Skip to main content

Bill Hearn, CEO of Capitol Christian Music Group, Dies at 58

Capitol Christian Music Group (CCMG) chairman and CEO William Ray "Bill" Hearn died on Sunday at the age of 58 in Nashville, Tennessee, following a long fight with cancer.

Capitol Christian Music Group (CCMG) chairman and CEO William Ray “Bill” Hearn died on Sunday at the age of 58 in Nashville, Tennessee, following a long fight with cancer. Hearn was instrumental in CCMG’s formation and direction to become a market-leader in the Christian & gospel music industry. 

In 1992, Hearn played a leading role in the sale and transition of the family-owned Sparrow Records — founded by his father, Billy Ray Hearn — to EMI Music. Through multiple acquisitions over the following years, Hearn helped grow Sparrow to become EMI Christian Music Group, where he was appointed CEO in 1996. In 2013, it was renamed Capitol Christian Music Group and currently operates several divisions, including CCMG Label Group (Sparrow Records, ForeFront Records, sixstepsrecords, Hillsong, Jesus Culture), Motown Gospel and CCMG Publishing (including Brentwood-Benson Music Publications).

CCMG-owned labels include the likes of such notable artists on their rosters as Chris Tomlin, Amy Grant, TobyMac, Tasha Cobbs, Jeremy Camp, Hillsong United, Matt Redman, Mandisa, Tye Tribbett, Crowder, Passion Band and Kari Jobe. CCMG Publishing includes leading Christian & gospel writers Ben Glover, David Garcia, Kirk Franklin, Mark Hall, Brenton Brown and many of CCMG labels’ premier artist/writers. 

“Bill Hearn led Capitol Christian Music Group like the family business it is: with his unique passionate and mission-driven leadership,” said Lucian Grainge, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, in a statement. “Anyone who has walked through the doors there knows that it overflows with a special spirit that emanated from Bill himself. That spirit and the people of CCMG are among Bill’s great legacies. We are privileged to have known Bill, and especially blessed to call him a colleague and friend.”

Hearn won Grammy Awards in 1995 and 2006 for his role producing the compilations Amazing Grace, A Country Salute to Gospel and Oh Happy Day: A Gospel Music Celebration, respectively. And in 2006, he was honored with The Recording Academy’s President’s Merit Award. 

Under his company-leading roles, artists with whom Hearn has been associated have earned more than 200 gold, platinum and multi-platinum album and video certifications, according to a press release, as well as 40 Grammy Awards, 40 Stellar Awards and 235 Dove Awards (sponsored by the Gospel Music Association). 

“The Capitol Music Group family has lost one of its most valued members,” said Capitol Music Group chairman Steve Barnett in a statement. “We are all extremely saddened at the news of Bill’s passing, and extend our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones. Bill was more than a colleague; he was a friend to all of us and a dedicated leader and mentor for so many within our company. His remarkable accomplishments and contributions to music will forever remain an important part of CMG’s legacy, and, most important, we will forever remember his generous spirit and sense of humanity in our hearts.”

Universal Music Publishing Group chairman and CEO Jody Gerson added, “We are so fortunate to have spent the past few years becoming close with Bill. A wonderful partner to UMPG, his ability to run his company was second to none and he did it with the utmost integrity and skill. Above all else, Bill will be remembered as a tremendous human being and friend to everyone that knew him. Our thoughts are with his loved ones and all of the CCMG family.”

In 2015, Hearn received the T.J. Martell Foundation’s Frances Preston Lifetime Music Industry Achievement Award, having previously served as national chairman, national board and executive committee member of the cancer-research non-profit. He also served as president of the Gospel Music Trust Fund and was a former national trustee, Nashville chapter vice president and board member of The Recording Academy.

Through the Hearn Family Charitable Foundation, which his father founded, Hearn helped support the Nashville Symphony, Music Health Alliance, Nashville Food Project, Nashville Rep Theatre, Thistle Farms/Magdalene, Compassion International and Healing Waters. 

He is survived by his wife, Charmion Gustke Hearn, two sisters, a niece and nephew.