Here is your weekly roundup of goings on -- artist signings, staffing moves, good news and more -- in the wide world of country music.
With less than two weeks to go until Super Bowl 50, the NFL is definitely incorporating country music into its entertainment mix. Little Big Town delivered a tight version of the national anthem before the Jan. 24 NFC Championship Game in Charlotte, N.C., and returned to the field at halftime to sing "Day Drinking" and "Stay All Night." Zac Brown Band will perform at the Bleacher Ball, a Feb. 5 party at San Francisco's Mezzanine, hosted by Turner Sports' Bleacher Report. Additionally, indie artist Chelsea Bain will take part in a flag football game in Santa Clara, Calif., on Feb. 6 representing the Spike TV show Celebrity Sweat. Looking farther ahead, Tim McGraw will perform Aug. 5 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, in conjunction with the Aug. 7 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions.
As consumers start planning out their year, numerous country artists laid out their 2016 touring plans in the last 10 days. Dierks Bentley's Somewhere on a Beach Tour will include Randy Houser and Cam; Florida Georgia Line's Dig Your Roots Tour employs opening acts Cole Swindell, The Cadillac Three and Kane Brown; Darius Rucker's Good for a Good Time Tour incorporates Dan + Shay and Michael Ray; and Miranda Lambert's Keeper of the Flame Tour boasts Kip Moore and Brothers Osborne. Moore's own Wild Ones Tour alternates The Cadillac Three and Chase Bryant as openers. And Hank Williams Jr. and Chris Stapleton will co-headline an eight-date run in August.
Nashville's Bridgestone Arena will host two multi-act events in March and April. Blackbird Presents, a company that assembles DVDs and TV specials, will shoot The Life & Times of Kris Kristofferson on March 16, with appearances by Lady Antebellum, Jamey Johnson, Willie Nelson, Rosanne Cash, Eric Church and Trisha Yearwood, among others. Keith Urban and Vince Gill will host another All for the Hall benefit for the Country Music Hall of Fame on April 12. The guest list for that one includes Luke Bryan, Peter Frampton, Maddie & Tae, Sam Hunt and Emmylou Harris, just for starters.
With iHeartMedia in Nashville the week of Jan. 18 for a company conference, country labels rolled out the red carpet with a series of showcases. Among the performances: Warner Music Nashville trotted out Brandy Clark and High Valley, Sony Music Nashville paired Old Dominion with Maren Morris, and Big Machine threw a show with announced performers Thomas Rhett and Justin Moore. That latter event also included a couple surprises: Maddie & Tae did one acoustic song, and Brantley Gilbert came out to sing "Small Town Throwdown" with Thomas and Moore.
'ROUND THE ROW
Veteran agent Bobby Cudd has joined the Nashville office of the Billions Corporation, following a lengthy tenure at Paradigm. He brings with him such acts as Ricky Skaggs, the Dave Rawlings Machine and Old Crow Medicine Show.
RED Creative Group hired Brooke Antonakos as vp creative services for the publishing company, which represents Jeremy Stover, JJ Lawhorn and Jordan Rager, among others. Antonakos was most recently Red Vinyl Music creative director/A&R.
Entertainment One acquired the Dualtone Music Group, whose roster includes Guy Clark and Robert Earl Keen. The 15-year-old Dualtone will continue to operate under the direction of CEO/co-founder Scott Robinson and president Paul Roper.
Hart Street Entertainment and Spin Doctors have formed Riverfront Promotions, with Brian Tyson as the flagship artist.
MV2 Entertainment signed songwriter Bart Allmand ("Brand New Girlfriend," "Bumpin' the Night") to a publishing deal.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band moved to Webster Public Relations for media.
The Association of Independent Music Publishers/Nashville has set new board officers for 2016: executive director John Ozier, ole; treasurer Ree Guyer Buchanan, Wrensong; and secretary Kim McCollum-Mele, Words & Music.
Brett Eldredge will perform during the 2016 Music Biz Awards on May 17 at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel.
Erv Woolsey Company vp Danny O'Brian died Jan. 17. A former radio programmer, his duties included booking George Strait.
RADIO MOVERS & SHAKERS
Shila Nathan takes over middays at WNSH New York on Feb. 8, replacing Kelly Ford, who joined the on-air cast at America’s Morning Show earlier this month. Nathan arrives from WUSN Chicago, where she handled afternoon drive.
Beasley/Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (Fla.) promoted Hillary Hatch to marketing director for the six-station cluster from WQYK promotions director.
KYSN Wenatchee, Wash., hired Chuck Geiger as PD/morning-drive host, RadioInfo.com reported. He held the same positions at KKAJ Ardmore, Okla.
Mount Wilson/Los Angeles added John Mentesana as general sales manager for its three stations, including country KKGO, according to InsideRadio.com. Mentesana spent five years as iHeartMedia senior account manager.
Another year, a bigger venue.
Last March, Dierks Bentley, Amy Grant and the cast of Nashville played a benefit for the African Children's Choir at Music City's 3rd & Lindsley.
This year, Bentley and the ABC drama's actors are joined by singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson, the children's choir and musical director Buddy Miller on Feb. 15 as the benefit moves to the larger Ryman Auditorium.
The choir tours the world, raising money and bringing awareness to kids being raised amid conflict in Africa. Tickets range $39.50-$120.
This article first appeared in Billboard's Country Update -- sign up here.