Why more Brits than ever are on their way to Nashville
Pop quiz: What’s the biggest industry in Music City? No, it’s not music, it’s healthcare. But ‘Healthcare City’ doesn’t sound half as much fun as Music City, and Nashville’s musical heritage accounts for millions of dollars in tourist revenue. Much of that revenue comes from foreign visitors and that revenue is set to increase still further. The reason: direct flights to Nashville from London’s Heathrow Airport.
Two recent news stories – one from each side of the Atlantic – look at Nashville from different perspectives. ‘Boom (Chicka-Boom) Town’ by Chris Parton in the January issue of Nashville Lifestyles magazine interviews nine ‘movers and shakers’ in Nashville’s music industry.
Meanwhile, a story in London’s Sunday Times, dated December 31, 2017, tells British readers why they “should join the hoedown in 2018” by flying to Nashville. The article’s author, Rich Hall, should know what he’s talking about. He is an American performer whose comedy and country music show, Rich Hall’s Hoedown, tours the UK from February to June, often adopting the character of Tennessee country musician Otis Lee Crenshaw.
‘More than one style’ of country music
Hall makes a point of mentioning several venues familiar to Nashville residents but probably less so to overseas visitors. He writes that there’s more than one style of country music. “Station Inn is spectacular for bluegrass,” says Hall. “And at 3rd and Lindsley, every Monday night, a 10-piece band called the Time Jumpers takes the stage, featuring Andy Reiss and Vince Gill (guitars), Paul Franklin (steel) and leader Ranger Doug (playing killer rhythm on an old Stromberg). If you’ve never heard western swing music, prepare for a religious conversion.”
Brits are notorious for being bad tippers, as tipping is less expected in Britain. Mentioning several of Lower Broad’s honky tonks, Rich says, “There’s a bucket at the foot of the stage. That’s for tips. Be generous, you tight-fisted British miserlings.”
Thank you, Rich! Let’s hope your readers make a note of that!
‘Behind the Scenes’ in Music City
Back at Nashville Lifestyles’ Music Issue (subtitled ‘Behind the Scenes of Our Signature industry’), the story notes that: “According to the Nashville Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Regional Economic Development Guide, the area’s population has now ballooned to more than 1.8 million people and, in 2016, was joined by 13.9 million visitors.” Those visitors made an impact of $5.7 billion on the city.
If you are part of the music industry, yours is one of 56,000 jobs that are maintained as a result of music in Nashville, according to Chamber estimates. The magazine article quotes the Music City Music Council’s report that 8,000 jobs are directly involved in music making, with 190+ recording studios in the city. “Nashville is currently home to 10 times more music activity than either Los Angeles or New York,” reports writer Chris Parton in Nashville Lifestyles.
‘Challenges’ for Nashville’s music creators
But some of Nashville’s music creators are facing challenges. “Songwriters and publishers have seen a huge payment disparity in the streaming area versus the artists and record labels,” Bart Herbison, Executive director of Nashville Songwriters Association (NSAI) explained to Parton. “On the performance side, [artists and labels] get 88 cents for every 12 cents we get, and, on the sales-royalty side, it’s seven-to-one or greater. So, we’re trying to fix that.” (A note from Preshias: for more information on the Songwriter Equity Act, see an earlier post at NashvilleMusicLine.com.)
Among the other Nashville music execs interviewed for the Nashville Lifestyles story are Kos Weaver, Executive VP of BMG Nashville, Mike Dungan, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, Nashville, and Shannan Hatch, Creative Director of SESAC, and several others. All offer professional insight into Nashville’s music industry and where it is heading.
Rob Beckham, partner at WME/IMG points out that in the past, country acts rarely toured abroad. “But now that international audiences can access the music as easily as domestic audiences, we are seeing an increased demand to bring our acts overseas,” he told Parton.
Which brings us back to the article written by Rich Hall for the Sunday Times in London, England. American-born Hall is a comedian who has become popular in Britain and is frequently featured on BBC TV shows.
“Behind Lower Broadway stands the mecca of country music, the Ryman Auditorium, original home of the Grand Ole Opry. Giants walked here. Stand on the center-stage circle and channel the ghosts of Hank Williams, Chet Atkins and Tammy Wynette. The Opry still broadcasts from there on weekends from November to January. Do not, however, confuse this with Opryland, a Disneyfied tourist hellhole on the outskirts of town, designed to separate rubes from the contents of their wallets.” – Rich Hall
In addition to mentioning Nashville’s music venues, Hall recommends Brit visitors sample Nashville hot chicken, country ham, grits, Goo Goo Clusters and hash browns slathered in Cheez Whiz – though not necessarily all on the same plate.
Nashvillians are ‘just genuinely nice’
Hall’s article closes by mentioning that Nashville is exceptional because it is so friendly. In fact, Travel & Leisure magazine named Nashville one of ‘America’s friendliest cities’. Nashvillians, says Hall, are: “Just genuinely nice. So much of America runs together these days. Nashville stands out. After a short time here, you start wondering why the rest of the world can’t be this pleasant.”
British Airways’ new direct flights between London and Nashville are scheduled to begin in May 2018, so expect to hear even more Brit accents at this year’s CMA Music Festival, June 7 – 10. You can reach Rich Hall at offthekerb.co.uk/rich-hall
You can read the entire ‘Boom (Chicka-Boom) Town’ article and more about what’s happening in Music City in the January edition of Nashville Lifestyles, now at newsstands or go to www.nashvillelifestyles.com
Preshias Harris is a music journalist and music career development consultant with the emphasis on new and aspiring artists and songwriters. Her book, ‘The College of Songology: The Singer/Songwriter’s Need to Know Reference Handbook’ is available at www.collegeofsongology.com Follow her blog at www.nashvillemusicline.com