×

Apple Music Moves Jay Liepis to Nashville to Strengthen Country Presence

“Thanks be to God!” said a label CEO hungry to see the major services prove they're serious about upping country's share of streams.

Apple Music is establishing a beachhead in Nashville. The company announced Monday morning that 13-year Apple veteran Jay Liepis has relocated to Music City to head up a team there that will be “dedicated to being more involved with artists, managers, songwriters and the label community at large.”

That’s welcome news to Nashville’s label chiefs, who over the years have made clear their displeasure that the major music streaming services have been behind in courting country fans as aggressively as they do other listeners. “Thanks be to God!” said Randy Goodman, chairman/CEO of Sony Music Nashville, who believes that Liepis’ move to town will be “game changing.”

“Jay is one of the brightest minds of our — well, his — generation,” said Mike Dungan, Universal Music Nashville’s chairman/CEO, adding that he “can’t wait to take him to Arnold’s [the city’s fabled meet-and-three diner] for beef tips and fried okra.”

Liepis has served as head of U.S. and artist relations at iTunes. The exec was described by the company as “playing an integral role in managing those relationships throughout the launch and growth of Apple Music,” the subscription service that was launched in 2015 to take on rivals like Spotify after it became clear that the future of the business did not lie in downloads.

Apple will open an office in Nashville later in 2018, with an eye on closer relations not just with the country music industry but other genres that are increasingly finding a foothold in the city, including rock, pop and hip-hop, as well as mainstays like the Christian/gospel and Americana communities.

“Jay’s move to Nashville is a reflection of Apple Music’s ongoing investment to our ever-growing and increasingly diverse music community,” said Jason Owen, president/CEO of Sandbox Entertainment, which represents Little Big Town and, as of last week, Kelsea Ballerini. “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.”

Comments like these reflect just how thirsty country’s movers and shakers are for closer and more creative relations with the major streaming services. Country continues to enjoy its status as the top music radio format in the nation, yet fans have been historically slow adopters of new media. In 2017’s year-end Buzz Angle Music report, country accounted for only 6 percent of on-demand streams, versus 22 percent for hip-hop and 19.3 percent for rock, genres that don’t enjoy nearly the same radio dominance.

Spotify already maintains an office in Nashville, as does Amazon Music. In December, Spotify held a two-day open house in Nashville to improve ties with the community. These moves haven’t always had immediate results in increasing country’s streaming presence. On the current Spotify U.S. top 50, there are no country artists represented, apart from two collaborations with pop acts (Florida Georgia Line with Bebe Rexha and Maren Morris’ single with Zed). Country remains better represented on sales charts. As of Sunday night, on iTunes’ singles download chart, with the two collaborative songs included, country artists claimed 13 of the top 50 spots.

Apple doesn’t publish a streaming chart to go along with its sales chart, but the recent stats the company touts suggest fans of the genre are finding their way to paid subscriptions after all. According to Apple, country grew 66 percent at their streaming service last year. The Pure Country radio channel is now Apple’s second most popular, with a 35 percent year-over-year increase. Apple boasts of a 151 percent YOY gain for their A-List Country playlist, now ranked third at the service.

Liepis has already been involved in individual country campaigns prior to the announcement of his move. The current album sales chart-topper and the ACMs’ Entertainer of the Year, Jason Aldean, recently released an exclusive live track to Apple and sat for an interview with Beats “The work he’s done most recently for [freshman artist] Ashley McBryde is just the tip of the iceberg,” said John Esposito, chairman/CEO of Warner Nashville, McBryde’s label home, adding that he “can’t wait to see what else we accomplish together.”

 

 

 

 

More Music

  • Mandatory Credit: Brian J Ritchie/Hotsauce, Editorial

    Lizzo Reveals Summer-Fall Tour Dates

    Hot on the heels of her Nice Life/Atlantic Records debut album “Cuz I Love You” (which got a rave review in Variety last week) and her two Coachella performances, Lizzo has announced dates for a huge North American tour, billed “Cuz I Love You Too.” Produced by Live Nation, the tour begins July 18 in Portland, [...]

  • Delta Air Lines celebrates Grammy Weekend

    Halsey, Jonas Brothers, Zedd to Headline iHeartMedia Wango Tango Concert

    Jonas Brothers, Halsey, 5 Seconds of Summer, Zedd, Ally Brooke (with special guest Tyga), Ava Max, Fletcher and Tomorrow X Together will perform at iHeartMedia’s annual Wango Tango concert at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Los Angeles (formerly StubHub Center) on June 1. Freeform will broadcast a 90-minute television special on Friday, June 7 [...]

  • Nick Jonas, Joe Jonas, Kevin JonasJonas

    Jonas Brothers Set Their First Album in a Decade for June

    Coming 10 years almost to the week after their previous studio album, the Jonas Brothers’ “Happiness Begins” has been set for a June 7 release. A date for their full-length comeback has been eagerly anticipated by fans ever since the near-surprise March 1 release of “Sucker,” a single that has just reached No. 1 on [...]

  • Prince Memoir, ‘The Beautiful Ones,’ to

    Prince Memoir, ‘The Beautiful Ones,’ to Be Released in October

    The memoir Prince was working on at the time of his death is coming out Oct. 29, according to the Associated Press. Publisher Random House confirmed Monday that “The Beautiful Ones” will combine Prince’s unfinished manuscript with rare photos, scrapbooks and lyrics. Announced just weeks before his 2016 death, the 288-page book, issued in partnership [...]

  • TV Review: ‘Motown 60: A Grammy

    TV Review: ‘Motown 60: A Grammy Celebration’

    If nothing else, CBS’ “Motown 60: A Grammy Celebration” special alerted America to the continued vitality of Smokey Robinson as a contemporary performer. Ten months from turning 80, the singer’s performances were focused and controlled as he weaved his sultry vocals through classics he wrote — the ballads “The Tracks of My Tears” and “Ooh Baby Baby,” chief among them. Producers [...]

  • Maren Morris, Alessia Cara Join Zedd

    Maren Morris, Alessia Cara Join Zedd at Coachella Weekend Two

    Fan favorite Zedd brought out two of his best-known collaborators, Maren Morris and Alessia Cara, for hit singles “The Middle” and “Stay” at Coachella weekend two. The pair’s appearances and the overwhelming attendance at the German DJ’s set mark another notch in favor of Coachella’s long, and at this point, nearly complete transformation into a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content