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Live Nation teams with RAH to launch Highways fest

Live Nation and the Royal Albert Hall have teamed up to launch new Country and Americana festival, Highways.

The London venue has confirmed acts such as Kip Moore, Morgan Wade, Jackson Dean and Stephen Wilson Jr for the inaugural festival on Saturday 20 May 2023.

Performances will be held in the main auditorium in addition to curated showcases speckled across adorning rooms.

“I am thrilled to bring to life this incredible festival alongside our partners at the Royal Albert Hall,” says Live Nation’s VP touring, Anna Sophie-Mertens. “It is every artist’s dream to play this legendary venue; and delivering such an unforgettable occasion for the Country and Americana community has been a longstanding dream of mine.”

Tickets go on sale this Friday (9 December), with further musical performances and offerings at Highways to be announced soon.

“We’re particularly pleased to be able to build on the long-running history of country music at the Hall in this way – as these genres continue to grow from strength to strength in the UK”

“We’re delighted to be building a completely new Country and Americana event with our long-standing partners at Live Nation,” adds Matthew Todd, head of programming and engagement at the Royal Albert Hall. “Our 152-year old auditorium will provide a backdrop unlike anywhere else for some brilliant acts, and we’re particularly pleased to be able to build on the long-running history of country music at the Hall in this way – as these genres continue to grow from strength to strength in the UK.”

The Hall has a long history of promoting country music and Americana in the UK, including shows by Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, John Denver, Kacey Musgraves and the UK debut of Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1970.

Other notable moments of American history at the venue have included addresses by five Presidents from Taft to Clinton, UK v US basketball tournaments during the war, The Beatles attending a Bob Dylan concert, Pink Floyd opening for Jimi Hendrix, and appearances by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Jay Z, and Diana Ross.

Elsewhere, the Country to Country (C2C) festival has added Morgan Evans to its main stage lineup for 2023. The Australian singer/songwriter joins previously announced headliners Zac Brown Band, Thomas Rhett and Lady A on the bill.

C2C’s 10-year celebration will take place at The O2 in London, Dublin’s 3Arena and Glasgow’s OVO Hydro from 10-12 March.

 


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AEG’s Goldenvoice announces new LA festival

Goldenvoice, one of the largest promoters in the world, has announced a brand new alt-country festival for Los Angeles.

Palomino Festival will debut on 9 July at Brookside at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, featuring some of the biggest names in country, folk, bluegrass, and pop.

Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson & Family, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, and the Old Crow Medicine Show are among the acts slated to perform at the one-day event.

Other artists announced for the inaugural event include Orville Peck, Valerie June, Paul Cauthen, Charley Crockett, Nikki Lane, Morgan Wade, Sierra Ferrell, Low Cut Connie, Langhorne Slim, Sierra Hull, Jamnie Wyatt, Ian Noe Loga Ledger, Amythyst Kiah, and special guests The Compton Cowboys.

AEG-backed Goldenvoice has already built a dedicated audience of US-based country music fans via its Stagecoach Country Music Festival.

“It has been a dream to do a festival taking a modern, fresh approach to today’s alt-country music”

“It has been a dream for as long as I can remember to do a festival taking a modern, fresh approach to today’s alt-country music. Artists in the space have been pushing boundaries, creating sounds that are brand new,” says Goldenvoice talent buyer Stacy Vee, who also oversees the bookings for the company’s Stagecoach festival.

“I wanted to fan these flames and celebrate this changing culture. We at Goldenvoice love doing things ‘our own way,’ and there are a lot of artists out there right now doing the same thing. We came together to celebrate carving your own path: this is Palomino.”

Palomino is the latest new festival Goldenvoice has announced after This Ain’t No Picnic and California Vibes.

In the US, Goldenvoice produces several festivals, most notably Coachella, as well as operating 14 mid-sized venues and promoting over 1,800 shows per year.

 


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UK gears up for Country to Country festival return

The Country to Country (C2C) festival is set to make its grand return to the UK and Ireland this weekend for the first time since 2019.

Luke Combs, Darius Rucker and Miranda Lambert headline the event, Europe’s biggest country music festival, which will be held at The O2 in London, 3Arena in Dublin and Glasgow’s OVO Hydro from 11-13 March.

C2C’s was one of the first music events to fall victim to the pandemic in March 2020, while last year’s festival was also cancelled for the same reason.

“We’re really excited about C2C, it’s one of the favourite events of the year for our staff,” The O2’s GM and VP Steve Sayer tells IQ. “It’s built over many years now to be the premier country music event in the UK and outside the US, frankly. And having lost it just before Covid was breaking way back in March 2020, and then not being able to get it on last year, to get that one away this year is a major plus for everybody.”

Promoted by SJM Concerts, AEG Presents and DF Concerts in association with the Country Music Association, the event launched in London in 2013 and has showcased country stars such as Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley, Kacey Musgraves and Chris Stapleton, as well as emerging talent.

In addition to its Scotland and Ireland legs, the festival brand has expanded to other European countries over the years, with additional dates in Sweden and Norway in 2015, and the Netherlands, Germany and Australia in 2019.

“Some of the onsales for later this year have just started to get back to normal levels”

The O2 will host more than 100 performances over the weekend, with C2C ticket holders able to access The Town Square, The Big Entrance, BBC Radio 2 Stage (at Indigo at The O2), Country Music Week Hub and The Saloon (All Bar One), The Icon Stage and The Garden Stage, while all visitors to the venue can access the free stages.

“Fortunately, the event will happen,” adds Sayer. “We’ve had to pivot slightly, but all of the stages are going to be in place and all the programming outside of the arena is in place. We’ve got three near sell-out crowds and it’s going to be a brilliant atmosphere.”

Sayer also reports that no-show rates – a hot topic for venues since reopening last year – were improving at the arena.

“We’re still seeing some no shows, more than we would see in a non-Covid year, but that’s definitely coming back round,” he says. “Fans are coming back in and they’re really up for a big night. They have pent up energy that they want to release. We’re still seeing quite strong numbers on F&B sales, stronger than pre-pandemic and that seems to be continuing for now.

“You will still see some fans wearing face coverings, but I think the majority feel much more comfortable and much safer now. We’re definitely seeing consumer confidence starting to return. Some of the onsales for later this year have just started to get back to normal levels, so it’s starting to return to normality.”

 


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CAA promotes agents Del Granado and Krones

Creative Artists Agency (CAA) has promoted veteran music agents Bruno Del Granado and Jeff Krones to leadership positions.

Del Granado, who works with Latin artists including Maluma, Gloria Estefan, Luis Fonsi and Becky G, will serve as head of the agency’s global Latin Music touring group, while Krones, whose clients such as Dan + Shay, Twenty One Pilots, Brett Young, Needtobreathe and NF, becomes c0-head of CAA Nashville Music.

“Today’s appointments of two superbly talented new leaders attest to the tremendous momentum CAA is experiencing across our touring business,” says CAA’s head of music Rob Light. “Jeff and Bruno’s individual instincts, taste, and experience have made them world-class agents, and we look forward to them expanding their impact for clients and CAA in their new leadership roles.”

Miami-based Del Granado joined the agency in 2013 from RM Entertainment Group, which he formed in partnership with Ricky Martin. Previously, he founded Entertainment Media Factory, Inc and was president of Maverick Recording Company’s Latin Division, and VP of programming for MTV LatAm.

He has also served as a marketing advisor to Enrique Iglesias and held senior executive positions at EMI Music Publishing and CBS/Sony.

“As the reach and influence of Latin music continues to grow across the globe, I’m thrilled to work alongside the incredible artists driving the success and cultural impact of the music,” says Del Granado. “With the continued support of the broader CAA team, our Latin Music group will create even more opportunities ahead.”

I’m honoured to join my fellow co-heads in helping to build on our success in Nashville

Over the past year, the agency’s Latin music touring division has crafted a series of high-profile deals, including facilitating a lucrative brand partnership for Ricky Martin with Chilean beauty brand Kumiko, helping secure a role for Gloria Estefan to co-star in Plan B/Warner Bros’ Father of the Bride remake, and negotiating Becky G’s recently launched beauty line Treslúce Beauty.

Krones, who was elected to the board of the Academy of Country Music in 2017, began his career as an intern at CAA in 2004 and was promoted to agent in 2007. He joins Nashville Music co-heads Marc Dennis, Brian Manning and Darin Murphy in his new role.

“I’m honoured to join my fellow co-heads in helping to build on our success in Nashville,” he says. “As a team, we’re passionate about discovering, developing and serving a wide range of artists that touch many different genres and cultures. I’m fortunate to have spent my entire career at CAA, surrounded by the best agents, and I’m excited by the opportunity to help shape our future.”

CAA’s Nashville touring team of 38 agents works with a roster of country music talent including Alabama, Lady A, Zac Brown Band, Sam Hunt, Tim McGraw, Maren Morris, Willie Nelson, Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban, among others.

The agency’s Nashville office also works with the likes of Glass Animals, Maroon 5, Mumford & Sons, Harry Styles, and Vampire Weekend.

 


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Six countries, one genre: C2C makes 2020 return

AEG’s Country to Country (C2C) festival is returning in 2020 for the eighth edition of its flagship London event, alongside repeat editions in Ireland, Scotland, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia.

Luke Combs, Darius Rucker and Eric Church will headline C2C’s European festivals, alongside acts including the Cadillac Three, Tanya Tucker, Charles Esten, Brett Young and Old Dominion.

International touring series Introducing Nashville will be present at C2C for the first time this year, with acoustic performances from Abby Anderson, Eric Paslay and Tenille Townes.

C2C 2020 will take place from 13 to 15 March in London’s 20,000-capacity O2 Arena, which yesterday (22 October) celebrated reaching 25 million ticket sales. Simultaneous events will take place at Ireland’s 3Arena Dublin (13,000-cap.), promoted by MCD Productions, and the SSE Hydro (13,000-cap.) in Glasgow, Scotland, promoted by DF Concerts.

The country music festival is also returning to Afas Live Amsterdam (6,000-cap.) and AEG’s Verti Music Hall (4,350-cap.) in Berlin, following successful first outings last year. Greenhouse Talent will co-promote C2C Amsterdam, which takes place from 7 to 8 March, with Semmel Concerts taking charge of the Berlin edition on 6 to 8 March.

“C2C Festival 2020 continues to build on the massive success of Country to Country in the UK and across Europe”

“I am so proud to be part of the C2C family,” said Bob Harris OBE, the main stage host of the London event, at C2C’s line-up launch party at Country Music Week, which began on Monday.

“I can’t wait to listen to the best music in the world, enjoy the fantastic atmosphere of the main auditorium, catch the excitement of the pop-up stages and meet the incredible Country fans that make C2C so special.”

Chris York, C2C Festival promoter for SJM Concerts comments: “C2C Festival 2020 continues to build on the massive success of Country to Country in the UK and across Europe. We look forward to seeing all you passionate country fans in March once again.”

Tickets for all C2C’s European events go on sale on Friday 1 November at 10 a.m. (GMT).

More information about C2C Australia, which also returns for its second year in 2020, will be available at a later date. The Australian version of the event, promoted by AEG Presents and TEG Live, takes place in Sydney and Brisbane with a different line-up to other C2C events.

Read more about country music’s rise to global fame here.

Big country: How country music conquered the world


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Paradigm signs LeAnn Rimes

Paradigm Talent Agency has signed two-time Grammy award-winning vocalist and artist LeAnn Rimes, for global representation across all fields.

Rimes will continue to be managed by Darrell Brown at Prodigy Management.

“LeAnn is one of the most prolific voices of our time,” says Paradigm worldwide head of music, Marty Diamond. “As a pioneer of making music that transcends across all platforms for the better part of two decades, she continues to be a genre-bending, trailblazing talent with a voice ahead of her time.”

Paradigm Nashville co-head Jonathan Levine adds that the team is “honoured” to have Rimes join the Paradigm family and “excited to support her as she continues to push the music industry forward.”

“LeAnn is one of the most prolific voices of our time”

The country singer was the youngest-ever recipient of a Grammy award, winning best new artist at age 14. Rimes has also won two world music awards, three academy of country music awards, one country music association award, twelve Billboard music awards and one Dove award.

“I’m so excited to be teaming up with the global team at Paradigm in this next chapter of my career,” writes the singer on Twitter. “We are diving in to so much beautiful creation at the moment and I cannot wait to share our magic with everyone soon.”

Paradigm’s roster of globally represented artists includes Halsey, Imagine Dragons, Janet Jackson, Billie Eilish, Kacey Musgraves, Tiësto, Liam Gallagher, Missy Elliott, Shawn Mendes, Sia, Kenny Chesney, Jess Glynne, Charli XCX, Bastille and Sturgill Simpson.

London-based Coda Agency formally merged into Paradigm – its parent company – in July, following a similar rebranding of AM Only and Windish Agency in the US.

 


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Grand Ole Opry GM Sally Williams join LN Nashville

Live Nation has appointed Sally Williams, a veteran of the Nashville music scene, president of Nashville music and strategy.

Based in Nashville, Tennessee, Williams will report to Live Nation’s president of US concerts, Bob Roux, and oversee the company’s overall business strategy in the city, regarded as the home of country music.

According to a Live Nation statement, Williams will, from September, “lead the company’s overall efforts in the programming and marketing of Live Nation’s concert activity in the greater Nashville market, and collaborate with Nashville-based artists to develop and execute their vision on a worldwide basis.”

Williams will also oversee operations of Live Nation’s existing portfolio of Nashville venues, including Ascend Amphitheater (6,800-cap.), Graystone Quarry (7,500-cap.) and the under-development Brooklyn Bowl, while also leading efforts in the development of new venues.

She joins after nearly 20 years at Ryman Hospitality Properties/Opry Entertainment Group, where she was most recently senior vice-president of programming and artist relations, as well as general manager of the legendary Grand Ole Opry.

“Sally is a Nashville music industry icon, and the perfect executive to oversee Live Nation’s growing footprint”

She has also served as chairman of the Country Music Association (CMA), president of Leadership Music and president of the Opry Trust Fund, and currently sits as co-chair of the Music City Music Council and marketing chair for the CMA board of directors.

“Sally is a Nashville music industry icon, and the perfect executive to oversee Live Nation’s growing footprint in Nashville,” says Roux. “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,” said 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 honour to collaborate with them to create world-class experiences for fans and artists here in Nashville and beyond.”

 


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From Parton to Musgraves: All roads lead to country

“Everyone is talking about country music now,” I can hear someone saying to their friend who is checking out the current swag in the stalls at Country to Country (C2C) Festival in London. “It’s suddenly cool now.”

For years, the genre was associated with the Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw die-hards, and further back to the George Straits, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Merle Haggard eras. But anyone who knows their music understands that just as rock music was born from the influence of blues and jazz, so has the umbrella of country music that crosses over from folk to Americana to bluegrass to pop.

Ten years ago, if you mentioned country music, you were likely to chat about the icons of the industry, and the chances of seeing them live outside of North America were slim, as the cost of bringing their stage shows to the UK, Europe and beyond was too high.

Push forward to the present day and people are talking. Promoters are finding the interest in concerts and events surging and festivals are selling out.

People are listening, buying and relishing in all that there is to hear – and there’s a lot.

People are listening, buying and relishing in all that there is to hear – and there’s a lot

We had our Dolly Parton moment (one of the biggest crowds Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage has seen) and C2C had just had its most successful year to-date including expanded dates in Glasgow, Dublin, Amsterdam and Berlin.

New artists like Lukas Nelson (his father’s namesake has made a huge splash in the country world and is touring worldwide), Thomas Rhett, Ashley McBryde, Maren Morris, Chris Stapleton, the list goes on.

Successful TV shows like Nashville have expanded the fan base and paved the way for artists of the programme to continue their musical journey (Charles Esten recently completed a sold-out tour of Europe and Sam Palladio sold out his first UK headline show at the Roundhouse).

But what can we expect for future artists and the business? How dedicated we as industry professionals are in helping to develop these artists achieve a successful career is key, and so far, the future looks bright. National gem “Whispering” Bob Harris has been a huge influence from his early days with The Old Grey Whistle Test, to introducing new artists through his Under the Apple Tree Sessions and hosted stages at festivals around the UK. It was here that I was first introduced to one of the most talented home-grown Americana artists in the UK, Robert Vincent (winner of Best Album at the UK Americana Awards 2018).

There are radio programmes like Chris Country, and Bauer recently debuted the UK’s first national country radio station (Country Hits Radio). New festivals like Black Deer, The Long Road and Nashville Meets London, along with SummerTyne Americana Festival, Ramblin’ Roots and River Town have all been huge supports to these artists. And I look forward to seeing more country/Americana/folk artists crossover to other mainstream festivals as the demand is there.

Hopefully, one day country artists will just be considered ‘artists’

It’s great to see that people are taking the music and the artists more seriously, and the fan base is quite diverse. Artists are not only on country music radio and album charts.

But who decides what ‘country music’ is? As is the recent story with rapper Lil Nas X whose song Old Town Road was removed from Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart because “it does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current form.” He is currently on course for a Top 5 with said single in the UK Official Charts.

Women in country have set a huge standard as well and brought a lot more attention to international audiences, including Grammy award-winning acts like Kacey Musgraves and Brandi Carlile (most nominated female artist at this year’s awards). Ward Thomas set a precedent in the UK as the first UK country act to have a number-one album in the Official Music Charts.

UK acts like The Shires and Wandering Hearts, alongside US acts like Striking Matches, Sarah Darling and Kelsea Ballerini, are all setting the tone and bringing young audiences on board. It is critically important to help these artists develop and grow and allow more for emerging acts such as Jarrod Dickenson, Kyle Daniel, Megan O’Neill, Laura Oakes etc.

It’s human nature to want to tick a box and list an influence or genre but just as the hope one day is that there isn’t a focus on age or sex, hopefully one day country artists will just be considered ‘artists’.

 


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Former WME partner Beckham launches management firm

The former co-partner at WME Nashville, Rob Beckham, has joined forces with Nashville-based manager Bill Simmons to launch the Artist Management Group (AMG).

The management firm counts Brad Paisley and Chris Young as its first clients. The pair follow Simmons from Fitzgerald-Hartley Company, at which Simmons was a partner.

Nashville management firm the Fitzgerald-Hartley Company announced it was shuttering on Monday (6 May), after 42 years. The announcement was made shortly before Beckham and Simmons made the AMG launch public.

Co-founders Larry Fitzgerald and Mark Hartley will continue to work in artist management, with Fitzgerald focusing solely on longtime client Vince Gill.

Managers responsible for Fitzgerald-Hartley Company acts including Olivia Newton-John, Kellie Pickler, Eric Paslay and Randy Houser will reveal plans in due course.

Co-head of the WME Nashville office until October last year, Beckham’s departure prompted much speculation throughout the Nashville music industry and wider country music scene.

The management firm counts Brad Paisley and Chris Young as its first clients

WME Nashville is now run by co-heads Joey Lee, Jay Williams, Greg Oswald and Scott Clayton, who joined from rival Creative Artists Agency in November 2017.

Previously representing new AMG client Paisley, Beckham’s other past clients include Brett Eldredge, Rascal Flatts, Blake Shelton and Chase Bryant.

Beckham has been named talent agent of the year by the Country Music Association and the TJ Martell ambassador of the year. He has also served as president of the CMA’s board of directors.

Although Nashville remains the heartland of country music, the genre has enjoyed a global revitalisation over the past few years. Artists including Kacey Musgraves, Florida Georgia Line and Midland and festivals such as AEG’s Country to Country have aided the popularity of country music among a younger, more international crowd.

The country music panel at this year’s International Live Music Conference discussed the diversity of country music fans, its growth across Australian, European and even Asian touring markets and the high levels of engagement between fans and artists.

 


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C2C announces 2020 return after record year

Following its best-ever year in 2019, Country to Country (C2C) will return for its eighth outing next March, the festival’s UK and Ireland promoters have announced.

C2C 2019, headlined by country music superstars Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum and Chris Stapleton, took place from Friday 8 to Sunday 10 March. It welcomed 80,000 fans across three venues – the O2 in London, the SSE Hydro in Glasgow and 3Arena in Dublin – in what SJM Concerts’ Chris York, whose company co-promotes the event with AEG, calls its “busiest year yet”.

The festival also expanded to Germany, holding its first German event at AEG’s new Verti Music Hall in Berlin on 3 March, and the Netherlands, with the first C2C Amsterdam, co-promoted with Greenhouse Talent, taking place at AFAS Live (6,000-cap.) the following night.

C2C 2019 welcomed 80,000 fans in London, Glasgow and Dublin

C2C Australia, which has a different line-up, is staged on 28 and 29 September in Sydney and Brisbane, respectively.

The flagship C2C 2020 will take place on 13, 14 and 15 March, returning to London, Glasgow and Dublin, according to AEG and SJM, with earlybird tickets available from this Friday (15 March).

Read IQ’s recent feature on how Country to Country – along with the tireless support of the Country Music Association, radio DJs, local promoters and others – helped country music conquer the world here.

Big country: How country music conquered the world

 


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