Big Loud Management's decision to have Florida Georgia Line collaborate over the past year with the Backstreet Boys may have taken many country fans by surprise, but the unconventional move only made Maverick excited to join forces with the Nashville firm.
"Who would have said, 'We need to get Florida Georgia Line and the Backstreet Boys together?' There's not three people in the goddamn free world who thought that was a good idea," says Spalding Entertainment's Clarence Spalding, a founding member of Maverick's growing management consortium. "The point is, [Big Loud's Seth England and Kevin "Chief" Zaruk] didn't care. They knew it was a good idea. They were going to record together and then go out and sell out stadiums together. I can't compliment them enough on not playing inside the box."
After Maverick courted Big Loud for more than a year, Maverick parent Live Nation has paid an undisclosed sum to acquire the management unit, whose six-artist roster also includes developing act Chris Lane. With Spalding Entertainment's 11 acts, including Jason Aldean, Darius Rucker, Reba McEntire, Rascal Flatts and Brooks & Dunn, Maverick becomes one of the biggest management groups in Nashville. Big Loud and Spalding will maintain separate offices.
"This is the perfect opportunity for Maverick to [grow] its footprint in Nashville and be a much bigger player," says Maverick president Greg Thompson, who joined the company in the newly created role in 2016.
"We've had multiple opportunities to join other management companies in the past and I felt that maybe we weren't there yet as a company or as managers," Zaruk says. "One thing we've discovered with FGL is having an act that is capable of going in so many different directions, it benefits us, as a team, to align ourselves with partners who can bring in opportunities that we normally wouldn't have known about or get on our own. We felt this was the perfect time to find additional partners to help us grow."
Big Loud's publishing company and record label are not part of the Maverick deal.
For Big Loud, the appeal was also the ability to enhance the careers of its non-country artists, such as rapper Ernest K and singer-songwriter Mat Kearney.
"I want to be the eyes and ears of Nashville for all genres," England says. "It's no secret Nashville has a lot more creative routes than just country music. There's even a young hip-hop culture here that's really neat. I'd love to be someone who at least empowers that in some way, shape or form."
Joining Maverick gives Zaruk and England access to some of the top minds in management across all genres. In 2014, Guy Oseary co-founded Maverick with a number of other managers, including Blueprint Group's Gee Roberson and Cortez Bryant, Reign Deer's Larry Rudolph and Adam Leber, Quest Management's Scott Rodger, and Spalding.
England and Zaruk's ability to work within Nashville, but not be confined by it, caught Rodger's attention. Big Loud provides him with another resource as he navigates the world of country music with Twain, whom he has represented for two years. "For someone like me, a Nashville virgin, Clarence has been invaluable for directions and introductions, and with bringing in Seth and Chief, I'm going to be going to them for advice and help. Trust me, it's a two-way street."
Maverick's management partners share resources, ideas and influence, but maintain separate financial structures and a large degree of autonomy, including the ability to sign acts. "Everyone is responsible for their own work, their own clients," Oseary stresses, "but we're all under one brand. It's a real support system."
Big Loud also wants to tap Maverick's resources to expand its acts' screen time. "The one thing that Nashville's really lacking is we're so far removed from the TV and film world it's not even funny," Zaruk says.
"That is absolutely something we can bring to the table," Thompson says, referencing Rucker's alliance with CBS Television, which resulted in appearances on Undercover Boss, CBS Sunday Morning, and Hawaii Five-O. "Once my Nashville team told me that was important to them, I was able to make phone calls," Thompson says. "We have deep relationships with TV studios, synch players. It's a big opportunity for us to help them be even bigger players in that space."
Live Nation reported that its operating loss on its artist services division, which includes Maverick and other management companies, nearly doubled in 2016 to $51 million. But the management business helps Live Nation steer acts to play its venues. Thompson declined to address Maverick's specific financials, saying, "Maverick has a consistent roster that puts up top tours [including] U2, Madonna [and] Jason Aldean." FGL already has an affiliation with Live Nation for touring.
Maverick has been very selective in expanding since its formation, on-boarding only a handful of managers such as The Weeknd's co-manager, Wassim "Sal" Slaiby, and Nelly's manager J Erving. Big Loud's team fit because "they're mavericks," says Oseary. "They are perfect for what we're building."
While there are no other Nashville management companies currently in Maverick's sights, Oseary doesn't rule out further expansion in Music City. "We love having great people, smart people at the table," he says. "If there are others that these guys, since they're in the league, feel would be a great fit for what we do, then we would look at bringing them on."