The Academy of Country Music has named Damon Whiteside as its new CEO. Whiteside, who starts Jan. 6, comes to the ACM from the Country Music Association, where he had risen to chief marketing officer in his six years at the Nashville-based organization.
Whiteside, who will split his time between the Los Angeles-based ACM headquarters and Nashville, succeeds Pete Fisher, who stepped down as ACM CEO in May after two years in the position. RAC Clark, the executive producer of the ACM CBS broadcast, had served as ACM interim executive director.
“I am honored and humbled to now be given the responsibility to shape the future of the Academy,” Whiteside said in a statement. “I am excited to draw upon my deep passion, unique experience and important relationships across the country music and mainstream entertainment media industries to reinforce the organization’s mission, rejuvenate its influence, and redefine its purpose to benefit the entire country music ecosystem.”
In his time at the CMA, Whiteside has been responsible for overseeing the development of multi-million-dollar marketing and media campaigns for CMA’s three annual television properties, including November’s CMA Awards, and strengthening the CMA’s relationship with broadcast partner ABC and its parent, The Walt Disney Company. Additionally, Whiteside built strategic partnerships with multi-platform media partners, digital companies, and Fortune 500 brands. He also served as a leading strategist on the release of the Ken Burns’ PBS Country Music documentary.
“We are fortunate to welcome Damon as the Academy’s new CEO,” said Ed Warm, chairman of the ACM board of directors. “His experience, commitment and enthusiasm in the country music world are well documented and we are confident that he will enhance the Academy’s ability to bring together fans, artists and the industry while enabling the organization’s charitable arm, ACM Lifting Lives, to impact more lives than ever before.”
One of Whiteside’s prime duties will be to oversee the ACM Awards, which air in April from Las Vegas. This year’s edition drew its smallest total viewership since 2007 and its lowest rating among adults 18-49, even though it still won the evening in that coveted demographic, according to Nielsen.
Conversely, this year’s CMA Awards in November stopped a downward slide, increasing viewership by 12 percent from 2018.
Whiteside’s career began in 1996 at The Walt Disney Company, where he was responsible for award-winning marketing, creative productions, live events, and digital partnership programs during his tenure with numerous Disney-owned companies including Disney Music Group, The Walt Disney Studios, Disney Channel, and Disney Consumer Products. In addition, he developed brand and retail strategies for the world’s largest film and TV franchises, including Hannah Montana, High School Musical, Cars, Toy Story, and Pirates of the Caribbean. He also served on Disney’s Corporate Brand Management and Synergy Executive Committees, representing Disney Music Group’s Walt Disney Records, Hollywood Records and Lyric Street Records in integration of artists into Disney-wide initiatives.
In 2011, Whiteside formed Nomad Entertainment Group in Hollywood, where he represented multi-genre music artists, producers and songwriters, and developed marketing and digital campaigns, brand strategy, and partnerships for entertainment brand clients.
Whiteside’s professional affiliations have included Leadership Music, NARAS, Music Business Association, Digital LA, CMO Club, LA Office, American Marketing Association and Promotion Marketing Association. His current Board positions include the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, Nashville Cares and the TJ Martell Foundation. In 2013 he completed the Executive Program at the renowned UCLA Anderson School of Management.