After nearly two decades with Ryman Hospitality Properties & Opry Entertainment Group, senior vp programing and artist relations Sally Williams will begin a new chapter with Live Nation. The news was revealed Monday (July 22) in an email to Ryman employees, announcing Williams’ last day will be Aug. 9 after accepting the position of president of Nashville music and business strategy at Live Nation.
“While I know the decision to leave our company was not one she arrived at lightly, this new role is a tremendous opportunity for Sally in an area where she will have a strong impact,” wrote Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc. chairman and CEO Colin V. Reed, in the email that was obtained by Billboard.
“Nashville is known all over the world as a must-visit place to experience live music, and with Sally in this role, Music City’s reputation as a leader in world-class live music entertainment will only grow stronger,” he continued. (Reed’s full email is included below).
Following Williams’ departure, the Ryman team will search for her replacement. In the meantime, Opry Entertainment Group president Scott Bailey will provide day-to-day guidance to Williams’ direct reports.
Williams is long known for championing up-and-coming artists in her role as senior vp programming and artist relations Opry Entertainment and GM for Grand Ole Opry. Earlier this year, Kelsea Ballerini was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry marking the first time a contemporary female artist joined the institution in 11 years.
“The Grand Ole Opry has a long history of really talented, amazing women, but it’s been a little while since a contemporary woman has joined the family,” Williams said at a reception following Ballerini’s induction ceremony in April. “This is your forever home and you are entering into a family that will go on forever, and one where you will be inspiring artists for generations.”
Live Nation’s newly added position for Williams marks the company’s integral decision to grow in Nashville. Williams will begin her new role in September and report to president of U.S. Concerts Bob Roux.
“Sally is a Nashville music industry icon, and the perfect executive to oversee Live Nation’s growing footprint in Nashville,” Roux said in a statement. “She’s spent decades contributing to the success of Nashville artists, venues, and events, and certainly the community itself, and we’re extremely fortunate to have someone with her industry knowledge and dedication to live music join our company.”
“For decades, Nashville has not only been my home, but also my passion,” added Williams. “It’s been a privilege to be in the middle of such incredible growth and I’m excited about what’s on the horizon. Live Nation has built a strong business here and has a terrific team in place. It will be an honor to collaborate with them to create world class experiences for fans and artists here in Nashville and beyond.”
Williams’ hiring comes nearly five months after Live Nation announced Ali Harnell was joining the company to spearhead women’s initiatives in the newly created position of president and chief strategy officer for Women Nation. Her hiring was to lead efforts to advance and support women in the live music business as well as create and develop female-led and female-driven content.
Complete email on Williams’ departure is below.
July 22, 2019
Dear Ryman Hospitality Properties Employees,
Last week, Sally Williams shared with us that she has accepted a position with Live Nation as President of Nashville Music and Business Strategy.
While I know the decision to leave our company was not one she arrived at lightly, this new role is a tremendous opportunity for Sally in an area where she will have a strong impact.
Nashville is known all over the world as a must-visit place to experience live music, and with Sally in this role, Music City’s reputation as a leader in world-class live music entertainment will only grow stronger.
As many of you know, Sally has spent nearly 20 years with our company. She began her tenure as a producer with Opryland Productions before spending time at the Opry House in the events department. Later, she became the General Manager of the Ryman Auditorium where she spent years cultivating relationships with promoters, managers and artists as she worked to bring diverse programming to the Ryman stage.
In early 2017, as we were preparing for our next phase of growth within our Entertainment business, we tapped Sally to lead our newly-created Artist Relations Division. Sally assembled an outstanding team that has since gone on to program and produce thousands of hours of live music entertainment across our network of venues in addition to laying the groundwork for identifying the next generation of Opry superstars through the Opry NextStage program.
Importantly, she has overseen all of this work while also nurturing relationships with our Grand Ole Opry artists. As GM, Sally has played an important role, along with other leaders in our company, in the determination of Opry membership and Opry debuts. During her tenure, the Opry has witnessed over 125 Opry debuts and welcomed eight new members, including our newest member, Luke Combs, who was inducted last week.
While Sally is certainly leaving behind big shoes to fill, I am confident that the Artist Relations team will carry on with the good work that was started under her leadership as we continue to fulfill our core company promise of connecting artists and fans through unparalleled live music experiences.
Sally’s last day will be August 9, and our search for a new individual to lead this important area of our business is underway. Scott Bailey will provide additional day-to-day guidance to Sally’s direct reports until a new leader is identified. I will also be taking a more active role in Opry artist relations in the interim.
I am truly very pleased for Sally and wish her nothing but the best in her new role. As always, you have my commitment that we will keep you updated as we have more to share. In the meantime, I want to thank you for all of your hard work during this tremendously busy period of time for our company.
Colin V. Reed