You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Can There Be a Global Country Music Star Who Isn’t Taylor Swift? Thomas Rhett Has Ideas …

Thomas Rhett has a global vision, one that would make him almost unique in country music.

The rising singer-songwriter, who’s had a string of No. 1 hits on the Billboard Country charts, will make his fourth trip to the United Kingdom in the past 18 months in November, where he’ll play to approximately 10,000 fans, including an expected sellout crowd in London. While those numbers dwarf what he can draw in the states, the U.K. trip is a first step in an ambitious plan to grow an international audience that will support a true world tour, something almost unheard of for contemporary country music stars not named Taylor Swift.

“I would love to go play shows in Australia. I would love to hit more countries in Europe;it would be fun to play Dubai,” Rhett said in a video prepared for Tuesday’s “Country Music’s Gone Global” panel at the Music Biz 2017 conference in Nashville. “It sounds really unfeasible right now because nobody’s really ever done it, but [pop artists] were saying that too before they started playing in these markets. When people in the pop industry do a world tour, they’re playing in Tokyo and London and Australia. I think it would be really cool to go do a legitimate world tour someday.”

While Western pop music appeals to a worldwide audience, modern country has yet to completely make the jump across the oceans to Europe and Asia. But artists like Rhett — young, with a pop-leaning sound that appeals across genres — are starting to put in the work to build a similar world circuit.

In addition to his seven No. 1 country singles, Rhett, 27, picked up Male Vocalist of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards in April — an award usually reserved for much older artists who’ve built in huge followings — and is making his first forays into arena-sized audiences on the road in the U.S. this year. But he’s already looking beyond domestic borders.

“This is where T.R. did it right,” said Akiko Rogers, Rhett’s agent at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. “I think it’s a great case study that anyone who wants to book the international market in Europe should look at.”

The first step for any country musician with international intentions is to decide if it’s worth it. With the exception of Canada and Australia — and to an extent the U.K. — it’s largely untilled ground. Rhett, for instance, can play to 10,000 fans in a night in the U.S., a figure it will take him five shows to reach in November when he returns to the U.K. That means it will cost money to spend time overseas, and it takes a long view to see the benefit.

“That directive has to come from the artist,” said Virginia Davis, Rhett’s manager and the founder and managing partner at G Major Entertainment. “I think the desire to create an international career really has to come from the artist. I feel like his music could certainly reach a larger audience.”

Rhett agreed and saw the vision immediately, he said in the video. “A lot of people get scared because it’s not the most cost-efficient thing in the world. Going to Australia or the U.K. is expensive, and when people don’t really know who you are and you’re not really playing in big enough venues to offset your costs, it really is an investment in your career. We knew we wanted to invest in the U.K. a couple of years ago, so every time we go it just keeps getting bigger and bigger. The end goal is to sell out arenas and be able to tour over there like [I] do in America.”

Following Davis’ belief that artists should start building in a presence overseas early in their careers, Rhett appeared at the March 2016 Country 2 Country festival at the O2 in London, the CMA’s annual festival that serves as a primer in the genre for fans in Europe. He then returned just two months later for a promotional tour. He played four cities last November, and will return this November to dovetail with the release of his third album.

And he’s not the only young artist seeing interest grow overseas. Anna-Sophie Mertens, a promoter with Live Nation UK, says the new pop sound of county has been appealing to fans and she’s seen many newer artists trying similar landing strategies: Maren Morris, Brett Eldredge, Cadillac Three and Brothers Osborne, among others. They’re hitting the U.K. as interest seems to be spiking in the wake of acts like Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum and Kacey Musgraves. Rogers said her company booked four artists to play 24 shows in the UK in 2011. In 2016, the numbers spiked to 35 artists and 227 shows last year.

“People are certainly paying a lot more attention to it,” Mertens said. “We’ve all been talking about things that have changed [the perception of country music]. ‘Nashville,’ the TV show, played a big part. I think it just gave people a glimpse at the songwriting and the artistry and everything that happens in Nashville. It certainly opened up the eyes of people who may have thought they don’t like country music, but you still need to get the angle right.”

All the success in the UK has started a positive feedback loop, panelists agreed, with the idea that you can have success overseas gaining critical mass.

“You can see the growth,” Rogers said. “Once I send a tour over, I’ll start getting calls from their buddies and other artists two or three weeks later saying, ‘Hey, I want to do the same thing.’”



More Biz

  • China's Alibaba to Take Majority Control

    Alibaba to Take Majority Control of Alibaba Pictures

    Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is to take majority control of its films unit Alibaba Pictures. The $160 (HK$1.25 billion) deal was announced on Monday. The companies said that Alibaba will increase its stake in Hong Kong- and Singapore-listed Alibaba Pictures, through a share subscription. It will lift the parent company’s stake from 49% to 51%, [...]

  • Guy Moot

    Is Sony/ATV’s Guy Moot Headed for Top Job at Warner/Chappell?

    Ever since Jon Platt announced in September that he will be stepping down from his post at the helm of Warner/Chappell Publishing to take the top job at Sony/ATV when Martin Bandier’s contract is up at the end of March, speculation has been rife about who will take over for him. One name has been [...]

  • The King Eric Clapton A Life

    Rashida Jones, Lili Zanuck Talk Grammy Nominations and the Music-Documentary Gold Rush

    Nothing takes you back to time and a place like the music of a particular era. That’s one big reason why music documentaries are flourishing at a time of enormous demand for high-end docu productions. This year’s five Grammy Award nominees for best music film reflect the appetite for stories about renowned and beloved musical figures, [...]

  • il bussetto best business card holder

    Office-Appropriate Gifting: The Best Gifts For Your Colleagues and Bosses

    You can do better than a handshake or bottle of wine to wish your boss a Happy Holiday this season. Here are 10 gifts that show your appreciation for your colleagues or manager, while also helping you stand out from the card and cookie-wielding pack. 1. Personalized Beer Growler Whether they are using it for [...]

  • viceroy-los-cabos-review

    Winter Hotel Guide: Where The Stars Stay in Los Angeles, New York and Beyond

    Whether for a business meeting, a private event, or an intimate celebration for family and friends, these are the hotels that Hollywood keeps on its list. From storied properties that are rich in film and fashion lore, to new players on the hospitality scene, here’s where to book your next stay. 1. Hotel Shangri-La (Santa [...]

  • best tech gifts ipad apple

    Retail Analysts Reveal Top Tech Gifts of 2018

    It’s shaping up to be a busy holiday season for tech and electronics companies, as gaming consoles, streaming devices and televisions top the list of most anticipated gifts, according to retail analysts. New data from Adobe Analytics forecasts that the holiday shopping season (the period from November 1 to December 31) will see more than [...]

  • best harry potter gifts art

    Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: The Best Gifts For Harry Potter Fans

    2018 marked a big milestone for “Harry Potter,” as the franchise celebrated the 20th anniversary of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” release in the U.S. Since that first book was summoned onto store shelves, the Wizarding World has become a phenomenon not just in America, but around the world, spawning a successful film franchise, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content