Expanding from championship touring into branding, and reclaiming his independence
Clint Higham is in the business of “building champions,” he says.
Indeed, Higham has coached a country music heavyweight with Kenny Chesney, who he began managing in 1993. Chesney’s last 10 tours have each sold more than 1 million tickets and the singer has notched seven No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200. In 2013, Chesney ranked 10th on Billboard’s top 25 highest-grossing tours, pulling in $90.9 million from 44 shows, according to Billboard Boxscore.
In 2013, Higham saw branding as a priority. “If we don’t do it, then the artist doesn’t do it and a lot of times it doesn’t happen,” he says. Higham and his company’s in-house marketing team spent much of the last year growing Chesney’s brand with the launch of the artist’s Blue Chair Bay Rum. Since hitting shelves last May, the liquor—in which Chesney invested $20 million—has sold nearly 60,000 cases and can be found in 43 states and the Virgin Islands. Higham expects the rum to be in all 50 states and Canada by the second quarter.
Through the years Higham has helped build a multifaceted management company that comprises operations in marketing, promotion and booking. “It’s not about the next quarter for us, it’s about careers,” he says. “I like to be able to see the full scope and have all steps of the career. I don’t know of any other manager that does it in-house in Nashville.”
Earlier this year, Morris Management Group became independent from Live -Nation’s Artist Nation division. The company has been renamed Morris Higham Management, a 50/50 venture with management veteran Dale Morris.
“We’ve always been a fiercely private company and also so non-corporate that we’re used to making decisions as we go along. Anything corporate ties your hands,” Higham says, noting that his company will retain its entire client roster.
“When the [Live Nation-Ticketmaster] merger took place we saw a lot of changes coming. You lose some of your independence by that,” he says. “Irving Azoff [No. 7] brought a very entrepreneurial spirit to that, but it changed when it went public. We like being an independent private company where we’re able to call our own shots.”