JENNIE SMYTHE, 42
CEO, Girlilla Marketing
The client list of Smythe’s 11-year-old digital marketing agency mixes Nashville’s powerhouses (Tim McGraw, Brooks & Dunn) with country’s next generation (Maddie & Tae, Rachel Wammack, Tenille Arts). But for Smythe, it has been especially fulfilling to watch stalwarts like Darius Rucker, Tracy Lawrence and Rodney Atkins apply the same enthusiasm they have for new projects to their online followings. “Social and digital marketing needs to translate on the ground,” says the Denver native. “The reality is, ‘Did people show up to the event?’ ‘Yes?’ Great.” This conversion rate bodes well for Girlilla, which also quarterbacked socials for Avengers: Endgame, now the all-time second-highest-grossing movie at the domestic box office.
Lessons From Maddie & Tae: “I’ve learned from these girls, who are much younger than me, that talent and patience wins, always.”
LOU TAYLOR, 53
Owner/CEO, Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group
Florida Georgia Line’s smash with Bebe Rexha, “Meant to Be,” confirmed the duo’s top-tier status -- and business manager Taylor has been an integral part of the act’s rise. While also working with artists like Reba McEntire and Britney Spears, she advises on the growing FGL empire, which includes a Hillsboro Village creative compound -- that houses a publishing company, recording studio and community workplace -- as well as FGL’s liquor line, Old Camp Whiskey, and restaurant FGL House. Representation is also key: 75 of Tri Star’s 110 employees are women.
Most Welcome Change to Nashville: “When I came here in 2002, this was a very closed-off marketplace for anybody new and female. It feels like it’s more open to people doing a great job, regardless of sex or color.”
SARAH TRAHERN, 54
CEO, Country Music Association
International growth is a huge strategic initiative, says Trahern, citing the expansion of the annual CMA Songwriter Series in London, held prior to the C2C: Country to Country festival in March, into a full-fledged fall U.K./European tour featuring rising stars Kassi Ashton, Tenille Townes, Drake White and others. The Georgetown alumna also commends CMA vp international relations and development Milly Olykan for shepherding this spring’s launch of the CMA’s inaugural Introducing Nashville tour, which took Lindsay Ell, Devin Dawson, Brandy Clark and Townes to Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. “We’re investing in taking new artists overseas early in their careers to help those artists develop their international fan bases,” says Trahern. On the homefront, the 2018 CMA Music Festival brought over $61 million in direct visitor spending to Nashville.