Aldean’s banner year began with his album, “Old Boots, New Dirt,” certified platinum, the only country LP to reach that sales plateau in 2014. For his 2015 Burn It Down Tour, the Georgia native shared the stage and performed some joint stadium dates this summer with fellow superstar Kenny Chesney. In early November, Aldean performed in Nashville’s CMA Theater for ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” which was spotlighting the Music City in the run-up to the CMA Awards.
A senior VP for City National Bank’s entertainment division, Badget helped launch a Nashville office in 2011.
Over the past year, when she wasn’t interfacing with clients in the music publishing, business acquisitions, creative office space/recording studios and intellectual property lending areas, she was lending her time to the Academy of Country Music Lifting Lives, the ACM’s philanthropic arm with the mission of “improving lives throught the power of music.” Badgett began serving as chairman in November.
Courtesy of Lori Badgett
Ballerini is changing the male-dominated country scene one single at a time. Her hit “Love Me Like You Mean It” makes her the first woman in more than nine years to debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart and also first femme to get to No. 1 on her own since Carrie Underwood in 2012. The rising star’s first album, “The First Time,” came out in May and in July Ballerini released her second single, “Dibs.” scored two CMA noms, female vocalist of the year and new artist of the year.
Courtesy of Image Group LA/ABC
Since being elected in early September, Barry, Nashville’s first female mayor in its 200+ year history, has voiced support for progressive initiatives that promote the growth and development of Tennessee’s booming capital. She’s also participated in orgs as Leadership Nashville, which focuses on community issues, and Leadership Music, which seeks to improve the communication and cooperation in the entertainment business.
Courtesy of Megan Barry
Between getting married, having a child and managing one of the most popular country music singers, Belanger experienced an eventful 2015. Before Belanger worked with music sensation Sam Hunt, he oversaw Keith Urban’s photos and videos, and now as Hunt’s manager, continues to utilize his creative side. It’s been quite a journey from the days Belanger shot, edited and directed all of Hunt’s videos to save money and control the process. For Belanger, crossover appeal is key. “We wanted to stick close to our southern/country roots, while living in a visually creative space that has more to do with the pop world,” he says.
Courtesy of Brad Belanger
Brown’s spearheading efforts to make the Nashville Film Festival compete with the likes of Sundance and Tribeca film festivals, and her long-term goal is to help turn Music City into Content City. “It’s an amazing place to live and work,” she says. “Everywhere you go you’re inspired by the creative community here.” While Brown mentors have been exclusively male, she’s co-writing a book to help mentor women of all ages, to be released next year. She’s also acting as music supervisor on the Lionsgate film based on faith-based “The Shack,” which turns out to be one of her favorite books. “It really stopped me in my tracks and inspired me to put one foot in front of the other.”
Courtesy of Anastasia Brown
Zac Brown Band
The three-time Grammy Award winner’s latest album, “Jekyll + Hyde,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 last May, the band’s third consecutive studio album to nab the top spot on the charts. The eight-man crew recently concluded its fifth headlining tour, the band’s largest North American tour to date, which kicked off in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. Other 2015 highlights included a live CMAs performance of the utterly genre-bending, EDM-influenced song “Beautiful Drug.”
Courtesy of Danny Clinch
The country music superstar was the first artist to perform at Nashville’ outdoor venue, Ascend Amphitheatre, where he played a solo set with just his guitar in July. His fourth album, 2014’s “The Outsiders,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, selling 288,000 units in its first week. The album also received four Grammy nominations and Album of the Year honors at the first-ever American Country Countdown Awards.
Courtesy of MediaPunch/REX Shutterstock
When the 49th annual CMAs aired Nov. 4 on ABC live from the Brookstone Arena in Nashville, DiCecco — as senior vice president of business and legal affairs and music for Disney and ABC — could take satisfation in playing a major role in bringing the awards show, hosted by Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley for the eighth consecutive year, to the online world via the ABC Watch Live website. DiCecco also oversees ABC’s creative music services department and the music publishing catalogs for ABC and Oprah Winfrey Prods.
Courtesy of ABC
The Texas-raised CMT head of development says joining CMT five years ago allowed him to combine “my love of producing television with my southern background.” Although Dinsmore splits his time between Nashville, where CMT is headquartered, and L.A., he enjoys being a part of the city’s growth. “On any given day, we’ll have one or more series or music specials in production throughout the city, allowing us to play a part in the city’s renaissance,” he says. “Our originals are attracting new audiences and fueling strong growth. I’m extremely proud of the amount of productions that we’ve brought to our hometown of Nashville.”
Courtes of Jayson Dinsmore
Amidst a joint tour with Thomas Rhett and the recent release of a second studio album, country music newcomer Eldredge is making moves to solidify his identity in the industry. Emerging on the scene as a songwriter, Eldredge is now signed with Atlantic Records’ Nashville division, has produced various No. 1 singles and landed a gig as a Miss America judge earlier this fall. Oh, and he earned himself a CMA Award for new artist of the year.
Courtesy of ABC/Image Group LA
As VP of A&R at the Universal Music Group in Nashville, Fisher has overseen the budding careers of many aspiring artists. He’s also involved in a partnership with country musician Keith Urban for publishing company Baby Needs New Shoes. Jimmy Robbins — who has penned ballads for a platoon of country vocalists including Blake Shelton, Jake Owen and Miranda Lambert — is one of the artists signed to the publisher. Fisher also collaborated with Trace Ayala, Brad Margolis and Justin Timberlake to co-found Villa 40, an artist development and entertainment company aiming to launch the careers of industry newcomers like pop artists The Shadowboxers and Ivory Layne.
Courtesy of Joe Fisher
In July, and after a long search, Sony Nashville finally found the person to take over as chairman and CEO of Sony Music Nashville. Goodman told Billboard at the time that his was “very, very personal to me, because I’m really and truly going home. And man, I don’t want to mess it up — it’s too important, and it’s so iconic.” Goodman founded the Lyric Street label in 1997. He subsequently worked in management for a year with the biggest act from Lyric Street, Rascal Flatts.
Courtesy of Randy Goodman
Harnell, senior VP at concert promoter AEG Live, knows talent when she sees it and when she sees it, it’s good news for the act. “I’m not passionate about all country music, but I am obsessed with certain voices and storytellers,” Harnell says. She oversees talent buying, venue deals and production of just under 200 shows per year out of her Nashville office. The shows range from small clubs to large arenas, including over 60 shows with artists she promotes nationally that account for over half a million tickets and $36 million in gross box office receipts. Harnell also curates talent for the international country music festival Country2Country in the U.K. Outside of AEG, she’s co-manager of the Shadowboxers.
Courtesy of Weatherly Hulsey
This superstar is bringing her talent to TV. Alongside former “Oprah” co-executive producer Lisa Erspamer and Sandbox Entertainment’s Jason Owen, Hill is set to co-executive produce a new daytime talk show. The southern-inspired program is based in Nashville and will feature insights from experts in cooking, gardening, entertaining and home design. Kellie Pickler has been announced as the first host of the yet-to-be-named talker. Hill is no stranger to the producing world. She executive-produced “Faith Hill: Fireflies” and also was on the producing team for “The Stepford Wives.” She’s still singing too: In May, Hill joined Little Big Town on stage at the Billboard Music Awards, performing the band’s hit single “Girl Crush.”
College football player-turned-country music sensation, Hunt released “Between the Pines,” a mixtape that features acoustic versions of favorites like “House Party,” “Leave the Night On” and “Make You Miss Me” on the first anni of his hot debut album, “Montevallo.” The acoustic mixtape includes Hunt’s take on No. 1 singles he co-authored for Kenny Chesney (“Come Over”) and Keith Urban (“Cop Car”). He snagged three CMA nominations, including new artist, song of the year and single of the year. CMT will honor Hunt at Artists of the Year in December. Next June, he is set to headline the Big Barrel Country Musical Festival alongside Brad Paisley and Eric Church.
Courtesy of Image Group LA/ABC
As senior VP of A&R at Nashville-based Big Machine Label Group, Jones has led projects involving Florida Georgia Line, Reba McEntire, the Band Perry, Rascal Flatts and many more. Along with consuming an irregularly high volume of music and keeping a persistently watchful eye on industry newcomers, Jones is known for securing song placements in hit shows including ABC’s “Nashville.,” which serves as a key driver of country music’s international sales.
Courtesy of Allison Jones
Keel believes the past few years have been particularly difficult for women in country music, so she co-founded Change the Conversation, a group dedicated to advancing women’s presence in country music. “Whether it is the new wave of development in Nashville or the treatment of women in the music industry, it is important to use the platforms that I have been given to give a voice to those who might not otherwise have a say,” she says. At Middle Tennessee State U., Keel works with top industry leaders to develop students’ curriculum and brings in such guest speakers as songwriters Barry Gibb and Lamont Dozier. The Nashville native also writes for Parade magazine, recently penning cover stories on stars like Ryan Seacrest, Jon Stewart and Carrie Underwood, and contributes music column for the Tennessean.
Courtesy of Beverly Keel
The country music star’s female vocalist of the year award from the Academy of Country Music marked her sixth win in a row in the category and extended her record-setting streak. “I needed a bright spot this year,” she said at the podium. Last year, Lambert won for single of the year for “Automatic” and album of the year with “Platinum.” Lambert also spent time performing in Nashville earlier in 2015, holding a roundtable-style show for the crowd, performing with Natalie Hemby, Jessi Alexander (and her husband, Jon Randall) along with such new artists as Courtney Cole, Clare Dunn and RaeLynn.
ABC producer-songwriter Brian Loschiavo developed a fascination with country music and the city he deems as a “magical place full of like minds and endless talent,” since moving there three years ago. His relocation was inspired by a desire to be immersed in Music City’s abundant production opportunities and his attraction to the “collaborative spirit” of the city’. Loschiavo has written and executive-produced three primetime special concert specials for ABC’s“Nashville,” as well as collaborated with local songwriters to co-write a song that was performed on an episode.
He recently co-founded Nashville-based Riverside Entertainment and has a producing role in upcoming feature “American Saturday Night: Live From the Grand Ole Opry.”
Courtesy of Brian Loschiavo
With over 20 years, 14 studio albums and three Grammy Awards under his belt, McGraw has augmented his music career with numerous record producing roles as well as a slew of acting stints, which included supporting roles in “Country Strong” and “The Blind Side.” His one-two punch on the charts over the past year included the release of “Sundown Heaven Town,” which debuted at No. 3 in September 2014 on the Billboard Top 200. And his latest album — and third LP for Big Machine Records — “Damn Country Music,” debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard Top 200.
This two-time Grammy winner has come a long way since appearing on “Nashville Star” in 2007. Her second major label album, “Pageant Material,” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Chart, and she’s just wrapping up her U.S. and European tour that launched in August.
Her “Biscuits” music video earned her a CMA nomination to accompany her other two: album of the year and female vocalist of the year. The singer-songwriter made history in October when she became the first country act to headline the Apollo Theater in New York.
Musgraves recently partnered with Lucchese to launch her own collection of cowboy boots.
ABC/Image Group LA
As president and CEO of Sandbox Entertainment, Owen has attracted such talent such as Shania Twain, Little Big Town, Faith Hill, Kacey Musgraves and Dan + Shay. His name has been bandied about as a potential candidate to take over a Nashville major label. Sandbox left Music Row, considered a key part of Nashville’s music heritage, following debates about preservation vs. growth. He considers the management and marketing firm’s new headquarters in Green Hills a convenient location for his artists. “Clients just drop in cause they’re in the area,” he told nekst.biz about the move. “It’s been great.”
Courtesy of Jason Owen
Country Music Television president Brian Philips says music is in his blood and is excited about CMT’s change in direction.
“CMT has morphed from a music-based channel into a fully realized brand with diverse original programming, docs and music specials appealing to a broad array of fans,” he says. As for Nashville? The CMT president calls it home, and believes many more creatives are thinking along the same lines. “Nashville is a show-business hotbed, the fastest-growing in America,” Philips says. “Creatives of every kind, in every medium, are moving here in droves.”
Courtesy of Brian Philips
As the exec director of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission, Raines acts as ambassador for the the Volunteer State’s showbiz endeavors, to position Tennessee as the go-to location for production shoots. Raines’ affiliations with Film Nashville, Nashville Film Festival and the Nashville Screenwriters Conference help solidify his relationships with key players. He’s been a vocal supporter of ABC’s “Nashville,” as the hit TV show has generated countless jobs and illustrated the city’s booming potential.
Courtesy of Bob Raines
Brittany A. Schaffer
The Loeb & Loeb attorney has worked extensively on the Grand Ole Opry’s 90th anniversary concert film and documentary this past year, involved in everything from negotiating a new agreement to being there the night of the filming. She’s passionate about music licensing reform, advocating better rates for songwriters and publishers. “My goal in this is to figure out how the digital platforms can work with music and music work with the digital platforms so that it’s more efficient and there’s more fair licensing rates,” Schaffer says.
She works with established and up-and-coming artists, like Devin Dawson who opened for Willie Nelson. “That’s what makes me the most excited, when the world gets to see everything we’ve been working on behind the scenes.”
Courtesy of Brittany A. Schaffer
“Nashville is increasingly becoming the new destination to record film, TV and game scores with world-class orchestral musicians and world-class recording facilities,” says Schnur, the president of vidgame maker Music at Electronic Arts. “So much of the work has been going to Eastern Europe and now so much, due to the success and quality of scores for my game projects like “Dragon Age Inquisition,” “Star Wars Old Republic,” “FIFA” and “Madden NFL.” Schnur, also a music writer signed with Sea Gayle, believes these moves not only help the industry but also the city of Nashville. “This is a major force behind helping to restore Nashville’s music middle class, which has large economic benefits and keeps musicians working.”
Courtesy of Steve Schnur
This Kentucky native might be the hottest rising star in country music, having won both song and single of the year at the CMAs after having spent years working behind the scenes as a songwriter for singers like Josh Turner, Kenny Chesney, Darius Rucker, Luke Bryan, Thomas Rhett and more. Stapleton then stole the show with two country song duets with Justin Timberlake. Following Stapleton’s triumphant night, there were more than a few Twitter questions about he is.But in the half-year since he released his solo-album “Traveller,” he has been quickly making the transition from lesser-known musician and Nashville songwriter to award-winning headliner.
In addition to expanding his creative horizons by turning in accomplished performances in films and comic turns on TV shows like “Saturday Night Live,” Memphis-born Timberlake has less publicly toiled behind the scenes on behalf of various charitable endeavors. The multihyphenate’s numerous philanthropic efforts have been formally recognized by the Grammy Assn. and GLSEN, which honored Timberlake with its 2015 Respect Award.
This past year also drew an induction into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame and experimentation with the country music genre, as evidenced by Timberlake’s epic CMAs duet performance with Chris Stapleton. Timberlake also purchased property in the Nashville area over the summer, prompting rumors of a relocation.
One of the world’s best- selling artists of all time with more than 85 million records sold, the five-time Grammy winner went on tour after an 11-year break and a lengthy stint at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Advertised as her farewell to the stage, Twain’s 2015 Rock This Country tour, which bowed in June, drew numerous sold-out performances. Due to popular demand, 19 additional dates were added in May, forming the second North American leg.