Balancing music and business goals, and winning at both
“In country music, if you don’t have a hit on the radio, you don’t exist,” says Gary Overton, leader of the second-largest label in Nashville, Sony Music Nashville. Overton prides himself on being an artist-first executive who understands priorities. “I got into this industry because of the music, but it is a business, and that is my job at Sony.”
On the business side, Sony Music Nashville ended 2013 with a 2.0% market share of track-equivalent albums, a 1.8% share of track downloads and 2.1% of album purchases. Although Sony lost relative strength after the Universal Music South-Capitol Nashville merger, it still has one of the top 10 label market shares in the United States.
On the music side, Sony star Carrie Underwood sold another 428,000 copies of and 2.8 million tracks from 2012’s "Blown Away," according to Nielsen SoundScan. Breakout artist Jake Owen had a No. 4 debut on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart with "Days of Gold," while his previous album, 2011’s "Barefoot Blue Jean Night," sold 1.3 million of its 4.7 million tracks last year. Newcomer Tyler Farr’s “Redneck Crazy” reached No. 3 on the Country Airplay chart and sold more than 1 million copies.
While Overton appreciates what size means in Nashville, he sees opportunity in the startup labels and service companies that he calls the “real innovators” in Music City. Overton believes Sony can hire them, employ them and, possibly, acquire them—although he says no deals are forthcoming. “They are the instigators of change and formulators of new ways to do business.”