John Loar Leads Charge To Bring Sports Entertainment District to Music City [Interview]

John Loar

Businessman John Loar moved to Nashville to be closer to his daughter. Now he finds himself leading the charge to bring a Major League Baseball team and sports entertainment district to Music City.

His background is in real estate operations and acquisitions. In the late ’90s, Loar led the effort for the Seattle Seahawks acquisition and near-relocation to Los Angeles. He also supported former pitcher and Diamondbacks GM, Dave Stewart, on the acquisition of the Miami Marlins.

It’s clear that Loar sees Nashville’s potential future as part of Major League Baseball as a full circle investment in Music City’s entertainment capacity. He’s interested in creating a sports, family entertainment district—like that of Atlanta, Georgia’s The Battery Atlanta, and Ballpark Village in St. Louis, Missouri—not just a baseball field.

Loar founded Music City Baseball, LLC, an organization primarily of Tennessee business, sports, music, and community leaders that is committed to bringing a MLB franchise to the City of Nashville, without government funding. With a focus on securing MLB approval of an expansion franchise in Nashville, the leadership team is also open to the possibility of relocation and rebranding of an existing franchise.

Understanding the fabric of Music City and it’s business climate, Music City Baseball has already engaged with the music industry, securing Music Advisory Board Members to involve them in the plan for bringing MLB to Nashville and the concept of a new entertainment district. Entertainment icons Luke Combs, Kane Brown, Darius Rucker and Justin Timberlake have joined the Board thus far.

Darius Rucker. Photo: Courtesy FINN Partners

“The importance of the music industry to Music City Baseball’s objectives, extends to why Nashville is an important market,” Loar tells MusicRow. “It’s the opportunity to just connect the two of those going forward. Nashville is Music City, it’s the hottest market in the country. This ballpark is truly not a ballpark, it would be an entertainment venue for world-class entertainment, where you can imagine residencies like in Las Vegas. It would be air conditioned and covered, so they could use it year round. So it’s not about baseball, it’s more about that opportunity to create a world-class [entertainment complex], for convention use, for corporate use, etc.

“Baseball is the reason why I’m the catalyst behind it, but what we’re building here is a world-class entertainment venue. Baseball plays for 22% of the time, 81 games, but what it creates is an opportunity to have a venue within a venue. By design with our partners ASM Global, coordinating our music industry advisors, [the Nashville music industry can have] an important role in being part of this process. They can be included in the design of how the facility operates, how it’s designed and how it functions,” Loar says.

Rendering of potential ballpark / entertainment complex. Photo: Courtesy Music City Baseball

In an effort to build a Major League franchise on equity and celebrate diversity, Music City Baseball wants to name the team Nashville Stars, in honor of several Negro League baseball teams that played games in Nashville in the 1940s. They established a partnership with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which includes a net sharing of revenues from the sale of merchandise bearing the name “Nashville Stars,” and cooperation between marketing and social media efforts.

“It gives Major League Baseball the opportunity to take its place in history and be proactive instead of reactive in the conversations that continue to go on diversity and inclusion,” Loar says.

Music City Baseball was positioned to submit a proposal to Major League Baseball to establish a team in Nashville, but that step has been delayed a year due to business effects from the COVID-19 pandemic. Until then, Loar is focused on site selection for the proposed entertainment district.

“We hope it’s in Davidson County, but it will possibly be in Williamson County or Rutherford County. We’ve got eight sites that we’re considering,” Loar says. “We hope it’s part of the East bank, potentially the Tennessee State University site. A downtown ballpark gives us the opportunity to build, with our partner ASM Global, a world-class entertainment venue. The walkability, bringing the Cumberland River alive, and just being part of a downtown park is the objective.”

In 2021, it’s important for Music City Baseball to show their partner (ASM Global) that the Nashville market can be a revenue contributor, the reasons why, and to find a site for the ballpark.

“We think we can privately finance a ballpark here, as it’s really not a ballpark. It’s an entertainment venue. The baseball team becomes a tenant,” Loar says. “It’s driven by the music industry in residencies, and in conventions. It supports the growth of Nashville, the airport growth, the expansion internationally, and the hotel industry and the restaurant industries that continue to grow, even with COVID. People come to Nashville just because it’s Music City, so when the Red Sox, the Phillies, the Giants, or whoever see the Stars on the schedule, they’re going to come here for a three-game series, and be a part of the town and the market area.”

Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser Launch Country Cadillac Tour

Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser

Country singer-songwriters Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser will share the stage on their co-headlining Country Cadillac Tour, which will begin on Feb. 5 at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, Texas. The two longtime friends will perform acoustically and swap stories, jokes and songs.

In their early days in Nashville, Johnson and Houser were part of a close-knit group that also included Lee Brice, Jerrod Niemann, Dallas Davison and Rob Hatch that supported each other personally and professionally as they wrote songs, signed record deals and garnered radio hits and industry awards. Between the two of them, they have racked up numerous Grammy, CMA and ACM nominations and wins.

The two have performed on stage together throughout the years, most recently singing “Lead Me Home” and “Evangeline” at Farm Aid. They both delivered solo sets before joining forces at the show’s end in 2009 when they performed together at New York’s Bowery Bar.

Johnson and Houser had discussed touring together for years, but their overwhelming solo touring demands hadn’t allowed an opportunity to plan a significant co-headlining tour. This acoustic tour, which will feature proper social distancing and other COVID-19-recommended measures, has been years in the making.

Country Cadillac Tour Dates

Feb. 5: Billy Bob’s, Fort Worth, TX

Feb. 19: Saenger Theatre, Mobile, AL

Feb. 20: Saenger Theatre, Mobile, AL

Feb. 25: Dr. Phillips Center Fontyard Festival, Orlando, FL

Feb. 26: Coca-Cola Roxy, Atlanta, GA

Feb. 27: Coca-Cola Roxy, Atlanta, GA

Mar. 12: House of Blues, Myrtle Beach, SC

Mar. 13: House of Blues, Myrtle Beach, SC

Mar. 18: Whitewater Amphitheatre, New Braunfels, TX

Mar. 19: Whitewater Amphitheatre, New Braunfels, TX

Apr. 15: Von Braun Center, Huntsville, AL

Apr. 16: Avondale Brewery, Birmingham, AL

Apr. 17: Avondale Brewery, Birmingham, AL

Warner Music Nashville’s Tom Starr Passes

Tom Starr. Photo: Courtesy Warner Music Nashville

Warner Music Group Nashville’s Tom Starr has died following a battle with cancer.

Starr was a part of the WAR promotion team, joining in 2014. He was Regional Mgr. of Radio & Streaming when he passed. With the Warner team, Starr helped work singles for Dan + Shay, Chris Janson, Ashley McBryde, Zac Brown Band, Frankie Ballard, and more.

Pictured: Tom Starr with Gator Harrison, Tennille Harrison, Kelly Janson, Chris Janson, John Esposito, and Rod Phillips at a Country Radio Seminar celebration in 2018. Photo: Alan Poizner/Peyton Hoge

Prior to joining Warner, Starr worked in pop world music, including stops at Interscope, EMI/Capitol, Jive, MCA and Elektra Records.

Dan + Shay’s Dan Smyers posted a heartfelt tribute to Starr on his Facebook page, with a photo of a backstage photo from the early days in their career.


man, this one hurts. we’re so grateful to have had Tom Starr with us through the majority of our career (including our…

Posted by Dan Smyers on Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Memorial arrangements have not yet been announced.

IBMA’s 2020 Bluegrass Music Awards To Air On Circle TV

The IBMA’s 31st Annual IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards will air on Circle TV and its affiliated platforms on Jan. 18 at 8 p.m. ET, with a repeat viewing at 12 a.m. ET. Taped at the Ryman Auditorium with additional performances and presentations from across the U.S., the show originally aired during IBMA Virtual World of Bluegrass. The first-ever virtual format has been viewed by a record number of bluegrass fans.

In conjunction with this special event, Circle TV is hosting a night of bluegrass programming including two Grand Ole Opry shows with Ricky Skaggs and Dailey & Vincent and also Old Crow Medicine Show, Billy Strings, and Molly Tuttle, as well as an episode of Opry Docs on Bill Monroe.

“The 31st Annual IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards not only will highlight the accomplishments of beloved bluegrass legends and trailblazers, but also will serve as another way for country music fans to engage with and enjoy an unforgettable night of music from the comfort of their own homes” said Drew Reifenberger, Circle Network general manager. “The Circle Network is honored to partner with the International Bluegrass Music Association to bring this event to our audience for the first time.”

“We are so excited to partner with Circle TV to air this year’s IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards” said Paul Schiminger, Executive Director of IBMA. “This was our first-ever virtual awards show, and everyone is proud of the exceptional performances and memorable presentations to celebrate many of the very best in bluegrass music today and over its 75-year history. Thank you to all who have worked tirelessly to make this happen. We hope this show establishes the building blocks for a lasting partnership to help spread bluegrass music around the world in the years ahead.”

Recording Academy Releases Statement on Recent National Events


Following the recent national events surrounding the riots in Washington, D.C., the Recording Academy released a statement denouncing “all acts of violence against our democracy.”

Below is the statement in full:

“As the details of last week’s events become clearer, it’s even more evident that the brazen acts of violence and destruction at the Capitol were an affront to the values we hold dear as Americans and were unacceptable.

We are deeply saddened and troubled by these events and denounce all acts of violence against our democracy. A peaceful transition of power is fundamental to who we are as a nation. Now more than ever, we must come together as one to bring peace, spread kindness, and restore dignity and mutual respect.

Conflict and division are not the answer. It is our belief that we must unite to affect change, without violence or discord. In our small way, we hope the power of music might help to bring us together and amplify the good that is within us all.”

A handful of country artists also spoke out about the violence in the days following the riots.

National Museum of African American Music Receives $1 Million Donation From Amazon

Amazon announced a $1 million donation to the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) today (Jan. 12).

The gift will sponsor several initiatives at the museum, including “A Soundtrack for All: Amazon STEAM Days,” which will sponsor local schools’ field trips to the museum. Amazon hopes to foster a collaborative musical learning environment through a co-written curriculum and other initiatives that involve the greater community.

“We are excited and grateful that Amazon has embraced the Nashville community and is committed to expanding opportunities and access for our students,” said Dr. Adrienne Battle, director of Metro Nashville Public Schools. “Understanding and experiencing the deep cultural impact of African Americans on all genres of music through NMAAM will be sure to enrich the educations and lives of our students.”

“We are especially proud that Amazon’s partnership will mean more young people and students can access the museum and additional educational enrichment,” said David Bozeman, vice president, Amazon Transportation Services. “The intersection of the creative class of musicians with science and technology will continue to give all Nashvillians an amazing opportunity to learn and educate.”

Additionally, The Best of Theater within the museum will be sponsored by Amazon. The donation announcement follows the news that the museum will officially have its ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, Jan. 18, with galleries opening to the public later that month. Amazon is an enthusiastic partner and will be a part of the ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

“Amazon’s gracious contribution to the museum is an investment not only in our mission, but also in the Greater Nashville music community,” said H. Beecher Hicks III, president and CEO of NMAAM. “The museum tells a story that is meant to be experienced, not just learned, and it is through partnerships like these that we are able to provide that to our patrons.”

“There is a rich tapestry of stories to be told within the walls of NMAAM, and the museum does an extraordinary job of making them vibrant and accessible,” said Courtney Ross, Amazon’s senior manager of External Affairs in Nashville. “We are excited to play a part in bringing them to life and contributing to the music education of the Nashville community.”

Morgan Wallen Breaks Streaming Records With ‘Dangerous: The Double Album’

Morgan Wallen‘s highly anticipated sophomore album, Dangerous: The Double Album, has already broken streaming records after launching last Friday (Jan. 8).

Dangerous set the record at Apple Music for the biggest first day and biggest first week country album of all-time on the platform. After becoming the most pre-added country album in Apple Music history, Dangerous currently sits atop their Overall Albums charts in the U.S., Canada and Australia, while simultaneously staking its claim as the No.1 Top Country Album in 62 countries worldwide.

Meanwhile at Amazon Music, Wallen also continued his streak, breaking their global first day streaming record for a country album debut. Keeping with the trend, Dangerous is now Spotify’s biggest all-time first day streaming record for a country album, as Wallen reigns No. 1 globally and in the U.S. on Spotify’s Top Debuts charts.

Tonight (Jan. 12), Wallen will take the stage for his first-ever headline show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville for a full band, livestream concert. Wallen will play selections from the all-new double album, inviting fans worldwide to celebrate Dangerous on his Facebook and YouTube pages. He also launched a new series, “The Dangerous Sessions,” an acoustic video series featuring all new cuts, starting with “Sand In My Boots,” “Wasted On You,” and “Still Goin Down.”

Amy Speace With The Orphan Brigade Debut New Single “There Used To Be Horses Here”

Amy Speace with the Orphan Brigade has released the first single and title track of her new album, There Used to Be Horses Here. SiriusXM’s The Village premiered the single this week with an interview on the personal new track.

The new album features eleven new songs carved directly from Speace’s depth of personal experiences—childhood memories, coming of age in New York City, and losing a parent while learning to become one. The new project is due out April 30 on Proper Records/Wind Bone Records.

“A month after I turned 50, I gave birth to my son, Huckleberry,” said Speace. “My father was present for the birth and held him within hours. My Dad was 81 years old and we both knew my Dad would not see my son grow up. In the year between my son’s birth and my father’s death, these songs spilled out of me. I grieved in writing. I wanted to illuminate my father and his stories, from the horse farm near his home that was bulldozed to make room for condos (‘There Used To Be Horses Here’) to his memory of a car ride that came back to him in a dream the night before he died (‘Down The Trail’) to a photograph found in an old album (‘Father’s Day’). I wrote to my son as I nested with him in the morning (‘One Year,’ ‘Mother Is A Country’). I sang to our ailing world as the pandemic raged around us (Warren Zevon’s ‘Don’t Let Us Get Sick’).”

There Used to Be Horses Here Track List:
Down the Trail
There Used to Be Horses Here
Hallelujah Train
Father’s Day
Grief is a Lonely Land
One Year
Give Me Love
River Rise
Shotgun Hearts
Mother is a Country
Don’t Let Us Get Sick


Jack Ingram Announces New ‘Jackin’ Around’ Podcast

Jack Ingram is hosting a new podcast, Jackin’ Around With Jack Ingram, set to launch Jan. 15. The first guests on the upcoming new podcast will include Wade Bowen on the inaugural show on Jan. 15, and Waylon Payne on Jan. 22.

During the open dialogue shows, Ingram delves into the personal stories of a variety of guests from the sports, entertainment and music worlds. The ACM award winner is no stranger to the airwaves, as host of the Texas Music Scene, a half-hour weekly TV show that airs in over 70 U.S, markets and has won 22 Telly awards and two People’s Choice awards.

During the course of his career Ingram has released 10 studio albums, six live projects, and charted 12 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Charts. He won an ACM for Best Country Song in 2018 as co-writer of Miranda Lambert’s “Tin Man,” which was also nominated for a Grammy and a CMA award as well.

Industry Ink: Lee Brice, Island Time Festival, Who Knew Presents

Lee Brice Is New Yuengling Brand Ambassador

Lee Brice. Photo: D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc

Lee Brice has signed on to become an official Brand Ambassador for Yuengling Traditional Lager and will help kick off the start of Yuengling’s Stars & Stripes program. The partnership with Brice encompasses personal appearances and performances on behalf of the brand, fan meet & greets, special promotions to meet Brice, a chance to win custom Yuengling and Brice swag, social media sweepstakes and giveaways, in-store point of sale support, social media content and support of our nation’s military. The partnership also officially launches Yuengling’s Stars & Stripes program, which is dedicated to supporting our nation’s military through Team Red, White & Blue, whose mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans through the nation’s largest veteran health and wellness community.

Together, Yuengling and Brice will support Team RWB through special cans and packaging, in-store point of sale support, and many more fan-centric activations throughout 2021. Both Yuengling and Lee are historic avid supporters of the troops. “I am thrilled to team up with a family-owned brewery and serve as a brand ambassador for their Stars & Stripes program,” said Brice. “Spending time with my family, supporting our troops and enjoying a nice, cold beer are three things I love in life, so you could say this is the best of three worlds.”


Island Time Music Festival Goes Virtual February 24-27

The Island Time Music Fest in Isla Mujeres, Mexico is celebrating its 12th year anniversary this year. This year’s event February 24-27 will be virtual due to COVID and will be hosted by Kellie Pickler and Kyle Jacobs and the performers will include Vince Gill, Lee Brice, Jake Owen, Lisa Loeb, Blackberry Smoke, LOCASH, Runaway June, A Thousand Horses, Trigger Hippy, American Young, Maggie Rose, Emily West, Love and Theft, Tango, Shelly Peiken, Levi Hummon, LJ, Lewis Brice, Nick Norman, Rob Hatch, Them Vibes and more. The festival raises money for the Little Yellow School House for special needs children in Isla Mujeres. From the successes of the Island Time Music Fest, the school now has six classrooms, full-time teachers and 63 students.

“What’s so amazing about this festival is the artists, production teams and musicians have all donated their time to help. It’s like a gathering of family and friends to support a community who would otherwise be forgotten. It’s paradise for us who vacation and who spend time here, but for those born here without options for work, growth in education—well, it can be a beautiful prison. We’re here to change that and put our money and energy where our hearts are: with the people of Isla Mujeres,” says co-founder Skip Bishop.


Who Knew Presents Set For January 14

Who Knew Presents The Smartest People In The Room Featuring Scarlett Burke And Jared Gutstadt is set for Jan. 14 at 4 p.m. ET. Burke is an actress and songwriter who has had songs cut by Miranda Lambert, Lindsay Ell and more, and composed music for marketing campaigns for Taco Bell, Zillow and more. Gutstadt is a producer, writer, inventor, and entrepreneur who is known for his patented technology that transformed the TV marketplace through his company Jingle Punks. He launched a new production studio platform and network Audio Up in April 2020.

Registration for the event is open now.