Blake Shelton makes a point during the press conference prior to his performance at LP Field during CMA Music Fest. (Photo: Vernell Hackett)
Milder weather and expanded seating at LP Field for the night shows brought in more fans to the CMA Music Festival this year, driving attendance numbers above 71,000 for the four day event. Fans from around the world poured into the mecca of country music for the four day extravaganza, held June 9-13.
Industry VIPs were also among those in attendance, often accompanying their artists to various events but sometimes just hanging out to catch an artist they had yet to see. Among the artists who had folks buzzing were Luke Bryan, who will headline his own tour in 2013, and Kip Moore, whose first single hit the top of the charts and stayed there for two weeks. "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" has also been certified Gold, for reaching sales of 500,000. The video has received more than seven million views online.
Music could be heard for more than 12 hours a day during the festival on multiple stages, including the day stage at Riverfront Park and numerous satellite locations around the Music Fest area on Lower Broadway between Fifth and the Cumberland River. Everyone from Shawn Camp and Florida Georgia Line to Kenny Vaughan, Gene Watson, Steve Holy, Gary Allan, Bucky Covington and Katie Armiger could be found on one of the multiple stages.
Taking a much needed break at LP Stadium during CMA Music Fest are, from left: Peter Nash, International Agent, William Morris Endeavors Entertainment (WME)/New York; Greg Oswald, WME/Nashville; John Ingrassia, General Manager, Vector Management; Mary Ann McCready, President, FM Management; Bob Burwell, Manager, Vector Management/Nashville. (Photo: Vernell Hackett)
On the main stage, more than 25 artists including Rodney Atkins, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Alan Jackson, Jason Aldean and Dierks Bentley helped keep the party going until way after midnight. Industry veterans hung out in the VIP room on the suite level at LP Field to chat and watch the shows.
Adelaide Yoder, publicity assistant at AristoMedia in Nashville, was attending her first Music Fest and was excited about the nighttime performances. "I'm looking forward to seeing Little Big Town. Their new single ("Pontoon") is such a great summer song. I love their harmonies, they are so full and rich. The song makes you want to dance."
Charles Dorris, who heads Charles Dorris and Associates, commented on the production of the night shows. "This is the best production you can find. For many of the artists who are performing on this stage, they are getting the opportunity to see what this type of production can do for them."
Charles Dorris and Adelaide Yoder chatted with Billboard before entering LP Stadium to enjoy an evening of music. (Photo: Vernell Hackett)
Most of the artists who performed came to the press room to do interviews and talk about being at Music Fest this year.
"Country is big," Bentley said of the huge crowd in town for the festival. "Country artists love to tour and that's the way you make fans and do great live shows. You come back year after year and try to do a better show than you did before. "
"It's so exciting for me," McBride said prior to her performance. "I've been anticipating the show and thinking about the songs I will do. It's such a brief performance that you have to put some thought in it."
Payton Rae, right, played the CMA Music Fest acoustic stage at the Hard Rock. She also did an interview with Cary Rolfe for TCN video channel. (Photo: Vernell Hackett)
"We have taken part, either small or large, in every one of these events back to 1972," said Joe Bonsall, who added that he was not even a member of the Oak Ridge Boys when they first performed at what was then Fan Fair at Municipal Auditorium in downtown Nashville. "We've seen it change over the years, from downtown to the fairgrounds and back to downtown.
"Look at what an event this has turned into, and how far these great new artists have taken country music. It's bigger than it's ever been. This festival has turned into one of the major American festivals in this country. We're honored to have history here and to continue to be a part."
AT&T, BIC, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Emerald Coast Vacations, Jelly Belly, Jack in the Box, Cracker Barrel, Bad Boy Buggies, and Cabot Cheese were among the new sponsors for the festival this year, joining Chevrolet, Pepsi and Martin Guitars, among others.
Katie Armiger posed for the camera before she performed at the GAC lodge on Sunday. From left to right: Scott Durand, VP of Marketing at GAC; Ed Hardy, GAC President; Katie Armiger; and Butch Spyridon, President Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau. (Photo: Vernell Hackett)
Emily Henderson, former HGTV Design Star finalist, was in the HGTV booth at Music Fest. She says, "I have an inner Southern girl, I do. There is something that happens when I land in Nashville. The boots go on, the hair gets wilder and I start dancing -- I'm not particularly good at it, but I love doing it. I just love Nashville."
"As a Nashville-based company we've always been interested in Country Music, and Hunt Brothers Pizza consumers are also huge country music fans," said Kurt Solsvig, vice president, marketing, for the company. "A partnership with CMA seemed like a great way to leverage our common strengths and reward our loyal fans. The results were phenomenal. We achieved more than $600,000 in media coverage, received more than 21 million impressions, and more than doubled our following on Facebook."
HGTV's The Property Brothers Drew (left) & Jonathan Scott pose in front of the HGTV booth during CMA Music Fest. (Photo: Vernell Hackett)
Volunteers totaling more than 460 people stepped up to the plate to fill 822 jobs. They did everything from being shuttle drivers to managing lines at the Fan Fair Hall. These men and women from around the country provided more than 10,000 hours of manpower to ensure that the event went off without a hitch.
Dates for next year's CMA Music Festival will be June 6-9.
From River Stage overlooking the Cumberland River at CMA Music Fest are, from left: Bryan Frasher of Gunslinger Entertainment; Casey James; Gary Overton, Sony Music Nashville Chairman & CEO. (Photo: Vernell Hackett)