Anatomy of a Hit: Dylan Scott's 'My Girl' a Big Win for Curb Records

Joseph Llanes
Dylan Scott

That Dylan Scott’s “My Girl” was a hit is a fact that appears to have snuck up on some radio broadcasters. After a slow but steady 46-week rise on the Billboard Country Airplay chart, the single peaked at No. 1 on the list dated July 29.

But the song had made it all the way into the 20s before its potential became clear to everyone. At that point, says Curb Records vp promotion Ryan Dokke, some stations were still spinning it only in overnights, and they had to quickly catch up to the rest of the chart panel. Others were converting it to power rotation after it had hit the top of the chart.

That some programmers were a bit caught off guard is understandable. After all, Scott’s previous two charting singles, “Makin’ This Girl Go Crazy” and “Crazy Over Me,” had peaked at No. 54 in 2014 and No. 36 in 2016, respectively. And the label itself hadn’t had a Country Airplay No. 1 in almost three years: Curb’s last chart-topper was Lee Brice’s “I Don’t Dance” in August 2014.

But “My Girl” changed the tide for both artist and label.

Scott was originally signed to Curb imprint Sidewalk Records, which worked his debut single. Dokke and his team got involved in the spring of 2015 when Sidewalk was shuttered and Scott moved to the parent label. Impressed with the sales and social-media engagement numbers Scott had racked up even without a hit, Dokke was eager to work with him. The numbers, he says, were “way off the charts for an artist that had, relatively, not been exposed at a national level.”

But his first swing was a miss. Dokke says “Crazy Over Me” stalled out mid-chart when “circumstances changed with one of the big chains, and it went away.” They quickly regrouped with “My Girl” and went to radio with it in July 2016. Scott wrote the song with Josh Kerr, and Dokke says the label chose it after seeing “very good engagement” in an unplugged video series Scott did on YouTube, as well as at his live shows. “Then we saw some streaming numbers that were just really big for a song that had no radio exposure at that time, so it became pretty apparent that this was probably the song that we needed to go with,” adds Dokke.

Through the life of the record, says Dokke, his promotion team “did an incredible job of carrying this story of Dylan Scott’s sales, his streams, his Shazams, and ultimately, we were able to get to a place where we had research, and radio came to us and said, ‘This song is testing really well.’ It continued to grow that way.”

But getting a record started today is always the hardest part, he says. “We knew we were going to have to work really hard.” From Scott’s previous singles, says Dokke, “We had a little bit of a road map. The people we thought we’d get support from, we got. And some people where we thought we’d have challenges [gave us] the benefit of the doubt. Others we really had to work. I don’t think there was ever a point in the life of the record where I thought we were going to lose it, [but there were] definitely some weeks where we had to work a little harder than others to make sure that we were showing strength.”

Curb vp/GM Taylor Childress and vp marketing Jeff Tuerff joined Dokke on the road, making presentations about Scott in the conference rooms of radio-chain format captains, brand managers and corporate programmers to keep them engaged in the story and how it was developing. The executives also took Scott out to strategic markets where Dokke knew they needed to “revisit some folks and leave another impression of him."

When Scott did his initial radio tour with the Sidewalk staff, says Dokke, "There were some places where he was on the road with some inexperienced promotion people. We needed an opportunity to go back and say, 'Hey, take another look, because it may have gotten lost or it may have been missed the first time you met him.' There were a lot of [radio] people who agreed with that [and] said, 'You know what? This was a different encounter'" with an artist Dokke calls “a great kid" and “a really likeable guy."

"This was an interesting situation for Dylan," says Cumulus Media vp/country Charlie Cook. "He has built a huge social following, and then he added a song that was easy to sing along with. He is a performer that connects with the live audience, and he has worked his tail off the last year to get in front of people. Finally … it came together to make him an ‘overnight success.'"

When the record was in the 30s on the chart, Dokke admits to thinking with frustration that it “was going to take forever,” But at around No. 31, he says, “It was like we had rocket boosters all of a sudden. All of this research came in at once,” not to mention spins from syndication. “It just flew through the 20s,” he says. “I think we got through the 20s in about three or four weeks … You know how it goes: Momentum breeds momentum.”

But that’s where some radio folks had to catch up. “All of a sudden, we were a top 20 record, and people were still in overnights going, ‘Uh, how did that happen?’ ” recalls Dokke.

From there, Dokke says he felt confident the record would go the distance. “I don’t mean that arrogantly,” he says. “I just mean everything that we were seeing from a sales perspective, from a digital and social consumption standpoint, streaming, it was all really good. I think we were all pretty confident that what we had was a hit record.” Good callout scores from radio reinforced their confidence.

While battling to establish Scott, the Curb team was simultaneously fighting to get its mojo back on the airplay chart after a lengthy stretch without a chart-topper.

“With any record label in town right now, there’s a huge priority in breaking new artists, and it’s certainly no different here,” says Dokke, indicating that Scott is just the beginning of what’s still in the pipeline from the label, which includes newcomer Jackson Michelson and relative newcomers Mo Pitney and Ruthie Collins. “That is something you’re going to continue to see from us is a huge emphasis on breaking new acts. Curb, for a long time, was just seen as a label that, maybe at times, was driven by its catalog. And while there’s that huge legacy, and a very profitable legacy here with the catalog, at Curb there is a renewed sense of frontline focus on breaking some of these new artists.

“There were some perceptual things that needed to change about what was going on here at Curb,” he continues. “We’ve made changes to our senior management. We’ve made changes to our promotion team. We’ve made changes to the way we approach working records. I think all of that came together to allow us to do what we were able to do with ‘My Girl.’ ”

Having a brand-new No. 1 under their belts, says Dokke, is a game-changer. “We’re hopefully going to be able to carry this momentum into the next single.” That Scott single, “Hooked,” goes for airplay on Aug. 28.