Drove his label to top country market share, and threw country radio a curve ball
“First of all, 2013 in general was a highlight for me,” says Mike Dungan, chairman/CEO of Universal Music Group Nashville. It was the first full year after UMG Nashville’s 2012 merger with Capitol Records Nashville, where Dungan spent 12 years and developed such acts as Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley and Darius Rucker.
Dungan started last year with a No. 1 album, Gary Allan’s "Set You Free," and ended 2013 with the year’s top country album, Luke Bryan’s "Crash My Party," which sold 1.5 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
When the smoke cleared, UMG Nashville’s share of album and track sales for 2013 stood at 4.7%, up from 3.3% in 2012 and more than double Sony Music Nashville’s 2.0%. Even though country represents just 13.5% of music sales, UMG Nashville now commands a market share akin to that of pop and R&B label groups.
Although UMG Nashville is on top and the genre is strong, Dungan is concerned by the lack of ballads on country radio. He lays the blame squarely on Mscore, a measure that lets stations know if listenership rises or falls during a particular song. In effect, he says, slow songs are being squeezed out of playlists by fans’ love of party-ready, upbeat fare.
UMG Nashville chose “Drink a Beer,” a ballad, as Bryan’s latest single. Dungan told Bryan that it “throws exactly the right curve ball that your career could use right now, and you may be the only artist in the format that could pull this off.” His instincts were right. The song rose to No. 9 on the Country Airplay chart in just 10 weeks.