Something curious happened last September: A trio of Nashville executives from the three main performing rights organizations in the United States all announced separate plans to lead new publishing companies. Jody Williams, vp creative at BMI Nashville, revealed he was leaving the organization to start his own firm; Shannan Hatch, who most recently served as vp creative services at SESAC, became president of Fourward Music, the newly launched publishing wing of management/production company Fourward; and former ASCAP Nashville vp Michael Martin, who left the PRO in June, unveiled Endurance Music Group, backed by Raven Capital Management.
The moves close out a year of high-profile acquisitions and expansions in Music City. In June, Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings, backed by The Carlyle Group, bought Big Machine Label Group in a deal that included its publishing division. The following month, concert promoter/production company Blackbird Presents, with backing from The Raine Group, launched Blackbird Music Publishing Group with offices in Nashville as well as New York and Los Angeles.
So what’s driving all the action? “There is so much content coming out of Nashville, and that is part of the excitement,” says Martin. “It is such a melting pot, with a lot happening musically, even beyond country: We have an indie-rock scene, Americana, Christian, an evolving urban scene.” Streaming, of course, has also helped make publishing one of the hottest sectors in the industry, with catalog valuations breaking the 20 times multiple level for net publisher’s share (gross profit) — up from a 13 times multiple just a few years ago. “I have never seen so many Nashville songwriters willing to sell their co-publishing or songwriter shares,” says Williams. “People didn’t do that here in Nashville.”