Dolly Parton Signs With WME For North America
The deal will focus on branding, TV and film, music and touring.
Dolly Parton has signed with WME for North America in all areas, Billboard has learned.
Parton continues to be represented internationally by Neil Warnock at UTA, but quietly split with her longtime agent Steve Martin of APA at the end of 2016 and had been without a US agent for about a year, her manager Danny Nozell tells Billboard.
“We decided to part ways after her 2016 Pure & Simple tour across North America," he says, "which was one of her most successful ever, but we were looking for a branding partner.”
Parton and Nozell had spent 2017 looking for a new agency, and went with WME because of its deep branding and licensing capabilities.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to work with Dolly Parton," said Greg Oswald, Co-Head of WME’s Nashville office, in a statement. "She is the definition of an icon. When we approached her team about the opportunity to represent Dolly, it became clear that this was an ideal marriage given her business aspirations and our capabilities across the WME network. We look forward to helping her build upon her success across multiple platforms."
Parton also owns Dixie Pixie Productions which has produced three TV movies and is currently developing the film Jolene, about the home-wrecker title character from Parton's 1973 song.
"It’s a movie about a whore,” she told Rolling Stone in December 2016. "I can't hold back on who Jolene is."
Parton has 41 career top 10 country albums and 110 career charted singles. She has won seven Grammy Awards, 10 Country Music Association Awards, five Academy of Country Music Awards, three American Music Awards and is one of only five female artists to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award. In 1999, Parton was inducted as a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and has her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Parton opened her own theme park, Dollywood, in 1986 and would go on to become Tennessee's number one tourist attraction. In 1988, Dolly founded a group of dinner attractions called Dolly Parton's Stampede. In 2001, she built Dollywood’s Splash Country, which is Tennessee’s largest water park. In 1988, she began the Dollywood Foundation which funds the Dolly Parton Imagination Library which gives every preschool child a book each month from the time he or she is born until the child reaches kindergarten. With the help of local sponsors, this program has expanded to over 800 communities in 41 states.
The WME announcement comes on the heels of her work for the film Dumplin starring Jennifer Anniston and based on the best selling book by Julie Murphy about a young female Dolly fan and her journey through life. The film includes several Parton classics and new tracks for the film as well as its theme song. In October, Parton released her first children's album I Believe In You on Sony.
"We were with Doug Morris and now that Doug has started his own company, we are now with Rob Stringer," explains Nozell, who met Parton in 2004 to help with her tour and became her manager in 2005. In February Billboard reported that former Sony Chairman Morris had left to start is own label 12 Tone Music and had ceded his post atop Sony to Stringer last April.
"We only do single record joint distribution deals," explains Nozell, who helped the singer create Dolly Records in 2007. "So once each record is done, we’re a free agent, although Rob and I are currently in the process of doing a much bigger deal."
Her 2014 album Blue Smoke went double platinum, while her Sony-backed Pure & Simple from 2016 was the No. 1 Country album in four territories and No. 1 for Americana. She’s also planning a Christmas album and Christmas tour in 2019.
"She has several different projects going on with TV and film and everything we’re doing has touring attached," he says. "This year she’s decided to take a break from touring for TV and film but she’ll absolutely be touring again."