Rusty Gaston has been appointed CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville effective immediately, Billboard has learned. As part of his new role, the music industry veteran will lead all creative and operations for the company’s Nashville division including the signing of new songwriters.
“I’m completely overwhelmed and excited,” Gaston told Billboard over the phone Wednesday morning (Jan. 29). “It’s such an honor to be here. This catalog, I grew up listening to country radio. This is the greatest collection of country music on the planet and that is so awe-inspiring. These songs and songwriters have truly been the soundtrack of my life and it’s the greatest honor to be a part of that and to work inside this legacy. What’s even more exciting is for us to have the opportunity to add to that [legacy].”
Gaston is also expected to lead the development strategies of the company’s catalog. He will report to Jon Platt, chairman and CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing. He replaces former president and CEO Troy Tomlinson, who left the company in June to become chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group Nashville.
“Rusty is one of music’s most influential executives today, and his success in developing game-changing opportunities for songwriters makes him the perfect leader to step into this important role at Sony/ATV,” Platt said in a statement. “I’m excited to work alongside Rusty and our Nashville team on nurturing the next generation of music’s hitmakers.”
As part of Gaston’s appointment, THiS Music, the Nashville-based publishing company Gaston co-founded with Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Tim Nichols (“Live Like You Were Dying,” “Heads Carolina, Tails California”) and revered songwriter Connie Harrington (“Mine Would Be You,” “I Drive Your Truck”) has been acquired by Sony/ATV. The publishing company is the home to two-time ASCAP Songwriter of the Year winner Ben Hayslip (“I’ll Name the Dogs,” “Small Town Boy”) and Grammy Award-winning songwriter and artist Emily Weisband (“Thy Will,” “Consequences”), among others.
Gaston describes his philosophy for decision making as “love plus fun equals success.” He is taking this outlook and optimism to his new job. “This team at Sony has absolutely blown me away. They are incredible and as I get to know more of the songwriters here, I’m just so excited to be able to bring that same enthusiasm to what they’re already doing over here.”
While Gaston says he doesn’t have a set initiative for his first few months with Sony/ATV, his goal is “empowering and encouraging and motivating the greatest group of songwriters in Nashville. When we do that, and those songwriters feel the support from this team and this company, that empowers them to go into these rooms and write the very best songs they can, and therefore, write the very best songs written in Nashville. I truly believe songs have the power to change lives,” he says.
Gaston is actively looking into signing new writers as well as researching catalogs. “We are in a growth mood,” he says. “We’re looking for the right thing. We want to find things we are incredibly passionate about and can get behind, rally around, and support and be the best partners we can to songwriters.
“I know there are challenges ahead, but I just can’t tell you what a support Jon Platt is … I feel so encouraged and empowered for us to do great business. These songwriters, they go into a room and they have nothing, and they leave there with magic. Our job is so special because it’s the one place where magic really happens on a daily basis. The power of a song can really change lives and it has the power to change the world for the better.”