Inside Silverado Records' Against-the-Grain Approach in Radio-Loving Nashville

The indie is home to country veteran Joe Diffie and newcomer Tyler Jordan, who debuts a new video below

There never has been one specific path to success in the music business, and it seems that 2018 offers many different opportunities for entertainment companies -- should they be willing to take them. Such is the case with Nashville's Silverado Records, which is celebrating its third year of operations by adapting to new models -- and charting their own course, says CEO Scott Thomas.

"We came to Nashville with the intention of having more of a modern country music label and everything that entailed," Thomas told Billboard. "I told people that if we were starting in 2016, we were going to have a 2016 approach to it," he says. Part of that approach is not being as dependent on radio airplay -- choosing to build his brand through viral marketing and digital platforms such as Spotify -- where the label has accounted for 2.8 million streams in 2017 alone. He says that adapting to a new playbook took some time -- even on his part.

"I'm an old radio guy -- the first half of my career was in the radio business, but I'm not married to that anymore. I think there are opportunities with social media and what-not to make the right connections to the fan base -- and sort of bypass the traditional path. It's a harder slog, but I think having that connection with the fans has given us the opportunity to grow a brand at the same time as the label. The people who have followed us since the beginning have felt very connected to the label and what we're doing. They always seem excited to see what we're doing and what we have coming next. It's been nice to have the label connection to the fans in addition of the music. It's not about us in the sense that we're trying to make the story about the label, but we just want to have the relationship with the people. I think it's gone very well."

Unlike a lot of labels, Thomas says he was focused on building the Silverado brand -- even before announcing an artist signing. "When we knew that we were starting the label, we created a Twitter account. We would go out there and find people that were interested in country music, and we would start interacting with them -- 'Hey, we've got a label coming. Stay tuned. We've got some big things about to happen.' Over time, we caught some onlookers and some people started to wonder what we were doing. That way, when we announced our first artist, we already had an audience from doing that way. It's just been a continuation of that. I think that it sounds simple, and in some ways it is -- you've just got to talk to the people that you're trying to sell something to. That sounds so crass and generic, but that's all it really is -- just being willing to say hi to these folks. I think some of the record labels have this perception that they are untouchable or unreachable. Sure, you can go to their website, but can you talk to them? That's something we've always done. It can be just a simple interaction, but the next thing you know, they are checking out our artists."

That interactive spirit has worked brilliantly. Silverado generated more than 10 million brand impressions on Twitter in 2017, and in the label's first year, the company generated the second largest social media following of any independent label in Nashville, second only to Big Machine, a feat for which the label won an American Business Award, and is nominated once again for the honor in 2018.

Thomas says that an aim for the label is to develop fans of their approach as well as their musical offerings. He admits that's not a totally new concept per se. "Back in the day, there were people who were fans of Motown. You knew what that brand was going to bring for you. You either liked what they were doing or you didn't, but you had people who were fans of the label -- and fans of the artists. When they signed a new artist, you knew what you were going to get- because of the Motown sound -- and they were excited to see what the label would have coming next!"

And, that sound is very much entrenched in the traditional Country sound. The label's roster includes Ali Morgan, David Adam Byrnes, and veteran performer Joe Diffie, who will release a new single via the label on May 11. Having such a 90's icon is something that Thomas is very humbled by. "We're lucky to have scored him so early in our game, but the stars aligned. His team saw an opportunity to work with some up-and-comers. We are very much about letting the artist do their artistry their way. With Joe, we didn't try to modernize him or hip him up a notch. We didn't do anything other than let Joe create the type of music that he's known for. Because of that, it's going to very awesome. It's a super record."

As excited as Thomas is about Diffie, he's also stoked about the newer artists on the roster -- including Tyler Jordan, who is premiering his debut video, "Why Her," with Billboard (see below). Thomas says that he came across Jordan by accident.

"We met Tyler a few years ago at Jim and Nick's. He was a server. I just happened to be wearing a Silverado Records t-shirt when I met him, and he asked what it was about. I told him about the fact that we were just setting up. He says 'Well, take a listen to this, and whips out his phone Nashville-style and plays a song. It was incredible. I wondered if that was how every restaurant experience was in Nashville. We got to know him over time, and he's an incredible songwriter and a great talent. He's just one of those guys that deserves a shot. He's from South Carolina, and very engaging. He's 'Country as Crap' -- we like to say. There's a soul in his lyrics and the way that he nails a ballad. He's the real deal."

Thomas says that he and the label is taking an artist-friendly approach. "I would say that Silverado Records is about taking a fresh approach. We are crafting a new playbook as we go. We're a pure-play record label. We don't attach to artist's touring money or merchandise sales. We're very much about the records. I think that because of that, it gives us an opportunity to really be focused on creating exposure opportunities that are going to matter. At the end of the day, if we're not exposing the music to people, we're missing out. We're just trying to do it fresh and keep an eyeball on what's new current, and what's happening right before us!"

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