In early June, Nashville becomes a beehive of activity as more than 100,000 fans descend on Music City for the CMT Music Awards, CMA Music Fest and Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, which takes place 60 miles southeast.
The landscape gets ever busier this year as CMT stakes its claim with CMT Summer of Music Festival, a four-day event that started Sunday (June 3) and culminates with the CMT Music Awards on Wednesday (June 6) at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. The fest is an expansion of an experiment CMT started in 2017.
“Last year, we evolved the CMT Music Awards from a one-night-only-TV event into a multi-day festival spread across the city,” says CMT GM Frank Tanki. "It was a huge success with fans and advertiser partners alike, allowing everyone involved to experience CMT is an entirely new and powerful way.”
From that trial run, which extended CMT’s reach to five events across three days and drew an estimated 20,000 people, CMT has now grown the Summer of Music Festival to nine free events over the four days. The festivities end just as CMA Music Fest launches June 7.
“This year, we’re kicking it up a notch and are proud to say that this will be the largest footprint in our history,” Tanki continued. “We see endless potential here and are incredibly excited about working with our ad partners, the artist community and the city to continue to expand our reach even more in the years to come.”
This year’s Summer of Music Festival, which pulls in music, food, fitness and pets, kicked off Sunday (June 3) with the Paws and Play Festival, sponsored by Pedigree and featuring a performance from Cassadee Pope.
The main Monday (June 4) event is Ram Jam: Artists to Watch, a concert at TopGolf featuring the next generation of country artists including Devin Dawson, LANCO and Walker Hayes. Ram Trucks, which is sponsoring the CMT Music Awards for the first time, will also be present the night of the big show with the Ram Trucks Side Stage, which will feature in-show performances from Hayes, Dawson, LANCO, Lindsay Ell, Carly Pearce and Russell Dickerson.
Meat brand Bar-S returns for a second year to present the Bar-S Block Party June 5 to 6. Bar-S and CMT take over downtown Nashville for a two-day festival featuring emerging artists, carnival games and prizes. Also taking place June 5 is a taping of an episode of CMT’s acclaimed Crossroads concert series featuring Luke Combs and Leon Bridges, sponsored by Miller Lite.
Among the other sponsors providing co-branding, in-store tie-ins and activations are Pepsi, Barry’s Bootcamp, Twisted Tea, Hershey’s, Ryman Entertainment and touring app Bandsintown.
Tanki hints that these events will provide a blueprint as CMT moves more into the experiential space beyond Nashville starting next year.
He cites CMT’s Next Women of Country franchise, which has its own branded tour, as an example of future expansion. “While we have a nice framework now for the CMT Music Awards, we see a lot of potential to expand in more ways,” he said. “For example, with our Next Women of Country franchise, we’ve led the industry in supporting women breaking into country music, and we're excited about our conversations to take this tour to even bigger platforms and audiences. Additionally, our weekend music countdown series, Hot 20, is like that amazing touring artist who brings a great performance night after night, year after year. It's our workhorse franchise. And we have been approached by numerous tour organizers and festivals on partnering.”
With its emphasis on more than music, the festival foreshadows some of what fans can expect to see on CMT coming up. “When designing this festival with our partners, we wanted music to be at the center of everything we do, but saw an opportunity to weave in other core interests of our fans,” Tanki said. “We’re also expanding our lifestyle original programming. In the coming year, we’ll launch several new series that will still showcase quintessential American cities with unique characters and untold stories surrounding iconic institutions.”