Joe Clemmons Inks Publishing Deal With UMPG Nashville [Exclusive]

Joe Clemmons. Photo: Nathan Zucker

Universal Music Publishing Nashville has signed Joe Clemmons to an exclusive, worldwide publishing agreement. The songwriter has had cuts with Gabby Barrett, Hardy, Brian Kelley, Ryan Hurd, Kameron Marlowe, Catie Offerman, and Josh Abbott Band.

The east Texas native moved to Nashville in 2008, where he developed his passion for guitar and songwriting while attending Belmont University. He spent several years on the road as a touring musicians with artists Hurd, Hardy, Maren Morris, Steve Moakler, and more, before choosing to focus solely on songwriting in 2017. Clemmons co-wrote “Rose Needs A Jack” on Barrett’s highly acclaimed debut album as well as Hurd’s “Wish For The World,” which earned the writers a 2020 AIMP Nashville Awards Publisher’s Pick nomination.

“A true song crafter and exceptional player, Joe is one of the most exciting talents for his generation of songwriters. We are beyond excited to be representing him at UMPG,” says Senior Director A&R, UMPG Nashville Missy Roberts.

“I have always been such a fan of the UMPG Nashville team. They consistently succeed at developing songwriters and taking them to the next level,” shares Clemmons. “After meeting with Missy and Terry Wakefield, I felt like I found a place where I could really thrive as a songwriter. I have such respect for them and all they have accomplished, and it’s an honor to join the Universal Music Family.”

On The Row: Jennifer Smestad Connects With Vulnerable Songwriting On TikTok

Jennifer Smestad. Photo: Ryan Noble

RECORDS Nashville singer-songwriter Jennifer Smestad wasn’t new to the spotlight when her tender ballad “Half The Man” blew up on TikTok.

Smestad had garnered a wealth of performing experiences, from singing the National Anthem at ballparks across Arizona to competing in the Miss America Competition in Atlantic City, New Jersey as Miss Arizona in 2013. Smestad was compelled by country music from a young age, and made the move to Nashville in 2016.

“I knew I was going to do music since I basically could talk, since I was 3 years old. And I always wanted to do country, I grew up on ’90s country,” Smestad said in a recent virtual visit with MusicRow. “When I posted ‘Half The Man’ on TikTok, it was honestly one of the first real songs I’ve written. I moved here and I was afraid of emotions and felt like I didn’t want to write about my life because it’s too scary. So I was writing a bunch of hypothetical stories and some turned out awesome, but some I just didn’t connect to.

“My sister actually had miscarried twins and I knew I needed to write about it. It took me seven months to finally write it and I was scared to death. So finally I did and the song turned out incredible and it was powerful and I ended up releasing it for Mother’s Day. Then in that same week I wrote ‘Half The Man.’ I was on this kick of writing stuff that actually meant a lot to me.”

Her breakthrough debut single “Half The Man,” co-written with Josh Metheny and Erik Halbeg, caught fire on TikTok in 2020. Inspired by her father, a longtime pilot for United Airlines, it has now earned over 18 million streams to date.

“I’ve always lost it at weddings with the father-daughter dance song and I’ve always had this incredible bond with my dad. But it’s interesting because ever since I wrote this song, I’ve haven’t cried at a father daughter dance again. I feel like it was a therapeutic thing that needed to happen for me, but it’s a very personal, meaningful song to me.”

Smestad’s current single is another emotionally powerful song, this time about a breakup. “Can’t Have Mine,” co-written with Shelby Darrall and Noby Sidez, shows Smestad setting a boundary with an ex flame. “You can’t take one step forward and sixteen back, have my heart and treat it like that / You took your time, and now you can’t have mine,” she sings.

“When we were writing this song, I can’t speak for the other writers, but I felt like it was just a sad breakup song. I put a little teaser on TikTok and until people started saying this I didn’t realize it, but it’s actually pretty empowering because even though you experienced someone who doesn’t value you, you’re being able to realize it and step back and away from something toxic. People started messaging me saying because of the song they left a toxic relationship or they got out of an abusive relationship. That’s pretty awesome, I had no idea that this song would do that.”

Part of Smestad’s inspirational story is that she has overcome several mental health struggles. She was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome, OCD and social anxiety at only 10 years old.

“There’s no cure to it and it never fully goes away, but there’s a couple of things that can happen. A lot of people can grow out of the majority of their ticks or a majority of their symptoms; or they only come out when you’re extremely stressed or tired,” Smestad explained. “But I also did natural Chinese acupuncture when I was about 15 and it changed my life. I wouldn’t say I’m cured and everything’s 100% okay, but it really did change my life starting at 15. I have slowly worked with the social anxiety since then, but as far as the Tourette’s goes, between herbs, acupuncture, prayer and my family, it has changed my life.”

Pictured (L-R, top row): Monarch Publicity’s Heather Conley, MusicRow‘s Alex Parry, LB Cantrell; (L-R, middle row): MusicRow‘s Lydia Farthing, Jennifer Smestad, MusicRow‘s Sherod Robertson; (L-R, bottom row): MusicRow‘s Haley Crow

Recording Academy Restructures Leadership, Names Co-Presidents

Recording Academy President/CEO, Harvey Mason Jr., has appointed Valeisha Butterfield Jones and Panos A. Panay as Co-Presidents, effective Aug. 16, 2021.

They will join recently elevated Chief Operating Officer Branden Chapman and Chief Industry Officer Ruby Marchand as part of a modernized leadership team. This new structure is recognition that further progress and building of the organization requires leaders with different strengths and areas of focus to drive innovation and accountability. The team will work directly under Mason, whose title will shift to CEO.

“The successful evolution of the Recording Academy is dependent on strong and innovative leaders, and I’m thrilled to elevate Valeisha and welcome Panos as Co-Presidents to help drive the Recording Academy’s continued transformation,” says Mason. “Both Valeisha and Panos are incredible leaders who have a proven record of progress, and together with the rest of the team, will continue to push the envelope at the Recording Academy and shape the organization to better serve, protect and celebrate the music community.”

As Co-President, Butterfield Jones will continue to oversee the Recording Academy’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts along with people and culture, membership, awards, advocacy, and related initiatives. She will also continue to infuse the highest standards of inclusion, belonging, and representation throughout the Academy.

Butterfield Jones currently serves as the Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer for the Recording Academy. Prior to this role, she served as the global head of inclusion for Google, Inc., responsible for accelerating diversity, equity, and inclusion outcomes for underrepresented communities internally and externally across the global brand. Key programs under Butterfield Jones’ leadership included TechExchange, Code Next, the State of Black Women at Google, Decoding Race and the Digital Coaches program.

In 2007, Butterfield Jones co-founded Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (WEEN), a nonprofit, global coalition of people committed to the balanced, positive portrayal of women in the entertainment industry. Her leadership has been recognized by Forbes, Fortune, Glamour, and Ebony magazine’s Power 100, The Root 100, Billboard magazine’s 2021 Change Agents feature, and others.

Panay will serve as Co-President and Chief Revenue Officer, and will be tasked with driving business growth across the entire organization to further expand the service offerings for the Academy’s members and the industry. With a focus on identifying new partnerships and opportunities, he will be instrumental in creating strategic plans and fostering a culture of innovation.

Prior to joining the Recording Academy, Panay served as the Senior Vice President for Global Strategy and Innovation at Berklee College of Music and is a fellow at MIT Connection Science. At Berklee, Panay led the development and execution of the college’s overarching strategic plan; founded the Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship; oversaw its campuses in New York City, Valencia, and Abu Dhabi, as well as the Music + Health and India Exchange Institutes; and steered new partnerships, program development and the incorporation of new technologies. Prior to Berklee, Panay was founder and CEO of Sonicbids, the leading platform for emerging artists to connect with music promoters. He started his career as a talent agent and Vice President at The Kurland Agency, booking international tours for Grammy-winning artists such as Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, and Branford Marsalis.

Panay has been recognized in Fast Company‘s Fast 50; Inc Magazine‘s Inc 500, Mass Hi-Tech All Stars, and Boston Globe‘s Game Changers. His first book Two Beats Ahead: What Musical Minds Teach Us About Innovation, co-authored with Michael Hendrix of IDEO, was released earlier this year and was named as a business book of the month of April by the Financial Times.

Chase Rice Gives Acoustic Treatment To ‘The Album,’ Available Now

Broken Bow Records recording artist Chase Rice has released a reimagined version of his recent project, The Album. Available now, The Album (Acoustic) includes stripped-down versions of all 15 songs that found their home on the original project, including fan-favorites “Lonely If You Are” and “Forever To Go.”

Rice’s journey for The Album began in early 2020, when he surprised fans with a diverse collection of music. As the year progressed and Rice returned to his roots with an acoustic guitar while spending time off the road, he was inspired to reimagine the project in a whole new way. Included among the 15 stripped-down tracks is Rice’s current chart-topper “Drinkin’ Beer. Talkin’ God. Amen.” featuring Florida Georgia Line, which has become Rice’s fastest trip to the Top 10 at country radio so far and marks his 5th Top 10 to date.

“As we all slowed down this year, I found myself gravitating back to how it all began for me – writing songs with just myself and a guitar,” shares Rice. “I started sharing videos of me playing some of the new music that way and fans really loved it, so that inspired me to go back to each song and create these acoustic versions, which give The Album a whole new perspective.”

The Album (Acoustic) Track List:
1.   American Nights – Kevin Griffin, Martin Johnson, Francois Tetaz; Produced by Martin Johnson
2.   Lonely If You Are – Chase Rice, Lindsay Rimes, Hunter Phelps
3.   Everywhere – Chase Rice, Zachary Kale, James McNair; Produced by Zachary Kale
4.   Best Night Ever – Chase Rice, Chris DeStefano, Matt Jenkins
5.   Messy – Seth Ennis, Kylie Sackley
6.   In The Car – Chase Rice, Jesse Rice, Hunter Phelps, Mark Holman
7.   Forever To Go – Jordan Minton, Casey Brown, Geoffrey Warburton; Produced by Casey Brown
8.   You – Chase Rice, Jon Nite, Zach Kale
9.   Break. Up. Drunk. – Chase Rice, Hunter Phelps, Jordan Schmidt
10. Down Home Runs Deep – Daniel Ross, Michael Hardy, Mike Walker, James McNair
11. Belong – Chase Rice, Chris DeStefano, Jon Nite
12. The Nights – Chase Rice, Zach Kale, James McNair; Produced by Zach Kale
13. Bedroom – Chase Rice, Jon Nite, Jimmy Robbins; Produced by Corey Crowder
14. If I Didn’t Have You – Chase Rice, Channing Wilson, Jonathan Singleton; Produced by Jimmy Robbins & Jonathan Singleton
15. Drinkin’ Beer. Talkin’ God. Amen. (feat. Florida Georgia Line) – Chase Rice, Hunter Phelps, Cale Dodds, Corey Crowder; Produced by Chase Rice, Florida Georgia Line & Corey Crowder
*Produced by Chris DeStefano & Chase Rice unless otherwise noted.

AIMP To Host State Of The Music Business Post-Pandemic Webinar With John Esposito

AIMP Nashville will be hosting a State of the Music Business Post-Pandemic Webinar this Thursday, June 24 at 2:30 p.m. CST. John Esposito, Chairman & CEO at Warner Music Nashville, will be joining the virtual conversation with moderator and journalist Cindy Watts.

Together, the pair will discuss the current state of the music industry as we begin to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Topics of discussion will range from the touring resuming, COVID’s impact on radio tours, how the A&R Department is signing new artists, what “back to work” will look like for Warner Music Nashville, streaming vs. radio, and more.

The webinar is free for AIMP members and $5 for non-members. To register for the event, click here.

Toby Keith & Friends Golf Classic Raises $1.4 Million For OK Kids Korral

Clay Walker and Toby Keith performing at the 17th Annual Toby Keith & Friends Golf Classic

After a year hiatus, the Toby Keith & Friends Golf Classic raised $1,427,000 dollars for the OK Kids Korral, the cost-free home for families of children being treated at Oklahoma City area hospitals. The event was held on June 11-12 and raised the second-highest total in the classic’s 17 year history. In all, the event has now raised more than $15 million.

The biggest single bid was $100,000 for an AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am experience where the winner will get to walk the course with Keith during the tournament. Additional top bids came in for a chance for two to play in the 2021 Lexus Champions For Charity tournament ($62,000), a Fleetwood Mac signed electric guitar ($50,000), and a trip to Iceland ($30,000). Beyond the auctions, multi-platinum Show Dog Nashville recording artist Clay Walker performed with Keith. As for the double-shotgun-start golf tournament, the team from Ace Hardware won the morning round, with the afternoon round taken by Tier 1 Contracting. Mark VanHoose won the closest-to-the-hole contest and the Harley Davidson prize that went with it.

Pictured (L-R): Toby Keith, The Howard family – Lawsyn, announcing she is cancer free, Josh, Harlow, and Destiny

Recently, the Academy of Country Music announced it will bestow Keith with the Merle Haggard Spirit Award at the 14th Annual ACM Honors taking place on August 25 in Nashville. The award is presented to a singer-songwriter who is continuing the legacy of Haggard, the country legend and 20-time ACM Award winner, by following their own path, crafting great songs, and epitomizing Haggard’s spirit through genuine performances and great storytelling.
Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015 and awarded the National Medal of Arts earlier this year, Keith is currently nominated for induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, his Country Comes To Town Tour resumed in Prescott, Arizona on Sunday, June 20. Announcements regarding new music are expected soon.

Jake Owen To Host One-Night-Only Concert Benefitting The CMA Foundation

Jake Owen. Photo: Matt Paskert

Jake Owen is hosting Jake Owen & Friends: A Concert Made for You on Thursday, July 15 at the Ryman Auditorium. Proceeds from the special, one-night-only show will benefit the CMA Foundation and their efforts to improve and sustain high-quality music education programs across the U.S. as they work to ensure every child has the opportunity to participate in music.

Sharing the stage with Owen will be some of the songwriters behind his nine career No.1 songs, including the most recent smash hit “Made For You.” Penned by Benjy Davis, Joey Hyde, and Neil Medley, the song earned all three writers their first-ever No. 1. Quickly becoming an international sensation, the single charted in the United States, Canada, and Australia, and marked the first time Big Loud Records ever had a multi-week No. 1 single on both the Billboard Country Airplay and Country Aircheck/Mediabase charts.

“Being able to play the Ryman Auditorium is always going to be special, but to be able to share the stage with some of the people who helped shape my career with their songs is something that I will remember forever,” shares Owen. “This ‘Made For You’ concert is made for country music fans, and it’s going to be a special way to be a part of the shows that are welcoming live music back to Nashville.”

“With CMA Fest postponed for a second year, the Foundation lost a majority of its funding,” says Tiffany Kerns, CMA Foundation executive director. “Having artists like Jake show continued commitment and support to our mission is what sets country music apart. As beneficiaries, we are honored to be included in this event. It is sure to be an exciting night full of country music!”

Tickets for the benefit go on sale this Friday, June 25 at 10 a.m. CST and can be purchased here.

SoundExchange Distributes Over $940 Million In Performance Royalties During 2020

SoundExchange reported it distributed nearly $947 million in performance royalties to creators during the fiscal year of 2020. This marks a $39 million increase from 2019, showing a 4% growth year-over-year with an operating administrative rate of 5.3%.

This signals a new milestone with SoundExchange distributing nearly $8 billion in collections to creators since the company was established in 2003. The company is responsible for collecting and distributing digital performance royalties on behalf of nearly 250,000 recording artists’ and master rights owners’ accounts within the music industry.

“Music was among the industries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Michael Huppe, president & CEO of SoundExchange. “With venues shuttered and touring revenue effectively non-existent, digital royalties represented the lifeblood and primary income source for a large segment of the music industry.”

At the onset of the pandemic, SoundExchange pledged to provide uninterrupted monthly royalty payments despite the ongoing challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through SoundExchange’s technology infrastructure and early action taken by the company to work remotely, the company delivered on its promise.

“It is a testament to our technology and data systems and point of great pride that SoundExchange was able to continue to deliver on-time and seamless payments to creators throughout 2020,” continues Huppe. “I’m especially pleased that last year’s payouts were so robust at a time when creators needed them the most. We will never stop innovating and expanding our financial technologies and services so that we can continue to be a trusted leader in the digital-first age of music.”

Cracker Barrel Launches Care It Forward With Shane McAnally, CeCe Winans, Jennifer Nettles

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store has launched its new Care It Forward initiative, ranging from in-store surprises for guests throughout the summer to a special musical content series featuring pairings of musical artists from diverse backgrounds, genres, and viewpoints.

Cracker Barrel has partnered with Grammy Award-winning musicians and songwriters Shane McAnally, Cece Winans, and Jennifer Nettles to share stories of how their careers benefitted from someone making an effort to #CareItForward, and to give these artists and songwriters the opportunity to do the same by mentoring up-and-coming musicians. Cracker Barrel has paired McAnally, Winans, and Nettles with artists Kylie Morgan, Tauren Wells, and a special guest, respectively, to help coach, mentor, and support them in the next steps of their careers after a year where nearly two-thirds of artists and creative workers reported being fully unemployed because of COVID-19.

“As we emerge from a season unlike any we’ve ever experienced as a country, it’s important to come together and demonstrate care – not only through conversations, but also through actions,” explains Cracker Barrel Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Jennifer Tate. “At Cracker Barrel, we believe inspiring care can start by simply inviting a diverse range of people to participate, and you will see that in action with the launch of our Care It Forward initiative.”

These artists will come together for engaging conversations touching on their struggles and triumphs in the music business. The first episode, featuring Winans and up-and-comer Wells, honors Black Music Appreciation Month and will be available Thursday, June 24, on Facebook, Instagram TV, and YouTube with additional content to be released throughout the summer.

Cracker Barrel guests, employees, and community members are invited to share their stories and inspire others by using #CareItForward on social media. To learn more about how Cracker Barrel is showing care, click here.

Jenna Paulette Signs Publishing Deal With Sea Gayle Music

Pictured (Top Row, L-R): Brandon Gregg, JD Groover, and Kim Wiggins (Sea Gayle); (Middle Row, L-R): Helena Capps (Wildrose Projects); Emily Witters (Sea Gayle); MaryAnn Keen (BMI); (Bottom Row. L-R): Marc Driskill (Sea Gayle); Jenna Paulette; Chris DuBois (Sea Gayle)

Jenna Paulette has signed a global publishing deal with Sea Gayle Music. Her new single, “Country In The Girl,” will be released this Friday, June 25, via her independent label, Grit Brand Entertainment. The upcoming track was penned with fellow Sea Gayle writers Jeb Gipson and Smith Ahnquist, and has already achieved viral success prior to its official release, with a preview of the chorus racking up over 2.5 million views.

Born and raised in Dallas, Paulette is a staple of the Song Suffragettes, the weekly female singer-songwriter showcase at Nashville’s Listening Room Café. Her songs have appeared on Apple Music’s “Breaking Country” playlist, Google Play’s “Country’s New Crop” playlist, and Radio Disney. Paulette was named one of CMT’s Discovery Artists, and has also toured with Mason Ramsey, Clay Walker, and Joe Nichols, among others.

“Jenna’s skillset as an artist and a songwriter, paired with her work ethic is undeniable,” says Sea Gayle’s Creative Director Emily Witters. “We couldn’t be more excited to have her join the Sea Gayle family and to support her in this next chapter of her already flourishing career.”

“Viacom/CMT’s Leslie Fram first introduced me to Marc Driskill at Sea Gayle Music,” shares Paulette. “After that initial meeting, Sea Gayle felt like the right place for me. From the writers to each member of their team, including the wonderful Emily Witters, I truly feel I now have so many champions. It’s such a collaborative environment, and I am honored to belong on their roster of writers.”