fulfill some of my desires to work hands on with gospel artists. I worked with Israel Houghton, Joe Pace and Lisa McClendon. We also marketed and distributed the Sony gospel artists to the CCM stores, so I got to market Mary Mary and several of their gospel artists. It was quite an adventure, but I wasn’t really loving living in Mobile, Alabama. Because God is so creative, he moved me to New York where I became Vice President of A&R and Artist Development at Verity Records, which is the largest gospel label. I had the honor of working with artists like Fred Hammond and Kirk Franklin.

[Verity] asked if I wanted to go back to Nashville and work out of the Provident office, which was music to my years because my sons were here in Nashville. It was really a great homecoming for me. I was “right-sized,” as they say, from that label and a year later took the job as the Executive Director of the Gospel Music Association.

Pictured: Jackie Patillo on stage at the Dove Awards

When you got to GMA, what were your goals for the organization?

In 2011, when I came to GMA, it was a very challenging time in the music industry because of the expansion of the internet and the change of how music was being sold. They say when the mainstream gets a cold, us niches, we get pneumonia. So it was a very, very low time at GMA. We also had some internal, infrastructure issues, so the task at hand was to really discover what the underlining problems were and to restructure the organization. I discovered that, as a trade organization, it was essential for us to relay the foundation of the GMA as a service organization. We needed to make some new friends, and find people and organizations that were like-minded and had an affinity for the effectiveness of gospel music. It was Lipscomb University that was one of those first new friends that we made, as well as Lifeway. To this day, we’re still doing the Dove Awards 10 years later at the Allen Arena at Lipscomb.

I think what was required and what was really essential was for us to unify our industry. Gospel music is not a genre like others. We are known for our message and we serve all styles of music. We’re not known by our style, we’re known by our message. So to be the hub and the center of the wheel here at the Gospel Music Association, we have to represent multi-cultural and multi-generational artists who are all serving and offering their talents for kingdom purposes.

I love that you made that distinction: gospel music is about a message, not a genre. That is really evident at the Dove Awards, which showcases everything from traditional Southern gospel to pop and hip-hop.

The GMA represents a multi-cultural and multi-generation community which is reflected in the diversity of our programs and events. It is beautiful to experience amazing performances at the Dove Awards as artists from all genres of music come together on one stage! It is truly the biggest night in Gospel Music.

The GMA is also going to be moving to Music Row soon, correct?

Yes! The Gospel Music Association is putting our stake in the ground on Music Row, working alongside the Curb Foundation for this location. We’re excited about having a home for not only our Hall of Fame and Museum, but a tourist destination that will celebrate the history and the future of gospel music.

Pictured: Jackie Patillo with TobyMac

What is something people might not know about you?

I’m very proud that I have two sons. One of my sons, Gabriel Patillo, is in the TobyMac band and they just celebrated 20 years together. My youngest son, Marcel, is a videographer. He’s working right now with Church in The City. They’re creative guys, so it’s fun to see them walking in their calling.

What has been one of your proudest moments?

When I was inducted into the Stellar Honors Hall of Fame. That was pretty cool.

Last year was my 10th year at the GMA. At the Dove Awards, the board gave me the Dove Awards Leadership Award… And they named it after me. So now, the Dove Leadership Award will be given, from here on out, in my name. I was stunned. The first thing I could think of when it was happening was, where are my sons? Knowing all the hard work and knowing the challenges of being a single mom… It was really a very amazing moment.

I am also so proud of the Gospel Music Association team. We are a small team, but we are a team that is passionate and dedicated to the mission, so we have seen lots and lots of great things unfold before us as a result.

If you could change anything about your path to where you are now, would you change anything?

I wouldn’t change anything about the path. I wish that maybe I would have enjoyed more of it rather than always felt like I was on a hot tin roof. (Laughs) When I look back, I’m grateful for the path. The path has been very fulfilling and it’s been full of great moments, but when you’re always looking to the next mountain, sometimes you miss out on the victories that you’re conquering at that moment.

My Music Row Story: Sony Music Nashville’s Allen Brown

Allen Brown. Photo: Alan Poizner

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.

With 43 years in the music industry, Allen Brown has worked with a multitude of country stars, including 18 Country Music Hall of Famers. At the end of June, Brown will retire from his position as Senior Vice President, Media and Corporate Communications at Sony Music Nashville, where he oversees the media department and handles PR for the the label group, which includes RCA Nashville, Columbia Nashville and Arista Nashville.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I’m from Emmett, Idaho, which is about 25 miles from Boise. My mom and dad were both born in Idaho, so I’m a second generation Idahoan. My grandfather, who I’m named after, had a fruit ranch that was on the hillside around the valley. My home town is a valley, which is very picturesque.

Pictured: An outtake for Brown’s 1987 CBS Records headshot.

How did you get interested in music?

My two sisters and I took piano lessons [when we were kids]. I started out in second grade and took lessons until my freshman year of high school. In junior high, I was in orchestra. I played violin and my orchestra teacher was my piano teacher, too. So I had an appreciation for musical instruments that I played, and I enjoyed dabbling in songwriting.

My dad—Floyd Brown, who passed away in 2015—had the lifelong dream of having a radio station. Early in life, he started a repair and retail store called Brown’s Radio Shack, believe it or not. It became Brown’s Radio and TV Shack. While he still had that little mom and pop business, he started a radio station when I was a freshman in high school. My mom and dad worked there, I worked there, my cousin and also my brother-in-law. I was an on-air announcer, though not a very good one. (Laughs) I worked at the station through all of my high school years. There was a point where I actually would wake up very early in the morning, go and sign on the station at 6:00 a.m., and then go back home, take a shower, eat breakfast, and go to high school.

Did you know that you wanted to work in the music business then?

I had decided to go to Boise State for college. When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to major in, that was a bit of a challenge. I ended up declaring political science for some reason, but after my first poli-sci class, I figured out that’s not what I wanted to do. (Laughs) I changed my major to marketing.

Pictured: Brown escorting then Arista Nashville superstar Carrie Underwood on the evening she was honored with the Nashville Symphony’s Harmony Award

At the beginning of my sophomore year, I was trying to figure out ultimately what I would like to be when I grow up. [Like I said], I had dabbled with songwriting and really enjoyed it. I had stopped taking piano lessons back in high school, but I would still play around with it. I would write songs just for myself. While at Boise State, I had entered an American Songwriter competition. I didn’t win, but I received a booklet that listed a lot of reputable music publishers. As I was figuring out my next steps in college, I looked through that booklet and highlighted 100 key publishers, or the ones I was familiar with. I sent a form letter to them saying, “I’m majoring in marketing, but I’m thinking about transferring and would be interested in getting feedback from you on what type of courses to take that would prepare me for a music publishing profession.” I ended up getting 10 letters back, which wasn’t bad. In two of those, the first thing they mentioned was, “You need to look into Belmont.” I never knew there was a program that existed for music business.

You ended up transferring to Belmont. How did you start your career from there?

While I was at Belmont, I worked part-time as a tour guide at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Kathy Mattea was also a tour guide at the time, before she had her label deal. My second day at Belmont, I met who would become the chairman and CEO of the company I’m leaving, Randy Goodman. I also met Doug Howard, now Belmont’s Dean of the Curb College of Entertainment and Music. All three of us had a class together and we would hang out sometimes afterwards. My senior year at Belmont, I was working part-time at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and interning for CBS Records (which eventually became Sony Music Nashville).

Pictured: Brown’s cousin John Blosser, Brad Paisley, and Brown backstage at a Paisley concert in Phoenix in July 2008

Take me through your career path from your internship at CBS Records.

After I graduated from Belmont in May of 1980, I took a part-time mailroom position at CBS Records Nashville, and a few months later was promoted to Publicity Coordinator. I ended up transferring to another division of CBS called Priority Records, followed by a few years at The Benson Company. I returned to CBS Records from 1987 through 1990, then started a management company; I managed The Tractors and Stacy Dean Campbell. I came back to the label publicity world when I came to Arista Nashville. Arista merged with RCA Label Group, which later became Sony BMG, which became Sony Music Nashville. (Laughs)

So I made it through several mergers. The last part of my tenure with Sony Music Nashville, which started with Arista, totals 23 years officially. But I also consulted with Arista for two years prior to becoming an employee, so that’s almost 25 years.

Who all have you worked with throughout your career?

When I first interned, I worked such as artists as George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Charlie Daniels, Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash, Ricky Skaggs, Lynn Anderson, Lacy J. Dalton, Johnny Rodriguez, Larry Gatlin and The Gatlin Brothers Band, and Crystal Gayle.

Later, when I came back to CBS Records, we launched Mary Chapin Carpenter, Ricky Van Shelton, Shenandoah, Joe Diffie and Doug Stone. During the most recent part of my Sony Music Nashville tenure—the last 23 years—I’ve worked with Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Diamond Rio, Brad Paisley, Alabama, Sara Evans, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Kane Brown, Maren Morris, Luke Combs, Old Dominion, Miranda Lambert, Mitchell Tenpenny and many more.

Pictured: Brown with Liz Cost, Fount Lynch and Jennifer Way in August 2017 during the Solar Eclipse

You recently announced that you will be retiring at the end of June. When you look back on your career, what are some moments that you’re most proud of?

What comes to mind immediately is how proud I am of the relationships that I’ve had—not just with artists—but with the people I’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with along the way–ones who have mentored and challenged me, the people I have mentored, and the people who have supported me. Hopefully I’ve been a positive influence on them as they obviously have been on me. This is such a great business!

There have been some exciting times for Sony Music Nashville. It’s always great when you get to be a Label Of The Year, and we are so honored to have the reigning ACM and CMA Entertainers Of The Year this last year with Miranda and Luke. Those moments are very special, but also some of the most special times have been knowing you’re at the beginning of something. When things start happening for artists… it’s just such a wonderful feeling when an artist has their “first”—whether it’s their first No. 1, Gold or Platinum certification, award nomination or trophy, cover feature or national TV appearance.

Pictured: Emmie Reitzug (Manager, Media, SMN), Arista Nashville artist Nate Smith and Brown in mid-May celebrating Nate’s “Whiskey On You” debut of over 7.5 million streams globally

How do you want to be remembered as you leave us?

Obviously during COVID, I’ve had a lot of time to think. I spent some time thinking about when the right time to do this would be. Over the years, I hope that most people would think that I was helpful, supportive, that I was a good listener, that I treated them honestly, and that I gave them the attention that was needed. That I responded appropriately and that I didn’t drag my feet. I also hope that there are people out there that would still like to go have lunch or grab a coffee in the future.

When I decided to retire and Randy Goodman asked when I would like to tell the team here, I had the opportunity to do it in the rotunda at the Country Music Hall of Fame [during a company-wide] dinner. For me, after being a tour guide my senior year of Belmont, that seemed very appropriate. I was able to look around the room and see [some artists that I’ve worked with] who have become Hall of Fame members. That was very special. But the team members in that room were the ones I was most proud of. There were a lot of people in the rotunda who I’ve worked with for years—some over 20 years. It’s such a wonderful feeling–that I honestly do feel like these are friends. Friendships mean so much to me. That’s what I’ll think about the rest of my life.

My Music Row Story: Truth Management’s Missi Gallimore

Missi Gallimore

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.

Nashville music executive Missi Gallimore is a triple threat in the country music scene. Over the past 20 years, she has built a reputation as a highly-respected publisher and A&R executive responsible for pairing Tim McGraw with over 29 No. 1 hits, including “I Like It, I Love It” and “Live Like You Were Dying.” She was behind Faith Hill recording “This Kiss” and “Breathe,” and she introduced Keith Urban to the 5x Platinum-selling “Blue Ain’t Your Color.”

Now, her newly-launched Truth Management is shepherding the careers of hot newcomers Sam Williams, grandson of Hank Williams Sr. and son of Hank Jr., in addition to Shy Carter, noted singer-songwriter Abbey Cone, and sibling trio Track45. Gallimore is the sole owner of two publishing companies, Amped Entertainment and Truth or Dare, both of which are joint ventures with Kobalt Music Publishing and Warner Chappell, respectively.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I actually grew up in Nashville. I moved here when I was 10 years old, so Nashville is home for me.

Charley Pride, Missi Gallimore

Did you always want to work in the music business? How did you get into it?

Heavens no. When I started the business, I knew nothing about country music. Never even listened to country music. I had just graduated college at MTSU and was looking for a job, still living with my parents. I had applied for a receptionist position at a law firm. I didn’t get the job, but they liked me enough to pass on my resume to a record producer in town at the time by the name of Billy Sherrill. I had no idea who Billy Sherrill was, but I got a call from his assistant one day and they wanted me to come interview with him.

I go to the interview around six o’clock at night on 16th Avenue in an old house. I walk in and I’m thinking, “Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?” I walk up the steps of this old house where Billy’s studio was and he offers me champagne. He plays me a song that he had just cut—I think it might have been David Allan Coe—and he’s like, “What do you think about this song?” I say, “Well, I don’t really like it. I’ve never really listened to country music, so I can’t relate to it.” He was like, “You’re hired!” (Laughs) I guess he liked that I was honest and truthful.

I [ended up being] his face at CBS Records at the time, because he never came in but he wanted somebody there to take calls and represent Billy at the label. So I was at the label representing him for a couple of years, and then he left CBS and went and did his own thing. Then he retired and completely quit doing records. I learned so much from Billy.

What was next for you?

I left there and started working for Charley Pride, just as a catchall for anything at his publishing company. I started out doing administrative type stuff and then worked my way up to pitching songs. That’s where I met my husband, Byron Gallimore, who was producing but didn’t have any big acts at the time. He started producing Tim McGraw and then he got very, very busy. One day Byron was like, “I’m too busy to go look for songs. Can you start looking for songs for Tim?” That was my intro into the A&R world.

Missi Gallimore (second from right) backstage at the CMA Awards

You found some really big songs for Tim McGraw, as well as other artists. Tell me about finding some of those songs.

For “Live Like You Were Dying,” Tim was pretty much done with his album. I can remember exactly where I was when I got the call from Chris Oglesby from BMG. He said, “Hey, I just heard this song at the studio. Craig Wiseman is at the studio now they just recorded it. You really need to get over here and listen to this song. It’s a great song.” I was getting on the interstate at Demonbreun, and Craig Wiseman was recording at County Q—a studio in Berry Hill. I turned my car around and got my booty over to County Q. I walked in, heard the song, and put it on hold for Tim immediately. Back in the day, it was very competitive for whoever got the first hold on the song. It was always a battle. I left the studio with the song, sent the song to Tim, he called me immediately and said “I’m cutting this.” We go in, we cut it, and there it is… A big, huge song.

I’ve worked with Keith Urban on his last three or four albums. I came in late in the process [when he was working on his Ripcord album]. He had pretty much already finished the album. He brought me on and I’m thinking, “Oh goodness, how am I going to find songs for him now? He’s pretty much done.” It was a snow day and Nate Lowery from Brett James‘ company, Cornman Music, pitched me a link. “Blue Ain’t Your Color” was on the link. I remember sitting at my computer on this snow day, kids running around everywhere, listening to the link of songs and that one just stuck out. I put it on hold, pitched to Keith and it did what it did.

Byron Gallimore, Missi Gallimore, Keith Urban

What got you into management?

I’ve been doing A&R for so long. It’s still a passion for me—I still get excited when I hear a great song. I still wanted to do that, but I just felt like I needed to do something different. I has been working with Shy Carter for a long time. Shy had been coming to town and pitching me songs. I knew he was an artist and I knew he was somebody that I really, really believed in as an artist. I loved his songs, I had gotten so many of his songs cut. So I went to Shy one day and said, “Hey, you need to move to Nashville. You need to plant roots here. You’re having all your success in the country market as a songwriter. You’re an artist. Let’s focus on you writing for you as an artist. Let me manage you.” That’s how all that started

Now I have four acts that all got record deals at the same time, during COVID. Sam Williams came to me four years ago. He was writing poems but he wanted to be a songwriter. There was something in those poems that was so raw and so real, and I loved his voice. There’s something that I really love about taking an artist like Sam, Shy, Track45 or Abbey Cone and developing them and seeing it through all the way to them getting a record deal.

You also operate two publishing companies.

I have Truth or Dare Publishing, which is co-venture with Warner Chappell. Sam Williams signed to that, as well as Ben Roberts of Carolina Story and Mary Gauthier. I have another company called Amped Entertainment with writers Tommy Cecil and KK Johnson, the lead singer of Track45.

Who have been some of your mentors?

Charley Pride. I will get teary-eyed talking about him. He and Rozene were the most humble and encouraging people. They let you be you as far as work and freedom. They taught me the publishing ropes; they were very influential in my coming up in the music industry. They were just amazing people.

What’s some of the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

Stay passionate with what you do. Never lose that spark. Never lose that passion. It’s hard to sometimes because you work in the industry for so long that you get jaded, but never lose your passion.

My Music Row Story: Spotify’s Brittany Schaffer

Brittany Schaffer

The “My Music Row Story” weekly column features notable members of the Nashville music industry selected by the MusicRow editorial team. These individuals serve in key roles that help advance and promote the success of our industry. This column spotlights the invaluable people that keep the wheels rolling and the music playing.

As Head of Artist and Label Partnerships in Spotify’s Nashville office, Brittany Schaffer co-leads the office and the development and execution of Spotify’s strategy for growing the country, Christian/gospel, and Americana genres. She and her team oversee the relationships with Nashville’s music industry and look for ways to partner with artists, labels, and managers of all genres to promote their music and connect with their fans. Prior to joining Spotify in January 2018, Brittany spent 7+ years in the Entertainment Department of Loeb & Loeb, LLP, where she was Senior Counsel. She is a member of the Board of Directors for both ACM and CRB.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I moved nine times before high school. I was born in Orange County, California, and lived in California, Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia. I call Nashville or the Middle Tennessee area home because I lived here when I was younger for several years and then this is where we moved when I was starting high school. I went to Battle Ground Academy in Franklin for high school and went to college at Vanderbilt, so, Nashville’s been home for a long time.

Were you musical growing up?

I always knew I wanted to work in the music business. I was singing and performing in musicals at six years old. I was even one of the little kids in the General Jackson Christmas show for a couple years. For a long time, I thought I wanted to be an artist, but when I was at Vanderbilt, I had the privilege of interning in the promotions department at Sony Nashville on the Arista imprint, and then at ASCAP. Both of those experiences for me confirmed that I definitely wanted to work in the music business, but that an artist path wasn’t for me.

Brittany Schaffer and Leighanna Smith as interns at CMA Fest 2006 with Rhett Akins

How did you start your career in the business?

During that same time, I had also been considering going to law school. I met a few music lawyers and decided that being a music lawyer would be my entry point into music. I attended Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law for law school. After my ASCAP internship, Connie Bradley was very kind and had given me a list of lawyers that she really respected in town. I sent very formal, written cover letters and emails to all of them. I think I sent 10 out and only one person responded, but I only needed one. (Laughs) It was Bob Sullivan who was running the Loeb & Loeb Nashville office at the time. He told me to come visit him over Christmas. I had no grades back—I really only had a good track record at Vanderbilt and a recommendation from Connie. He said, “Why don’t you come work for us this summer?” So I did, and that turned into two summers.

I had done really well in law school and that made it easier for him to convince some of the other partners, so I received an offer my last year of law school to join them when I graduated. During my last year of law school, I was already attending conferences with the lawyers at the firm and I thought I was coming into a dream job with a perfect cushion to learn. And then about a month before I started work and a few weeks before I took the bar exam, Bob Sullivan was diagnosed with leukemia and ultimately passed away a year later. So I came into the firm at a really challenging time.

To say that I had bath by fire my first year of work is an understatement. There was so much work that others had to take on to fill his shoes that I had no choice but to step up, to ask questions, to learn quickly, to work insanely long hours, and to learn how to manage a lot of different types of people from a lot of different parts of the music business. I was negotiating contracts and sitting in federal copyright jury trials almost immediately. It was really hard for a lot of reasons, but when I look back on it, I’m really grateful. I learned that I was capable of so much more than I thought that I was and it gave me a lot of confidence going forward. It has stuck with me to this day that even when you get in those somewhat overwhelming situations, you’re always capable of more than you think you are.

Loeb & Loeb team at the BMI Awards

After seven years as an entertainment attorney, you made a change in careers. Tell me about that.

I really enjoyed the work that I was doing. I loved my clients, I loved the people that I worked with and I definitely had a growing career in the legal field, but I kept feeling this pull that I wanted to be closer to the music business and to really explore the other parts of the industry. I always give the example that my colleagues and I represented the contestants on The Voice and negotiated numerous contracts for them, but no matter how talented we thought someone was, there was only so much we could do to expose that music and those artists as their lawyer. I felt like if I was going to truly help people navigate their way through the music business, that I was going to have to spread my own wings a little bit.

Out of the blue one day, I got an email from an internal recruiter at Spotify asking if I would talk to them. At the time I had no intent on taking the job, but I was going to be in LA the next week and I thought it would probably be smart to know the global head of label services at Spotify. I offered to stop by the office and Spotify ultimately did a really good job of convincing me that Nashville was really important to them and that they wanted to increase their support in this market. Three weeks later I accepted a job. (Laughs) One month later I left the practice of law entirely and started in my current role and I’ve never looked back.

Can you tell me more about what you do at Spotify as the Head of Artist and Label Marketing in the Nashville office?

No day is the same, but I would sum it up by saying that my team and I are responsible for overseeing our partnerships in Nashville. So that’s working with artists, labels and managers; looking out for our relationships with CMA, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the ACM, and all of our different organizations; and looking for how we can continue to partner together. That takes the shape of tracking new releases, so we keep track of all of the new music coming out of Nashville week over week for all genres. Anything that is signed to a label in Nashville or that is originating in Nashville, particularly when it’s independent and unsigned, is what we look over regardless of genre. We try to find different ways of supporting those artists and those releases. That may be everything from how we support on platform through promotional tools, that may be using a billboard, or that may be creating social content or video content. It really just depends on the artist and how we want to engage.

We’re also looking for how we can otherwise engage the fans around the music that’s coming out of Nashville. One of the things that we are responsible for is putting on the Spotify House event at CMA Fest.

Spotify House at CMA Fest 2019 with Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus

CMA Fest starts this week. What can you tell me about the Spotify House event?

Spotify House at Ole Red is one of Spotify’s largest artist fan events. It was the brain child of myself and Sally Williams back in 2018 when Ole Red was still under construction. There is no better place where country fans and artists come together than CMA Fest, and Spotify really prides itself on being the leading destination for fans to discover and explore country music and how we likewise create that artist and fan connection. So it felt like the perfect opportunity to really bring our goals to life in a live setting.

We, in the past years, have programmed over 50 artists. We’re excited to bring that back this year. You’ll continue to see a really diverse mix of established and emerging artists—everything from artists who have been discovered and highlighted through our Fresh Finds program all the way to some of the biggest names in country music today. I have to give a lot of credit to the entire team who has been really working to bring this to life since I had a baby in the middle of all the planning. (Laughs) Alison Junker, Mary Catherine Kinney, Dan Franquemont and Miller Guth are the core Nashville team planning the event this year!

When you look back on your career, what are you most proud of?

Personally, I am most proud of my willingness to jump from a successful legal career that had a very defined career path to a career at Spotify where the path is a little more unknown. Professionally I’m really proud of helping lead the conversation around the importance of streaming and the place that it has in our current consumption habits. When I started at Spotify, audiences were still adopting streaming as a format, particularly in country and Christian music. Today our country and our Christian/gospel consumers have largely adopted streaming and our industry has really embraced strategies and tactics to engage fans through streaming. That’s not to say that radio, sales, touring, merch, and other areas of the industry aren’t incredibly important, but it is to say that streaming is no longer a format of the future. Consumption patterns are changing and we have to change with our audience if we want to continue to reach audiences in a bigger way. I’m really proud that Spotify’s been able to be a leader in those efforts and that I’ve been able to be a leader in Nashville in having those conversations.

Spotify team with Reba at the announcement of her Spotify Podcast in Nashville 2019

Who have been some of your mentors?

I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of mentors and I could probably name three that touch on key areas [of my career]. Early in my career, Connie Bradley was certainly one of those. She helped me get internships in Nashville, she helped introduce me to music lawyers when I was trying to decide if I wanted to go to law school, and she helped connect me with people when I was trying to get my first job. I always really looked up to her and the respect that she had within the Nashville community.

Today, John T. Frankenheimer, my old boss from Loeb & Loeb, is still someone that I call for advice. I really look up to and admire how he’s built his career. And then as I’ve become a mom over the last two years, Cindy Mabe is someone I go to for advice. I really admire how she has become such a successful executive while also raising her kids and having a successful marriage. At this phase in my life, it is really important to have other women that I can look to as examples. I hope I can do that for other people, too.

What moment have you had that your little kid self would think is so cool?

I love Dolly Parton. We have had the good fortune at Spotify of working with her on a few occasions. I recall one time sitting with her in a studio with some other individuals, listening to music while she was talking us through it. I remember thinking to myself, “Oh my goodness, I’m really doing this.” (Laughs) I always say I had never been starstruck until I interned at Sony and she came into the office one day. Everyone made fun of me because my mouth dropped wide open as she walked by. To fast forward all these years later, and to actually be there, getting to engage with her to support her and her music in a number of ways… As a little girl, I would’ve never believed that I would be there. There’s a lot of those moments. I think when you stop having those moments in the music business is maybe when you should get out of the music business. Those are the moments that remind us all why we do this and why we’re so fortunate to be in an industry that brings so much joy to people.

My Music Row Story: Keller Turner Andrews & Ghanem’s Jason Turner

Jason Turner. Photo: Justin Fricke

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.

Jason Turner is Partner at the boutique entertainment and sports law firm, Keller Turner Andrews & Ghanem, PLLC. Turner has more nearly 25 years of music industry experience, and represents many of Nashville’s top songwriters, executives, managers, and independent publishing companies, as well as the three-time Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning, among others. He has been named to Billboard‘s Power Players and Attorneys of Note, as well as Super Lawyers for the past decade. He focuses a significant portion of his practice negotiating the sale of catalogs on behalf of songwriters and publishers.

Pictured: Jason Turner as a child with Charly McClain

MusicRow: Where did you grow up? Were you musical as a child?

I grew up in a very small town in northwest Illinois. It was about a hundred miles west of Chicago, a town of about 2,000 people.

At some point, for some reason, my parents bought a piano. It was in the same room as the stereo that we used to have back in the day. I would listen to music and I would sit at the piano. My feet couldn’t even touch the pedals, and I would start playing by ear. Pretty quickly thereafter, my parents hooked me up with the music teacher in our school system. It was the same person for elementary, middle and high school since it was such a small town. I took piano lessons and ended up being the pianist for the middle school and high school choirs in town.

What was the plan for after high school?

Going into my senior year of high school, I was actually already signed up to go to Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University out in Arizona to be a pilot. I wanted to be a commercial pilot. I’ve always been fascinated with airplanes. The night before I left Illinois to go to Arizona for a preview week at the school, a music group that was signed to Polydor Records at the time here in Nashville played our small town summer festival. They were managed by Starstruck, they were on a major label, and they had already had their first hit. I wanted to meet them, so I connected with the lady in town who was in charge of the festival to figure out how can I finagle my way in. The group was called 4 Runner. It was a quartet produced by Buddy Cannon and managed by Narvel Blackstock. That night I ended up selling their merch. I ended up going out with them several more dates later that summer because they were so kind to me. They connected me up with people in the industry. That was truly the moment that I found out that there was this thing called “the music business.”

The next day, I fly out to this flight camp for a week and every night as I’m calling back home to talk to my parents, I wasn’t talking about the flight camp. I was talking about my experience with 4 Runner and how excited I was about that. I ended up talking with people that they worked with, found out about Belmont, and did a complete 180 out of going to flight school and ended up going to Belmont for the music business program.

Pictured: Jason Turner (right) plays piano with friend and client Nick Carter (left)

What did you get into at Belmont?

I immediately jumped in. I was still playing piano and, with Belmont being Belmont, I started playing in various bands. By my sophomore year of college, I was working at Warner Brothers.

Royce Risser was the first label person that I ever met even before I moved here. He was super kind to meet with me and my parents before I even committed to Belmont. So [while at Belmont], I went to Royce and talked to him about an internship. At the same time I went to Warner Brothers and talked to them about an internship. Warner Brothers was very open with me and basically said, “We’re going to turn you loose. If there’s something you see that you have a passion for, we’re going to let you do it.” As fate would have it, they didn’t have anybody at that time handling secondary radio promotions within their promotion department. So within a week or two, I was starting to call radio programmers and working the records for the Warner Brothers roster. I was shifting around my school schedule to accommodate the call times of all of the programmers for all of these radio stations. I did that for a little over two years and loved it. That was the first Tim McGraw and Faith Hill tour, and when Travis Tritt came back after taking a break. I got to work a George Jones record, which was just crazy to me.

Pictured (L-R): Faith Hill, Jason Turner

How did you change lanes to being an entertainment attorney?

During that time—again, I’m still at Belmont—Time Warner merged with AOL. So at the age of 19 or 20, I got my first inside look at corporate mergers and what that means. (Laughs) To speak generically, it set off a light bulb in my head. I love the music industry. I love the creative side. I don’t love that somebody 2,000 miles away has the power to decide whether or not I have a job tomorrow. The other thing that kept ringing in my head was virtually anytime I would spend with artists, I almost felt like a therapist because they would start opening up about issues they were having. “I’m stuck in a management deal and I can’t stand my manager,” or “I’ve been signed to the label for eight years and still don’t have an album out,” and so on. I couldn’t help, but think, “Gosh, every single one of these scenarios seems somewhat predictable and more importantly, preventable. Why wasn’t this dealt with in your agreements? Why aren’t you protected in these various ways that seem predictable and protectable?” I was driving back to my apartment at Belmont one day and a light bulb went off in my head. I thought, “I want to be the guy who can help people like this when they’re doing their contracts.” As soon as Belmont was done, I went down to law school in Florida.

I stayed in contact with everybody that I worked with [while in law school]. In typical music industry fashion, they all spread out to different places. When I came back in 2006, I immediately hit the ground running to meet with all of those people and say, “Hey, I’m back. This is what I’m doing. I would love it if you would keep me in mind, if you need anything.” It’s so humbling to me that I’m sitting here in 2022 and some of my clients are the same guys who either hired me or were mentoring me 25 years ago.

Pictured (L-R): Jason Turner, Shane McAnally

Now you’re a partner at the law firm you started with Jordan Keller in 2011. When do you feel most fulfilled in what you do?

I get the most joy seeing my clients succeed. I know that sounds cliche, but just last week I had four clients experience their very first No. 1 song. Technically it was three clients [who got their first No. 1], for the fourth client, it was his second No. 1 as a writer. It was for the Cody Johnson song “‘Til You Can’t.” I represent both of the writers. For Ben Stennis, it’s his very first No. 1 and that guy has been busting his tail for over a decade in this town. It’s the very first No. 1 for the publisher, Young Guns, as well as Trent Willmon, the producer of the song. Matt Rogers was the other writer, and it was his second No. 1. To get to see all of those individuals experience that, let alone on the same song in the same week, it truly was a reminder to me how lucky I am to get to do what I do with who I get to do it with. That’s why I do it every day.

Pictured (L-R): Jon Loba, Jason Turner

Who have been some of your mentors along the way?

I hate to confess it was this long ago, but 24 years ago, a very young Jon Loba [was a mentor of mine]. Jon was very young, he was a promo coordinator at the time, but he really empowered me. So did Bill Mayne, who was GM of Reprise at the time, and Bob Saporiti, who was GM of Warner Brothers at the time. Those guys truly empowered me to take the whole secondary radio thing and run with it. Ken Tucker is another guy. He was the national director of promotion at the time and he would spend time teaching me what the charts meant and what the different strategies were.

Jerry Duncan was Warner’s outside indie promoter for the secondary market stations when I was there, so he and I worked records together. He was one of the kindest people to me back in the day when it came to showing me the ropes of working with programmers and music directors. We had a ton of fun, and success, working records together on people like Faith Hill, Chad Brock, George Jones, and more.

What makes a successful person in business or in life?

I’m going to sound like a cheesy Hallmark movie, but I firmly believe what I’m about to say: work hard, do better than you think your best is, and treat others with kindness and humility. We all make mistakes. I’m speaking specifically as a lawyer right now—if somebody on the other side of you made a mistake, guess what? That may be you tomorrow. Remember that. We’re all just trying to do the best we can.

There’s always something to learn. I always tell my clients, whether they’re an artist, a songwriter or a business owner, continue to surround yourself with people who are better at your craft than you are. That’s what’s going to make you better at what you’re doing.

My Music Row Story: Big Loud’s Seth England

Seth England

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.


This edition of “My Music Row Story” is sponsored by Worldwide Stages.


As Partner and CEO, Seth England leads Big Loud as one of the most unique and fastest-rising businesses in Nashville; a trailblazing conglomerate that combines music publishing, management, label services, and capital investment and has changed the industry in the process. The label’s roster includes country hitmakers Morgan Wallen, Jake Owen, Chris Lane, and Hardy, as well as rising stars Hailey Whitters, Ernest, Lily Rose, MacKenzie Porter, and more.

Since joining Big Loud Publishing in 2008, England has proven his knack for landing massive song placements, signing cutting-edge, genre altering acts, and finding unique partnerships that further the label’s innovative goals, as he did when co-founding female-driven label Songs and Daughters with ACM-winning songwriter Nicolle Galyon. Big Loud Records has earned multiple Gold and Platinum RIAA certifications, 12 No. 1 U.S. airplay hits, and more than 5.5 billion global streams in 2021 alone. England has been named to multiple Billboard power player lists, including 2021 Indie Power Players and Country Power Players.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. I grew up in Illinois right across the state line in a small town called Marshall, Illinois.

How did you get into the music business?

The pathway to it started for me when I was a junior in high school. It was by way of sports. I was a football player and I was going go play football in college. I was taking all sorts of recruiting visits and one of the problems of finding a place that I wanted to go to was the academic options [the schools’ offered]. I knew I wanted to do something unique and different. I was chasing that “never have to work a day in your life” thought, chasing something I was passionate about. At that time, I was thinking I would probably end up in sports. I ended up going to college at Greenville University and double majored in music business and marketing.

While I was in school, one choice just led to the next opportunity and then to the next one. I just kept trusting myself and those around me to keep walking through certain doors. I was promoting shows while I was in college during the off season, primarily. I was able to make a little money, not too much. Little did I know that later on when I would get to Nashville and meet Craig [Wiseman], the thing he loved most about me was that I had been a show promoter and I knew the live touring aspect.

Pictured (L-R): Big Loud’s Craig Wiseman, Joey Moi, Seth England. Photo: Courtesy of Big Loud

When did you start coming to Nashville?

I started going after my sophomore year of college. I knew that I wanted to get my foot in the door. My first summer in Nashville, I interned in the mornings for Harlan Howard Songs. I kept promoting shows [throughout college] so I was able to make a little money, save up, and when I came to Nashville in the summers, I could spend 40 hours a week doing my internships because I didn’t have the opportunity to come down in the fall or spring. I came down knowing I really wanted to get into publishing or A&R and I did an internship with Sara Knabe. She was the creative director at Harlan Howard Songs and she had just gotten out of Belmont a few years before that. In the afternoon I’d go to Vector Management. I did that my whole first summer.

You joined Big Loud in 2008. What was your vision for the company in the early years?

It starts with Craig. I met Craig in 2006. At that time, he was trying to do a lot of things. He had shown aspirations even before his partnership with Joey [Moi] and I that he wanted to do more than just traditional publishing. At the time he had Big Loud Shirt publishing, he had a joint venture with Extreme Writers Group in Nashville, he had an office in London, and he probably had 10 to 15 writers. It was a very A&R-centric company, but most of the cuts revolved around Craig. That was something he desired to evolve. He wanted to make sure the company was known as a successful publishing company for songwriters. I could tell quickly where his energy was at, his priorities, and the way that he saw the business. I had a feeling he was going to get into much more. I couldn’t have told you then where we were going to go, but I could just feel some energy between the two of us. The first couple years we started to talk about all the great things we had, but also the things we didn’t have. Joey joined us a few years later.

Photo: Courtesy of Big Loud

With the three of you leading the charge, Big Loud has become one of the most competitive indies in the Nashville music business. How do you feel that the company is different than other labels?

All three of us—Craig, Joey, and I—would be lying if we didn’t say that over the years while developing into this plan, we weren’t watching other record labels in town. We worked with Florida Georgia Line for years and worked within the Big Machine halls. We learned a lot from Scott [Borchetta] and Jimmy [Harnen] and some of their great executives there. Along the way, you pick up things you want to do like [other companies] and then how you want to do a few things different.

I think [the way we approach] artist development is different in a lot of ways. If you want to approach artist development as just one song or even three to five songs, it’s just not enough. No matter how good you are it just won’t be enough. The same is true if your first song to five songs doesn’t work. It wasn’t going to be enough anyway, so let’s keep going. Don’t get discouraged. Keep swinging. I feel like if the artist is good enough to come to our record label, we need to set up an ecosystem around them where they get an unlimited amount of swings at the ball. We preach that because we do believe and we’ve seen many examples of success by letting artists continue to try and swing. They build.

When do you feel most fulfilled in your role now?

When people acknowledge our process—not for any ego reason—we’re just so proud of our process. We’re so proud of the belief systems shared between Craig, Joey and I. It’s not just about music and business, it’s really about people, culture and camaraderie. We’ve worked very hard for that and we sometimes may be the ones to see the benefits. It takes a lot of additional man hours to care about culture. I get compliments every so often about that, people are really starting to notice. With the more forward-facing success some of our clients have, people may be looking into what’s going on behind the scenes.

Photo: Courtesy of Big Loud

Who have been some of your mentors along the way?

Certainly Craig and Joey. They have become brothers to me. Monte and Avery Lipman are big mentors in the record label space. Clarence Spalding in the Nashville artist management space. He ushered Big Loud into the Maverick partnership. That was such a special time with him. Brian O’Connell in concert promotion has always been a good friend and never makes us feel stupid for something we don’t know. Certain acts of ours have gotten bigger than we ever imagined. He was right there with us, teaching.

What’s some of the best advice you’ve ever received?

There’s a reason the word “music” comes before “business.” I think about it all the time. In a modern music era, we’ve never had more information ever. While analytics and data are guiding lights for the business part of it, I still remind myself that music comes before business. When we’re talking to our artists, we certainly need them to know that our agenda as a record label is to still encourage our artists to make music with their ears and gut inspiration. We are not making music for TikTok. We’re not making music for anyone other than yourself and the fans that you’re building. After you release it, then we can look at things pragmatically and make sure we give you great recommendations and best practices on how to elevate your career with your music.

If someone were to ask you what the secret to your success was, what would you say?

I would say two things. The first is each other. Be sentimental about it. There’s so much trust [you have to] put in other people, whether it’s myself with artists, Joey with artists, the songwriters with artists, or executives to each other. If we didn’t do so much over-communicating and making the artists feel in complete control of their career, especially with our business model, I don’t think it would’ve worked this well.

The other thing is we put songs over anything else. A hit record can launch a small name or an unheard of name. A bad record can slow down a huge name. It’s such a simple statement, but sometimes we find that too many people are worried about the “how,” the “when,” and the “if” that they may breeze right past the “what.” Maybe it’s just the way I started in the music business, but nothing comes before a song.