On April 19, the Academy of Country Music Awards drew more than 70,000 fans to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and 15.8 million viewers (according to Nielsen) to its CBS telecast thanks to superstars like Taylor Swift, Blake Shelton,Luke Bryan and Brooks & Dunn. But that weekend Mike Dungan, chairman/CEO of Universal Music Group Nashville, was just as focused on bringing key radio programmers to nearby Dallas for showcases by eight of his labels’ most promising artists.
Though Dungan, 61, says “radio is still the primary driver” for breaking new acts like the showcased eight — newcomers Mickey Guyton, Canaan Smith and Joey Hyde, along with more established artists including Brothers Osborne and Easton Corbin — he’s exploring as many avenues as possible to expose his artists. Those include tentpole TV events and festivals like the 2015 Country Music Association Fan Fest (June 11-14 in Nashville) and CMT Awards (June 11), as well as streaming services like Spotify, YouTube, Pandora and iHeartRadio. It’s the latter category that Dungan credits with helping to break Sam Hunt, whose 2014 albumMontevallo and such hits as “Take Your Time” and “Leave the Night On” have been streamed more than 200 million times. “Our streaming activity has rocketed over the last year, and we are not far behind our pop brethren in that respect,” says Dungan. “This is a real business for us.”
Country’s global profile has increased dramatically thanks to the C2C festival in Europe and the popularity of the show Nashville. Would you sign an international country act?
I’ve got probably the premier Universal [U.K.] country artist, a band called The Shires, coming here in June. I have no projection as to whether we’re going to sign them here, but we’re trying to help them. This is expensive — you don’t get a small shot here. That’s how this company runs. It’s costing a million-and-a-half dollars every time we put out a release [with] three singles. So we can’t just throw shit out there until something sticks.