Named for 2021 Stetson Law Hall of Fame Inductee Paul Marshall May, known for his extraordinary efforts to evolve SLAA into the robust group it is today, this award recognizes alumni who have offered sustained support of Stetson Law through contribution of both time and gifts. Honoree Jason Turner is a Partner with Keller, Turner, Andrews & Ghanem in Nashville, Tennessee, where he practices entertainment and sports law. He is a member of the Stetson Law Board of Overseers, serving as Secretary of the Board and Chair of the Finance Committee. He has been extremely generous in his financial support of Stetson Law, where he endowed the LeRoy Y. Hooks Elder Law Scholarship and provided a significant matching gift to support the 2022 spring giving campaign.
BMI and ASCAP hosted a No. 1 celebration for Cody Johnson‘s hit single “’Til You Can’t” this week. Held at The Local, industry members gathered to celebrate Johnson and the song’s co-writers, Ben Stennis and Matt Rogers.
It was a momentous occasion, as “’Til You Can’t” marks the first No. 1 for Johnson and Stennis.
BMI’s Josh Tomlinson served as emcee for the party. He spoke about Johnson’s tenacity and heart. “Your willingness to put in the work to get here today has only been accomplished by a select few. We’re really grateful to be able to support you today,” he said.
Tomlinson also spoke on BMI writer Stennis. “I’ve watched him grow. He’s kept his head down and put the work in to get to this moment. It’s been a privilege to watch.”
ASCAP’s Mike Sistad was on hand to speak on Rogers. “He’s had songs recorded by Luke Bryan, Dustin Lynch, Brett Eldredge, Randy Houser, Chris Young, Lainey Wilson and many more,” Sistad said. “He just recently celebrated a No. 1 hit with Jimmie Allen and Brad Paisley for ‘Freedom Was A Highway.’”
Tim Wipperman, who was in the news last week, was the first publisher to speak. He recognized Young Guns Publishing’s Aubrey Rupe, who pitched the song to Durango Management’s Scott Gunter. He also put the praise on the songwriters.
“We get to stand up here and speak, but none of us would be here without living on the backs of the songwriters,” Wipperman said. “I’ve had a great life. I get to do what I love to do, but if it weren’t for all of you out there, none of us that are in the business end of it would be standing here on stage.”
Rupe, Stennis’ publisher, was next up to speak. She told the story of fiercely advocating for “‘Till You Can’t.”
“We’re finally here, guys,” she said to the writers. “This song was written in 2016 and we are just now getting to celebrate everything that this song has done. If that is not a testament to God’s timing, I don’t know what is.
“It’s also a testament that great songs always find a way. This song is one of those that changes people’s lives. I think we are all in this room because, at one point or another, songs have changed our lives, have been important to us, and have made us want to do what we are doing. This is one of those songs.”
Rupe is a day one Cody Johnson fan, having attended her first concert of his in 2013. “Country music needs Cody Johnson,” she said to a rousing applause.
Later, Warner Music Nashville’s Cris Lacy recognized Rupe for being a torch-bearer for Johnson. She said, “A few years ago, everyone in Texas knew [how great Johnson was]. A few people in Nashville knew. There were a few folks that I heard from every time I saw them about how great Cody Johnson was. Aubrey was one of those people. That’s not just plugging songs—that’s a real song person, that’s a champion, that’s a visionary. That is picking somebody that you truly believe in and going after it with the best that you have. I want to thank Aubrey for that.”
Lacy and her co-president Ben Kline spoke about Johnson’s incredible rise.
“Cody Johnson has been giving fans the same show for the 10 years that I’ve know him. From tiny bars in Texas, where we met, to selling out the Houston Rodeo at 70,000 fans. There is no stopping him,” Lacy said.
The WMN heads presented their artist with a Gold and Platinum plaque for “‘Til You Can’t,” as well as a plaque for the success of his documentary, Dear Rodeo: The Cody Johnson Story.
Chuck Aly from Country Aircheck and Pinnacle Bank’s David DeVaul also made presentations before it was time to hear from the songwriters.
“Everything I want to say is about being grateful,” Stennis said. “I’m thankful to be in this community, to be able to do what I do for a living, and for God blessing me with the ability to get up and write every day with my buddies. To be a part of a song that means something… My kids and wife can attest to this, we pray every night and we thank God for Cody.”
Rogers was also filled with gratitude. He dedicated the song to his mother. “The bridge of this song talks about calling your mom. My mother has always been the biggest fan of my music. She had a stroke in 2018 and it changed the dynamic of our relationship, so when I hear the bridge now, it takes on a different meaning for me,” Rogers said. “And it’s her birthday today, so this one is for Betsy Rogers.”
When it came time for Johnson to speak, he was stoic and sincere.
“When I started coming to Nashville, I wanted to be you guys,” Johnson said to the songwriters. “I wanted to be Tony Lane, I wanted to be Jeffrey Steele, Wynn Varble, and a lot of other people. I wanted to be a songwriter and I wanted to know what it was like to put my life down on paper and have somebody turn it into something special. And here I am getting to sit on the other side of it.
“Thank you for writing it,” he said. “There’s thousands of people out there that it’s changed. I realize that I got to be the microphone for it, but it’s changed me. It changed who I am at my core, the way I view my stress, the way I view my anxiety or whatever is going on in my career.”
Johnson closed with a challenge to the industry members in the room. “The story that I want all of you to walk away with is not all the stats that they’ve said about me and the records; walk away with ”Till You Can’t.’ Take ”Till You Can’t’ and ingrain it into your heart, into your work ethic and into your life. That’s what country music should do for people that want to listen to country music. It should change your life. It should make you want to be better. We have these two men right here to thank for it.”
The “My Music Row Story” weekly column features notable members of the Nashville music industry selected by the MusicRow editorial team. These individuals serve in key roles that help advance and promote the success of our industry. This column spotlights the invaluable people that keep the wheels rolling and the music playing.
Jason Turner is Partner at the boutique entertainment and sports law firm, Keller Turner Andrews & Ghanem, PLLC. Turner has nearly 25 years of music industry experience, and represents many of Nashville’s top songwriters, executives, managers, and independent publishing companies, as well as the three-time Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning, among others. He has been named to Billboard‘s Power Players and Attorneys of Note, as well as Super Lawyers for the past decade. He focuses a significant portion of his practice negotiating the sale of catalogs on behalf of songwriters and publishers.
MusicRow: Where did you grow up? Were you musical as a child?
I grew up in a very small town in northwest Illinois. It was about a hundred miles west of Chicago, a town of about 2,000 people.
At some point, for some reason, my parents bought a piano. It was in the same room as the stereo that we used to have back in the day. I would listen to music and I would sit at the piano. My feet couldn’t even touch the pedals, and I would start playing by ear. Pretty quickly thereafter, my parents hooked me up with the music teacher in our school system. It was the same person for elementary, middle and high school since it was such a small town. I took piano lessons and ended up being the pianist for the middle school and high school choirs in town.
What was the plan for after high school?
Going into my senior year of high school, I was actually already signed up to go to Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University out in Arizona to be a pilot. I wanted to be a commercial pilot. I’ve always been fascinated with airplanes. The night before I left Illinois to go to Arizona for a preview week at the school, a music group that was signed to Polydor Records at the time here in Nashville played our small town summer festival. They were managed by Starstruck, they were on a major label, and they had already had their first hit. I wanted to meet them, so I connected with the lady in town who was in charge of the festival to figure out how can I finagle my way in. The group was called 4 Runner. It was a quartet produced by Buddy Cannon and managed by Narvel Blackstock. That night I ended up selling their merch. I ended up going out with them several more dates later that summer because they were so kind to me. They connected me up with people in the industry. That was truly the moment that I found out that there was this thing called “the music business.”
The next day, I fly out to this flight camp for a week and every night as I’m calling back home to talk to my parents, I wasn’t talking about the flight camp. I was talking about my experience with 4 Runner and how excited I was about that. I ended up talking with people that they worked with, found out about Belmont, and did a complete 180 out of going to flight school and ended up going to Belmont for the music business program.
What did you get into at Belmont?
I immediately jumped in. I was still playing piano and, with Belmont being Belmont, I started playing in various bands. By my sophomore year of college, I was working at Warner Brothers.
Royce Risser was the first label person that I ever met even before I moved here. He was super kind to meet with me and my parents before I even committed to Belmont. So [while at Belmont], I went to Royce and talked to him about an internship. At the same time I went to Warner Brothers and talked to them about an internship. Warner Brothers was very open with me and basically said, “We’re going to turn you loose. If there’s something you see that you have a passion for, we’re going to let you do it.” As fate would have it, they didn’t have anybody at that time handling secondary radio promotions within their promotion department. So within a week or two, I was starting to call radio programmers and working the records for the Warner Brothers roster. I was shifting around my school schedule to accommodate the call times of all of the programmers for all of these radio stations. I did that for a little over two years and loved it. That was the first Tim McGraw and Faith Hill tour, and when Travis Tritt came back after taking a break. I got to work a George Jones record, which was just crazy to me.
How did you change lanes to being an entertainment attorney?
During that time—again, I’m still at Belmont—Time Warner merged with AOL. So at the age of 19 or 20, I got my first inside look at corporate mergers and what that means. (Laughs) To speak generically, it set off a light bulb in my head. I love the music industry. I love the creative side. I don’t love that somebody 2,000 miles away has the power to decide whether or not I have a job tomorrow. The other thing that kept ringing in my head was virtually anytime I would spend with artists, I almost felt like a therapist because they would start opening up about issues they were having. “I’m stuck in a management deal and I can’t stand my manager,” or “I’ve been signed to the label for eight years and still don’t have an album out,” and so on. I couldn’t help, but think, “Gosh, every single one of these scenarios seems somewhat predictable and more importantly, preventable. Why wasn’t this dealt with in your agreements? Why aren’t you protected in these various ways that seem predictable and protectable?” I was driving back to my apartment at Belmont one day and a light bulb went off in my head. I thought, “I want to be the guy who can help people like this when they’re doing their contracts.” As soon as Belmont was done, I went down to law school in Florida.
I stayed in contact with everybody that I worked with [while in law school]. In typical music industry fashion, they all spread out to different places. When I came back in 2006, I immediately hit the ground running to meet with all of those people and say, “Hey, I’m back. This is what I’m doing. I would love it if you would keep me in mind, if you need anything.” It’s so humbling to me that I’m sitting here in 2022 and some of my clients are the same guys who either hired me or were mentoring me 25 years ago.
Now you’re a partner at the law firm you started with Jordan Keller in 2011. When do you feel most fulfilled in what you do?
I get the most joy seeing my clients succeed. I know that sounds cliche, but just last week I had four clients experience their very first No. 1 song. Technically it was three clients [who got their first No. 1], for the fourth client, it was his second No. 1 as a writer. It was for the Cody Johnson song “‘Til You Can’t.” I represent both of the writers. For Ben Stennis, it’s his very first No. 1 and that guy has been busting his tail for over a decade in this town. It’s the very first No. 1 for the publisher, Young Guns, as well as Trent Willmon, the producer of the song. Matt Rogers was the other writer, and it was his second No. 1. To get to see all of those individuals experience that, let alone on the same song in the same week, it truly was a reminder to me how lucky I am to get to do what I do with who I get to do it with. That’s why I do it every day.
Who have been some of your mentors along the way?
I hate to confess it was this long ago, but 24 years ago, a very young Jon Loba [was a mentor of mine]. Jon was very young, he was a promo coordinator at the time, but he really empowered me. So did Bill Mayne, who was GM of Reprise at the time, and Bob Saporiti, who was GM of Warner Brothers at the time. Those guys truly empowered me to take the whole secondary radio thing and run with it. Ken Tucker is another guy. He was the national director of promotion at the time and he would spend time teaching me what the charts meant and what the different strategies were.
Jerry Duncan was Warner’s outside indie promoter for the secondary market stations when I was there, so he and I worked records together. He was one of the kindest people to me back in the day when it came to showing me the ropes of working with programmers and music directors. We had a ton of fun, and success, working records together on people like Faith Hill, Chad Brock, George Jones, and more.
What makes a successful person in business or in life?
I’m going to sound like a cheesy Hallmark movie, but I firmly believe what I’m about to say: work hard, do better than you think your best is, and treat others with kindness and humility. We all make mistakes. I’m speaking specifically as a lawyer right now—if somebody on the other side of you made a mistake, guess what? That may be you tomorrow. Remember that. We’re all just trying to do the best we can.
There’s always something to learn. I always tell my clients, whether they’re an artist, a songwriter or a business owner, continue to surround yourself with people who are better at your craft than you are. That’s what’s going to make you better at what you’re doing.
EMPIRE’s Publishing division, in partnership with Warner Chappell Music Nashville, has signed Nashville-based producer and songwriter Brandon Day.
Day has production credits with artists including Brantley Gilbert, Plain White T’s, Austin Burke, and Steven Lee Olsen, as well as writing credits with artists such as Gilbert, Jimmie Allen, Granger Smith, and Eli Young Band. He also lent his skills to Brett Kissel’s recent hit, “Make A Life, Not A Living,” which was nominated for Single of the Year at the 2022 Juno Awards.
“I’ve been a fan of Brandon Day for a long time and am very excited to add him to our EMPIRE Publishing roster,” notes Eric Hurt, VP of A&R Publishing, EMPIRE. “His growing success in the country market along with his songwriting and production versatility will be a great fit for EMPIRE Publishing as we continue to grow our Nashville division and work across multiple genres. When Ben Vaughn called about exploring this deal between Warner Chappell and EMPIRE, it felt like a no-brainer. We are thrilled to have Warner Chappell as partners.”
“Brandon Day is a rising star-a songwriter we really wanted at EMPIRE,” adds Al McLean, SVP, A&R Publishing, EMPIRE. “Together with Warner Chappell, we feel Brandon will navigate the broad creative frontier of songwriting by being able to cross several genres. Needless to say, we feel Brandon will utilize his broad writing ability so we can maximize various co-writing, placement and synchronization opportunities.”
“Brandon is extremely gifted in all aspects of music, from producing and playing guitar, to writing lyrics and crafting melodies, he’s a true master of his craft,” says Christina Wiltshire, Senior Director, A&R, WCM. “He knows how to see a song through, from the initial writing session, to the final mix, and we can’t wait to get started with him alongside EMPIRE.”
“I couldn’t be more excited to have such an amazing team behind my songs,” Day shares. “There’s such a wide variety of opportunities when working with companies as diverse and experienced as EMPIRE and Warner Chappell. I’m grateful for them putting their talents to work for me.”
The Save The Music Foundation and SongFarm.org hosted their third annual “Hometown To Hometown” event in Nashville on Tuesday (April 26). The event honored Grammy award-winning songwriters Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne.
Hosted by Cody Alan, the show featured performances and special appearances by Brandy Clark, Walker Hayes, Kylie Morgan, and Carly Pearce. Attendees also had the chance to hear from teachers and students impacted by Save The Music and SongFarm.org’s programs.
The benefit was sponsored by CMT, Gibson Gives, MAXISIQ, and Wrensong. Funds raised will support music programs at under-resourced high schools in the honorees’ hometowns of Mineral Wells, Texas (McAnally) and Pike County, Kentucky (Osborne), as well as in Nashville.
McAnally has established himself as one of the top songwriters in Nashville with over 40 No. 1 songs, three Grammy awards and two Songwriter of the Year Awards from the Academy of Country Music. Osborne is a multi-Platinum, Grammy award-winning songwriter who has notched 26 No. 1 songs on the country charts.
For the past eight years, SMACKSongs has ranked in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs Publishing Corporations year-end chart. Led by GRAMMY Award-winning songwriters Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, the country-focused independent publishing house has collectively amassed over 50 No. 1 songs since its formation in 2012.
Reigning Publisher of the Year, SMACK has received recognition from the Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP) Nashville Awards the past three years while SESAC named SMACK Publisher of the Year in 2018 and 2020. SMACK ended 2020 with six No. 1 songs including Sam Hunt’s “Kinfolks” and “Hard To Forget,” Kane Brown’s “Homesick” and Blake Shelton’s “Nobody But You” and “Happy Anywhere,” both featuring Gwen Stefani. McAnally credits the company’s success to hiring the right people and trusting each person to do their job.
“When these year-end lists come out, it really puts what we’re building into perspective and makes me feel so proud to see our independent company right in between all the huge publishing companies’ names,” McAnally tells me.
KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) is a true global investment giant, with over $230 billion (yes, billion) in assets under management.
Once upon a time, it had a material stake in the music business, until it sold its 51% holding in BMG to Bertelsmann in 2013 for approximately $1bn.
Last summer, KKR dipped its toe back into music rights by joining a $48m round in royalty-free music and content platform – and Epidemic Sound rival – Artlist.
Today, however, KKR has jumped back in the music biz in a much bigger way – announcing that it has bought a majority stake in a music catalog created by three-time Grammy winner Ryan Tedder.
How big a deal are we talking? Transaction details weren’t disclosed… but KKR is keen to remind us that, to date, songs written by Tedder have sold over 420 million copies, or the equivalent of 63 billion streams.
KKR says the Tedder catalog spans nearly 500 songs, covering both “music publishing and recorded music rights”.
For the past five decades, Scott Hendricks has been a mainstay on the country charts. Since his first chart topper with Restless Heart’s “I’ll Still Be Loving You” in 1987, the revered country producer has amassed a total of 77 No. 1 songs and has produced 120 Top 10 singles, making him the country genre’s most successful producer of the last quarter century.
Long before the Oklahoma native was the man behind successful projects by Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Dan + Shay, and Blake Shelton, he was in the high school band and stage band. In between football practice and school, Hendricks would spend his weekends playing in a country band. While attending Oklahoma State University, he played lead guitar in a band called Marin. When his bandmate introduced the group to Greg Jennings, Hendricks immediately recognized the future Restless Heart member’s talent and offered to give up his guitar playing go out front and mix the band instead.
Former BBR Music Group leaders Benny Brown and Paul Brown, along with hit songwriter Jason Sellers, have teamed with music distributor The Orchard to form the Nashville-based country label Quartz Hill Records.
Previously, Benny and Paul Brown headed Nashville’s indie music company, BBR Music Group, home of Broken Bow Records, Stoney Creek Records and Wheelhouse Records. Founded in 1999, under Brown’s leadership, Broken Bow Records had more than 30 No. 1 songs, including Craig Morgan’s “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “She’s Country,” by Jason Aldean and Thompson Square’s “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not.”
Sellers has penned several hit singles, including Aldean’s “Don’t You Wanna Stay” ft. Kelly Clarkson, Rascal Flatts’ “I Won’t Let Go,” and Joe Nichols’ “Sunny and 75.”
More information regarding the new venture will be released in coming weeks.