What's the Biggest Issue Facing Country Music In 2017? Execs Weigh In

Scott Borchetta
Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Scott Borchetta poses for a portrait on Dec. 15, 2014 at Music City Center in Nashville, Tenn.

In the latest issue of Billboard -- featuring cover star Miranda Lambert -- we rounded up the most influential power players in Nashville, the movers and shakers who run the country music business. We also asked a number of them, "What is the biggest issue facing country music in 2017?" 

Here's what they had to say.

“Radio is more important to country than any ­other genre, so the looming ­financial ­problems of the big ­radio chains could be hugely ­destabilizing for a time.”  - David Macias, President, Thirty Tigers

“Furthering our push to get our fans and our music up to speed in the streaming world.” - Mike Dungan, Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Group

“The biggest issue for country music in 2017 is the amount of songwriters who can’t earn a living full time anymore and are leaving the business. Nashville has always been a songwriter town. Without the songs, the rest of Nashville’s music ecosystem declines so this will have a long lasting effect on our industry and will ultimately limit the quality and quantity of music being created.” - Cindy Mabe, President, Universal Music Group Nashville

“We still have not scaled at streaming. If you look at what’s going on in the pop and hip-hop worlds, they’re talking about billions [of streams]; they’re talking about it saving the business. We’re not there yet. We represent maybe 6 percent of streaming when we’re 10 percent of the music business overall.” - Randy Goodman, Chairman/CEO, Sony Music Nashville

“Songwriters, who provide the essential ingredient for hits, are being pushed to the bottom of the economic food chain.” - Troy Tomlinson, President/CEO, Sony/ATV Nashville

“The country music industry is always the last to adopt new technologies and accept culture trends. Disruption is the new normal. Embrace it.” - Laura Hutfless, partner, Flytevu

“The streaming genie's been out of the bottle, so we have no choice now but to scale it with premium services. The goal now is 100 percent for everyone to be on a premium service—period, the end." - Scott Borchetta, President/CEO, Big Machine Label Group

“Acceptance that we are not defined by genre lines. The conversation of what is and isn't country comes up so often, but it’s a moot point. Dolly Parton, Garth, Shania, Taylor — they always brought people over to hear the music that the town and the genre was built on. If people are drawn to country music radio via a pop-minded artist like Sam Hunt, how does that hurt us? “ - Shane McAnally, CEO, Smack; co-president, Monument Records

“Rigid systems and unwillingness to change with the times. We also need to do a better job at artist development before we present talent to the world.” - Marion Kraft, CEO, Shopkeeper Management (Manager of Miranda Lambert)

“Unless you’re scoring at radio, album cuts mean next to nothing financially with the current streaming model. Right now, the only real goalpost financially for a Nashville songwriter is the hit single, and in my opinion that tends to breed homogeny in songwriting and radio, and allows little room for the amazing talent in Nashville, particularly the growing and very credible Americana movement that so many country artists are fans of.” - Partner, Head of ROAR Nashville office (which manages Zac Brown Band)

“The lack of support for female artists and too many releases. We are not allowing artists/songs to develop and find an audience.” - Leslie Fram, Senior Vp, Music Strategy and Talent, CMT

“Country music was built on the backs of the incredibly talented songwriters that are able to devote themselves full time to their craft. One of the biggest issues facing the industry is that people continue to take advantage of that. Over the past few years, Nashville has seen a rapid decline of these writers and a lack of infrastructure to support them. We continue to place blame on the decline in CD sales (mechanical income) or how streaming service payouts are too low, but it’s ultimately the inability of the labels, publishers, writers, and all rights holders to get on the same page and propose real reform to D.C. to change the archaic copyright laws. Nashville is the only place that can actively solve this problem.” - Jeremy Holley, partner, Flytevu


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