It’s been a long time since there was anything resembling a close race to be Nashville’s market share leader; every year, that honor belongs to Universal Music Group Nashville, which claimed 27.6 percent of the country music pie in the first half of 2017. (That’s eight percentage points ahead of the nearest competition, Sony Nashville.)
Holding the reins is chairman/CEO Dungan, who’s just the right combination of serious music geek and fierce, unsentimental competitor to keep the label group hovering well above their Music Row rivals.
It doesn’t hurt that Dungan has the most respected No. 2 in town, UMGN president Cindy Mabe, whom everybody in Nashville thinks will someday make a fine CEO in her own right. These two are practically an all-star roster presiding over an all-star roster. Carrie Underwood, freshly swiped from Sony, is the newest addition, joining a lineup that includes the decade’s two hottest country newcomers, Chris Stapleton and Sam Hunt, on top of stars-for-life Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley, and Little Big Town.
Even though the 63-year-old exec comes off as the kind of relaxed raconteur artists want to hang with, he’s the first to admit there’s a lot of anxiety churning under that hail-fellow-well-met exterior —including some serious nervousness about how the country audience has been slower to subscribe to streaming services than other genres’, and whether those digital kingpins are serious enough about wooing a heartland fan base. He’s hardly one to rest in the security in claiming most of the superstars in music’s most traditionally loyal format. Dungan remains — to borrow a title from a smash Urban/Underwood duet — “The Fighter.”