Guitar Maker Gibson Brands Files for Bankruptcy

Nashville-based Gibson Brands filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday (May 1), citing sharply diminishing sales and continued struggles with its debt load after a series of acquisitions. The 124-year-old company known as the maker of the legendary Les Paul electric guitar, filed for chapter 11 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

Gibson Brands has more than $500 million in loans due within the next six months. According to a statement from Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, the majority of Gibson’s creditors (69 percent) have agreed to a restructuring agreement that will allow Gibson to continue operating, as well as refocus on providing musical instruments. As part of that plan, the company will dissolve its Innovations unit, which operates largely outside the United States.

The company also said existing noteholders have agreed to provide $135 million in debtor-in-possession financing.

In addition to guitars, Gibson manufactures instruments under the Dobro, Wurlitzer and Baldwin Piano brands. The company employs nearly 900 people in its Nashville, Memphis, and Bozeman, Montana facilities.

Shania Twain, Jake Owen Sign On For USA Network’s Talent Showcase ‘Real Country’

Shania Twain and Jake Owen have signed on for a new USA Network show, Real Country. The eight-part music showcase series will film in Nashville this summer. In each hour-long episode, Twain and Owen will hand-pick newcomer solo artists, duos and groups to perform in showcases. The best artists from each showcase will perform in the grand finale, for the chance to be named one of country music’s next breakout artists.

The show is produced by Wilshire Studios, with Twain, Nicolle Yaron, Stijn Bakkers, and Leslie Garvin set to executive produce.

“Real Country celebrates everything we love about country music, while providing a unique platform for emerging artists to showcase their talent,” said Heather Olander, Senior Vice President, Alternative Development and Production, USA Network. She added: “We are extremely lucky to work with both Shania and Jake. Shania is a true international icon who remains the best-selling female country artist of all time and whose music broke barriers across genres, and Jake is an ACM Award-winner who consistently dominates the country charts with some of today’s biggest hits.”

Twain said, “It’s been an incredible year for me, releasing my new album and coming back to country music. I feel it’s time for me to add my own support in finding our greatest undiscovered talent. It’s beyond thrilling to be leading the charge with Real Country, and I’m on a mission to find artists who will keep country music diverse and dynamic. The kind of diversity that inspired all of us.”

Added Owen, “Country music truly seems to be the healing factor in a lot of people’s lives. I will always be grateful for music, whether I’m performing or listening, and I want to encourage up-and-coming artists to tell their stories, find their audiences and make their mark in country music with the same guidance that artists have given to me throughout my journey.”

Artists interested in being invited to perform on one of Real Country’s showcases can apply at or via email at [email protected].

Spotify’s Hot Country Playlist Now Enhanced With Original Video

Keith Urban becomes first artist on Spotify Hot Country to enhance the playlist with video, supporting his Graffiti U album, out April 27.

Spotify’s flagship country playlist, Hot Country, is now enhanced with video. The newly enhanced playlist follows the recent video integrations of fellow Spotify playlists such as Rap Caviar and Viva Latino, which combine music and video into a single view, allowing Spotify users to listen to their favorite audio tracks, as well as watch original interviews and music videos featuring their favorite artists on the on-demand streaming service.

The Hot Country enhanced playlist launches today (Friday, April 27) with content from Keith Urban, who releases his latest album, Graffiti U, today, as well as content from Kacey Musgraves and a special performance from Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton.

On Hot Country, Urban will offer viewers a behind-the-scenes look at his extensive guitar collection, as he discusses his love of playing in his new home studio, and looks at the inspiration behind his new album.

Urban said, “Spotify has been an amazing partner, helping me to connect my music with people all over the planet. On their new Hot Country playlist people will not only hear Graffiti U, they’ll be able to come inside the studio with me and see a bit about the making of the album. Can’t wait for everyone to hear it.”

According to Brittany Schaffer, Head of Artist and Label Marketing at Spotify’s Nashville office, the country music audience has been slower to adopt streaming than audiences of other genres. However, she says “country artists have been craving the attention of the streaming services to help bring the country audience into streaming and craving a deeper ability to connect with and expand their audiences,” she says. “The enhancement of the Hot Country playlist is Spotify’s first significant step in helping artists do just that.”

Schaffer also notes that the enhanced playlist is only the beginning of Spotify’s collaboration with the country industry. “Spotify is serious about making an impact in country music, and the launch of the Hot Country enhanced playlist is only the first step in showing that commitment,” she says. “This opportunity is opening new doors for current and potential listeners of country music, in Nashville and around the world. Our commitment doesn’t start and end with the launch of Hot Country.”

To bring more Hot Country to its more than 4.5 million followers worldwide, the enhanced playlist feature will also launch in four additional markets outside the U.S.: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Spain (in addition to the UK, Sweden, and Latin America).

According to John Marks, Programming Head of Country Music at Spotify, the audience for country music will only keep growing. “There are multiple awakenings happening right now. Streaming is opening a global market. There’s been a hybridizing of other international music into the country playlists, which is opening people’s eyes and minds to country music in other countries. Launching in those markets—which have very active fan bases—will start to speed up the process.”

Marks, who has a long history working in Nashville with country industry and artists, is enthusiastic about the partnership—and he’s not the only one, he says. “The Nashville music industry and Nashville artists have really embraced this idea out of the shoot. We have some big stars on board with Keith Urban and Kenny Chesney, and there are plenty others on queue. It’s really been gratifying to see how quickly and how nimbly everyone in the industry has supported this idea of enhanced playlists and to see it all come together.”

Executives from Sony Music Nashville, Universal Music Group Nashville, and Warner Music Nashville also weighed in on the newly enhanced playlist.

“Late last year when Spotify rolled out their Open House they talked about Nashville as such an important market and musical identity that they were focused on growing, and I really wanted to believe it was true,” said UMG Nashville’s Cindy Mabe. “Coming into 2018, I watched the thorough roll out of the Cover Stories, a weekly video series with the Hot Country enhanced playlist and I am absolutely blown away.  The most important job I do is to tell our artists’ stories and vision for what they have to say through their music so the fans can connect.  Spotify has truly put their money where their mouth is with their investment in Nashville while leaning into our artists’ stories in order to grow the audience.  I know there is a lot more yet to be rolled out but I am so excited to watch as Spotify brings our music to our fans in new and exciting ways.”

“Not only is Spotify’s relaunch of Hot Country another clear sign of their deepening commitment to country music, it’s also an indicator that fans of our genre are consuming music in more new ways than ever before, through video and on their phones,” said Warner Music Nashville’s John Esposito. “The addition of video content to the playlist will surely bring a deeper connection between the fans and the artists they love. Music and video are certainly going to “Get Along” together on Hot Country!”

“We’re so excited that Spotify is furthering their investment in country music by offering another level of media to their Hot Country playlist!” said Sony Music Nashville’s Randy Goodman. “More new ways we can showcase our artists and grow country music streaming in general is a great and welcome thing!”

Weekly Chart Report 4/27/18

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

Brett Young Celebrates Platinum Single “Like I Loved You”

Pictured (L-R): Nate Deaton, GM KRTY; Tina Ferguson, VP Sales KRTY; Brett Young, Jimmy Harnen, BMLG Records President and BMLG EVP; Stella Prado, BMLG Records Director West Coast Promotion. Photo: Ruby Sabin

Brett Young was surprised by BMLG Records President Jimmy Harnen Wednesday evening (April 25) at a sold-out show at The Rodeo Club in San Jose for his chart-topping third single “Like I Loved You” earning RIAA Platinum Certification. The song marks Young’s third consecutive single to reach  the sales mark, following “Sleep Without You” and “In Case You Didn’t Know.”

Young is currently headlining his Caliville Tour, in addition to joining Thomas Rhett’s Life Changes Tour 2018.


Downtown Music Publishing Promotes Steve Markland To Sr. VP, A&R In Nashville

Steve Markland

Downtown Music Publishing’s Steve Markland has been promoted to Senior Vice President, A&R in Nashville. Markland will continue to report to Downtown CEO, Justin Kalifowitz and COO, Andrew Bergman.

The company recently celebrated four years in Nashville, with more than 20 singles on the US and Canadian charts. Recent hits have included “Sleep Without You” (Brett Young), “She’s Got a Way with Words” (Blake Shelton), and the pop hit “All On You” (Nick Fradiani).

Most recently, Downtown announced a deal with John Prine, as well as the acquisition of catalogs from Major Bob Music, and the launch of new initiatives aimed at connecting Nashville songwriters with other writers around the world. Working closely with Downtown’s global music lisensing team, Downtown songwriters in Nashville have earned more than 50 sync placements with brands including iTunes, PetSmart, and DSW, as well as film, television and video games such as Amazon, Netflix, and more.

Recognizing the opportunity for Nashville-based songwriters on a global scale, collaboration has been a key to success for Markland. The Nashville team has instigated several cowrites and writing camps in New York, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, London, Paris and beyond. Most recently, Markland took Jillian Jacqueline, Who is Fancy and Kelly Archer to Europe for transatlantic writing sessions with pop artists and producers like Cheryl Cole, Flo Rida, and Naughty Boy, and two special Nashville-style writers rounds in Paris and in London at the C2C country-music festival. The shows were part of Downtown’s new Songwriters Without Borders initiative that is creating global collaborations between the company’s songwriters and other writers, artists, and producers across the world.

MusicRow spoke with Markland about his new promotion and what’s ahead for Downtown.

MusicRow: How will the promotion change your current duties, if at all?
Steve Markland: To be honest, there won’t be a lot of drastic changes. While our team in Nashville will continue to remain micro-focused on our writers from several perspectives, I will be able to focus on growing the office to higher levels. Our priority is to develop a well-rounded and diverse group of writers. From brand new, first-time writer deals such as Andy Albert, Jillian Jacqueline to veteran writers Marc Beeson, Kendell Marvel and Kelly Archer as well as writer-producers Tony Esterly and artists Who Is Fancy, Sara Haze and more. We also have been fortunate to sign deals with established artists like Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and most recently John Prine, where the focus is a little more on sync and outside artist placements, along with administration. Each of these artist-writer deals are tailored specifically toward their individual needs.

MR: Congratulations on the recent deal with John Prine. Are there specific ways you foresee promoting his catalog that haven’t been tapped into before?
Being on John’s team and being an advocate for his songs and his artistry is an immense opportunity and a very tall task. John’s work is important to our community here as well as the world. It will be my mission to push every boundary. I’m proud to be waving his banner in an official capacity.

One angle we will immediately work on is mining opportunities in Nashville (country genre and beyond), which should be a fresh perspective for John’s catalogue. Another is sync, which is a major priority. We are working closely with Downtown’s global sync licensing team, to find the best opportunities for his incredible songbook.

MR: How often will Downtown hold the Songwriters Without Borders co-writing events?
We’ve been operating with a globally collaborative approach since day one — our team has instigated several co-writes and writing camps in New York, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, London, Paris and beyond — a recent opportunity to take three of our Nashville writers ( Jillian Jacqueline, Who is Fancy and Kelly Archer) to Europe, inspired us to take this mantra to a new level. Through Songwriters Without Borders we are actively creating global collaborations between the our songwriters and other writers, artists, and producers across the world. During our trip to Europe last month, we put on two writer round events for the community in Paris and in London at the C2C country-music festival and also strategically set up co-writing session with artists and producers that are based in those markets. It has now become a very big part of our global initiative and we are planning to have events connecting writers from around the world several times a year.

MR: How did the idea for Songwriters Without Borders come about?
Justin Kalifowitz has a very big vision for Downtown and its songwriters. Providing opportunities for writers on a global level and actually connecting those writers with a strong focus is what Downtown is all about. During one of our Nashville-style “Writer Rounds” we did last year the Bluebird Cafe with Jillian Jacqueline, Marc Beeson and Andy Albert at our Downtown Global Music Summit in Nashville, we had the idea to take this concept to a global scale. The Writer Round style allows writers to share their versions of their songs along with the stories that inspired the songs including the raw emotions that come out in the process. Sharing a stage on this level can lend itself to an immediate songwriter attraction. When we played in Paris, we invited two French writers to play with us — and they were so good! It was their first time playing a Writer Round. They caught on quick and it blew everyone’s minds in Paris. I know sharing the stage and songs that night inspired many co-writes!

MR: What goes into the curation process of pairing certain Nashville writers with pop/rock writers who might be a good fit for them?
Knowing your writers and their creative reach is important. Having good timing with when to change things up is important as well. We always try to pair writers for the right reasons such as complimentary styles, or sometimes they may be outside the box ideas, but usually always finding a commonality between them. Change can be very inspiring to writers and creators. However too much change can easily be a distraction. Every writer is different and that is what dictates when to shift the focus.

During our recent trip in London and Paris, Fancy was in writing sessions with Naughty Boy, Cheryl (Cole), Jon Green, Saltwives, JOATOUCH, Tommy Djibz, while Kelly Archer worked at a writing camp with writers Peter Wallevik, Corey Sanders, Daniel Davidsen and Tebey Ottoh. Todd Clark, who recently moved from Toronto to Nashville, teamed with another one of our UK writers Sacha Skarbek and pop artist Noah Kahan for several songs on Noah’s new release. Recently, we’ve also paired Marc Beeson with Sacha Skarbek. We’ve also paired Casey Smith, one of our writers from Ryan Tedder’s Patriot Games Publishing, with our writer-artist Jillian Jacqueline, and Sara Haze with LA-based pop songwriter-artist Skylar Gray.

BREAKING: Apple Music’s Jay Liepis Relocates To Nashville

Jay Liepis

Apple Music’s Jay Liepis has relocated to Nashville to lead a team dedicated to being more involved with artists, managers, songwriters and the label community at large. Apple also announced plans to open an office in Nashville later this year.

Liepis has been at Apple for more than 13 years, and has overseen all music programming and relationships across the music business. His career also includes time as an online marketing manager for Sony BMG Music Entertainment.

With the move, Apple will focus on further building its country music audience, but will also cater to Nashville’s diverse music scene which includes singer/songwriter, Christian and Gospel, alternative, rock pop, hip-hop and Americana.

Apple Music’s country audience continues to grow, with Apple Music’s A-List Country ranking as the third most-popular playlist, with a 151 percent year over year growth. Apple Music’s Modern Country radio playlist grew 70 percent last year while the country music category on Apple Music in the US is up 66 percent.

Since launching in 2015, Apple Music’s subscription music streaming has amassed more than 40 million subscribers in 115 countries.

Several of the Nashville music industry’s top executives praised the move.

“Jay has been with Apple for a long time and has a clear understanding of the digital landscape,” said John Esposito, Chairman/CEO of Warner Nashville. “I’m thrilled he’s back in Nashville, he is a great collaborator. The work he’s done most recently for Ashley McBryde is just the tip of the iceberg. Can’t wait to see what else we accomplish together.”

“Jay is one of the brightest minds of our (well, his) generation and we are anxious for him to join our business and personal community,” said Mike Dungan, Chairman/CEO of Universal Music Nashville. “I can’t wait to take him to Arnold’s (Where every meal is our Sunday best) for beef tips and fried okra.”

“Excited, game changing, thanks be to god!” said Sony Music Nashville Chairman/CEO Randy Goodman.

“Jay’s move to Nashville is a reflection of Apple Music’s ongoing investment to our ever-growing and increasingly diverse music community,” says Sandbox Entertainment President/CEO Jason Owen. “The impact that Apple has on our industry worldwide is undeniable, and it excites me to know that Nashville is a top priority. The expertise that Jay brings from his tenure paired with his long-term relationships with our city makes this move ideal on every level. Plus, he’s an awesome hang.”

“Jay’s creativity effortlessly crosses genres and thrives in an ever changing industry… I don’t know of a better suited person to raise the bar in Music City,” says Q Prime South’s John Peets. “Having Jay in Nashville is not only a win for the music industry, it is a win for the city.”

Weekly Chart Report 4/20/18

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

Kelsea Ballerini Joins Sandbox Entertainment

Kelsea Ballerini has signed with Jason Owen‘s Sandbox Entertainment, Owen has confirmed to MusicRow.

As MusicRow reported yesterday, Ballerini left her previous management company, Fletcher Foster‘s Iconic Entertainment.

Sandbox Entertainment also represents artists including Kacey Musgraves, Little Big Town, Midland, Faith Hill, and more.

Breaking: Kelsea Ballerini Exits Iconic Entertainment

Kelsea Ballerini has exited her management deal with Iconic Entertainment, led by Fletcher Foster, MusicRow has confirmed.

Ballerini signed with Iconic in 2015, before releasing her debut album The First Time later that year on Black River Entertainment. Ballerini has since earned four No. 1 songs, and released her sophomore album, Unapologetically, in late 2017.

Ballerini’s new management home has not been revealed.