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Tuesday morning (9-25-12), Gaylord Entertainment shareholders approved a $210 million dollar deal to have Marriott International buy the company and take over management of certain Gaylord assets. The vote also sets in motion Gaylord’s plan to covert the company into an REIT, or Real Estate Investment Trust. Shareholders voted at an 85 percent rate in favor of the deal according to The Tennessean.
As part of the SEC filing, Gaylord also revealed plans to change the name of the company to Ryman Hospitality Properties, the “Ryman” being from The Ryman Auditorium; the “Country Music Mother Church” and the first major home of the Grand Ole Opry. The name change also solidifies the company’s hold on The Grand Ole Opry and it’s assets, which includes The Ryman and radio station WSM-AM. According to The Nashville Post, then name change is part of the company’s “plans to have the Ryman brand, along with the Grand Ole Opry and WSM-AM, play a prominent role in their future operations.”
Whether The Grand Ole Opry assets would be part of the deal was called into question when large Gaylord investor Gabelli Funds LLC suggested Gaylord spin off the Opry assets, believing they would thrive better outside of Gaylord’s new structure that will be focused on real estate instead of entertainment, but Gabelli did not hold enough stock to thwart the deal. Gabelli’s Gaylord holdings are near 15%, but it is unclear if he comprised the 15% that opposed the deal. A call to Gabelli by Saving Country Music was not immediately returned. The largest Gaylord stockholder, TRT holdings, also opposed the deal before being bought out by Gaylord to allow the deal to go through.
“Nothing will change at these iconic assets,” said Gaylord CEO Collin Reed last week. “And we look forward to continuing to offer the same level of world-class entertainment that has made them such prominent music institutions.”
Though Marriott International is the new umbrella organization Ryman Hospitality will reside under, Ryman Hospitality will continue to own its assets and manage its resort hotels and the Grand Ole Opry. Marriott will take over management of other Gaylord assets, including Nashville’s General Jackson Showboat and Wildhorse Saloon.
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The sale and ownership change at The Grand Ole Opry represented a unique opportunity for the institution to break free of from corporate control for the first time since 1982, and refocus its assets on the business of music. With the name change, Gaylord’s mark on the Grand Ole Opry now becomes indelible, and the possibility of Opry autonomy unlikely.
On Monday night, the anger of many country music fans boiled over when they finally woke up to the realization that their favorite country stars had been swapped out for scab “replacement” stars by the country music industry, with many of the replacements being castaways from pop.
Fans took to social media to vent their anger, posting “meme’s” and citing specific artists and songs they are hearing on the radio right now, including The Ford Truck Man Toby Keith’s song “Red Solo Cup”.
“It’s a song about a ****ing plastic cup!” wrote John from Ohio on his Facebook page. “Why are my ear holes being subjected to this bullsh**!?!? And another song is called “Corn Star” ?!?! REALLY?! I wouldn’t let me parakeet sh** on this mess!”
Arthur from Florida wrote via Twitter.“Ahhhh! I swear, if I hear another ding dong song about trucks, I’m gonna start drowning adorable little baby animals!”
Others showed concern about country music as an institution, like Mary from Texas.
“With country rap, bad pop acts, and nearly every song about pickups trucks or ice cold beer, I am seriously worried about the integrity of the genre moving forward. I love you country music, but if it stays like this for much longer, I’m no longer going to listen.”
The reason for the replacement country stars is a contract dispute between real country music artists and Music Row–Nashville’s concentration of major labels. Apparently Music Row wants the real artists to sign on to restrictive stipulations that would limit their creative freedom, restrict their earnings from their music, and make them virtual slaves to label demands. Meanwhile the replacement stars are more than happy to just have an opportunity in the music business, many because their talents are not good enough to make it in music traditionally, or to cut it in other genres.
Professor of music sociology at Vanderbilt University Gertrude Frankenfurter explains why the outrage is occurring now:
Take the situation surrounding the NFL’s striking officials. People woke up to the fact that poorly-trained, unskilled officials would not work out almost immediately. But with country music, the use of replacement stars was implemented slowly over time, so people wouldn’t get wise that they were slowly being fed a lesser product. But maybe the country music industry crossed a line with its current batch of stars and songs, and people are finally realizing what has happened.
Professor Frankenfurter says country music is unique in how it seems to reward mediocrity.
As we see with the NFL right now, hiring lesser-talented individuals might help you make more money for a while, but eventually the lack of talent will begin to erode the integrity of the industry. That’s what’s happening in country music. Or let’s say the NFL hired officials based on their physical attractiveness as opposed to their talents. There seems to be very few industries that reward mediocrity, but country music appears to be one of them. The best and brightest are left in the shadows while the lesser-talented flourish.
“Kenny Cheseny sucks!” wrote Bubba from Iowa last night on Facebook. “He should take his butt buddy Tim McGraw on a vacation to Kandahar and hopefully get blowed up!”
Replacement country star, The Ford Truck Man Toby Keith released this video response to the replacement country star controversy.
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