Scott Borchetta is New King of Nashville After Tim McGraw Signing

May 22, 2012 - By Trigger  //  News  //  24 Comments

Mike Curb

When Mike Curb first set up shop in Nashville, he had a strategic advantage over his competition: he was local, and he was independent. One of the reasons many major label country artists have such weak control over their music compared to artists in other genres goes back to how the major labels moved into Nashville during the advent of commercial country. Since most of the record labels were based in New York or Los Angeles and owned by larger parent companies, the Nashville offices were managed from afar, with tight controls on cost and content.

Mike Curb didn’t have to work with these restrictions, and this enticed a bevy of talent to his roster. Hank Williams III, maybe Curb Record’s biggest opponent over the years says this factored into him signing with the label even in the late 90’s, with his manager Jack McFadden telling him, “Shelton, I want to deal with Mike Curb because he’s in Nashville more than he’s in California or New York.”

Scott Borchetta

Yesterday Tim McGraw announced in a press conference that he had signed with Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Records after a 20-year career and protracted legal battle with Curb. The symbolism and significance surrounding the signing was striking, and spoke to the titanic shifts that are rearranging the country music landscape in Nashville at this very moment.

McGraw and Borchetta initially signed the new deal at Nashville’s Greyhound bus station to symbolize the new beginning. Tim had arrived as a young man from Louisiana with a suitcase and guitar in hand some 20 years before by Grayhound. One of the first people in the music business McGraw was to meet in Nashville was Scott Borchetta’s father, Mike. Mike Borchetta was the man responsible for signing Tim McGraw to Curb Records.

The press conference announcing the new deal was held at the Country Music Hall of Fame, an institution decorated with the Mike Curb name, as are many Nashville landmarks. Holding the presser there was almost like holding it in the belly of the beast, with Borchetta openly criticising Mike Curb, saying that Tim’s first album would be entitled Greatest Hits 4, humorously referring to the incessant greatest hits releases Curb was comically known for towards the end of McGraw’s contract. Soon the Curb name may not be as synonymous with the Hall Of Fame as the one of “Swift”. Taylor Swift, the first artist Borchetta signed in 2005 when he started Big Machine just made a $4 million dollar donation to The Hall of Fame for a new education center, eclipsing any single donation ever made to the institution previously, including any from Mike Curb.

The theme of the McGraw/Borchetta press conference seemed to be the freedom of the artist, with Borchetta insisting that Tim would be able to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants; a trademark of Big Machine, and the big criticism of Curb. For 15 minutes, it seemed the Mike Curb approach to the music business was on trial, and found guilty. “It’s time for Tim to take over,” said Borchetta. “This is about music. It’s music business. That means music comes first. And that’s what we’re gonna do.”

Watch the Tim McGraw / Scott Borchetta News Conference

And that may not be where the grenade lobbing stops between these two Music Row demigods of Curb and Borchetta. Borchetta left the idea very open, if not hinted that Big Machine would be willing to release competing singles from McGraw’s new material to counter the singles being released by Curb from McGraw’s final album Emotional Traffic that Curb delayed for years, and only decided to release after losing in court. “It’s going to be sooner than later,” Borchetta said about McGraw’s new music. “It’s going to take a nation of millions to hold us back.” This could create a country radio dog fight between Curb and Big Machine to a caliber Music Row has never seen.

Just like Hank3, Lyle Lovett, Hank Williams Jr., and the majority of other artists leaving the Curb label, there was a dramatic sense of relief in the face of Tim McGraw. From the music of Hank3, to the cover of Lovett’s last release with Curb, the Curb Record’s restrictionary approach to their artists has become an indelible artifact of the country genre in this time period, one that the future will be able to reflect back on, to an era when artists were forced to sometimes wait half a decade to get their music to their fans.

But that era is coming to a close. Mike Curb is no longer the Titan of Tune Town. His roster is depleted, his relevancy is waning, and with Tim McGraw joining a stable that includes Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, and The Band Perry to name a few, it is hard not to label Scott Borchetta and Big Machine as the most dominant label in Nashville, and in all of country music right now. In no uncertain terms, Tim McGraw was a massive, maybe historic acquisition.

Scott Borchetta and Big Machine Record’s success speaks to two things: talent evaluation, and freedom for the artist. Artistic freedom is one of the cornerstones Big Machine is built on, and where much of their success is derived from. In a copycat business in a copycat town, it is encouraging to think that Big Machine’s success and Curb Records’ failures will breed a new era of artistic freedom throughout Music Row.

However similar things were likely said about the rise of the independent, and locally-based Curb Records. Money and power are very effective at eroding values over time. And Big Machine holds no values or promise for the forces fighting for the purity and integrity of country music itself. Looking up and down the Big Machine roster, it is hard to find any true country music at all. How ironic it is to finally see artistic freedom trending upwards on Music Row, yet true country music being left out of that trend in favor of country pop.

Make no mistake about it, there is a new king on top of the country music hill, and his name is Scott Borchetta.

24 Comments to “Scott Borchetta is New King of Nashville After Tim McGraw Signing”

  • I’m kinda nervous about hearing what Tim McGraw will do with his hard earned freedom. The door is wide open for a pairing with Ludacris.


    • Hey whatever it takes to feel like a rock star,man


  • Maybe it should be entitled the re redefining of country music.


  • i dont care what mcgraw does.

    maybe he and his fag buddy can write the music to the brokeback mountain 2 soundtrack.


    • Comments like that just make me mad and I really hope you’re kidding. Triggerman reports on major country news and Tim McGraw happens to qualify, also I don’t see any reason for homophobic comments. At all. And if you have heard the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack, there is amazing guitar work and classic traditional country- Emmylou Harris is on it. I never let myself get riled up over comments but seriously, that was uncalled for.


      • Well he ain’t makin’ friends with Willie Nelson or Steve Earle, who are also on the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack.

        It always seemed to me that the most homophobic dudes out there had the most to hide. Or as Willie sang, “cowboys are frequently, secretly fond of each other”.


  • Replacing Mike Curb with Scott Borchetta is like commiting suicide to cure a toothache. Your assertions about him allowing creative freedom to artists doesn’t change anything because he’s giving this freedom to the likes of Princess Taylor, Rascal Fats (hold my nose and squeal) , and Shedaisy (what a retarded name). It’s all chasing the same goal. It’s like giving $10.oo to a good kid knowing that they’ll probably buy candy and baseball cards, as opposed to giving the same $10.oo to a bad kid that will buy crystal meth.


  • Also I cant wait any longer to read your Bob Wayne review, so get out of your mothers closet and get to work.


    • Bob Wayne review is coming. Lots of breaking news and other things have gotten in the way.


  • I can’t imagine him releasing anything I’d be interested in. I haven’t listened to mainstream country music in a very long time.


  • Scott should find some artists who really dig traditional and americana country. With the exception of maybe Tim McGraw and Jack Ingram, his current artists actually grew up listening to pop country. The Band Perry and Taylor Swift were Faith Hill fans. They want to make the kind of music they love and they happened to love country pop so by forcing these artists to sound like Loretta Lynn or Connie Smith is a disservice to their artistry.

    Tim McGraw did some traditional leanings back in the 90s so maybe he’ll explore in that area… or maybe not.


    • You’re right, it would be unfair to make his artists go in a more country route. And as we learned, he’s not into making his artists do anything. He pay also point to Justin Moore as his “real” country artist.

      Maybe he could start a imprint for real country/Americana artists. Or do we really want him to get into that business, or would that crowd listen to anything Scott Borchetta puts out?


    • Isn’t it ironic, the SCM poster child of pop-country over exposure, Mr. Fragrance himsel, is the artist to bring the hammer down on Curb and perhaps the “end” to big label controlled artists in Nashville.

      I’m a McGraw fan. I don’t think his music changed from his beginnings to now solely due to influence of money and fame, but more due to where he was in life. Pre-Faith, Post-Faith. You can hear the change from country guy playing music/drinkin’ beer, to a guy that fell in love and has a beautiful family and that became him. Nothing wrong with it (I liked the older stuff for listening in the garage, but…) we might all think he sold out, but sold out to who? Mike Curb or Faith Hill…I’d sell out to Faith Hill.

      Sure would be something if the trailblazers to re-ignite true/real/artist controlled country was Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw. ha. You might not like the sound, but they are doing exactly what they want, and that just might allow a lot of other artists in the mix to do what they want.


      • I guess it’s a question of sanity and motivation.

        What sane, self-respecting male musician, given the freedom to record whatever their heart desires, decide to record sappy, milquetoast AC pop?

        In my opinion, that’s what McGraw’s music has been for a long time, and I don’t see him changing course with his newfound freedom. There’s no motivation for him to change. Why? The money.


  • Don’t think this is gonna change much. Other than guys like Dierks Bentley who admitted he liked Up on the Ridge better than his pop stuff, most of the Music Row artists consider Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks classic country and enjoy making the cliched shit by rewriting the same song over and over.


  • Blah,Blah,Blah! Who in their right mind gives a *hit what Tim McGraw puts out! The only decent songs he put out were not wriitten by him and if they vaguely sounded “country”,they were weighed down by country cliques we have all heard about a million times! Fact is the dude is rich and will continue to get richer while the sheep follow him and others like him to oblivion.I guess the story is noteworthy, but like I said “who gives a *hit” I am more interested in celebrating good country music,than talking about what the “bubblegum artists” are up too.


    • This article is in no way about what type of music Tim McGraw will put out, or has ever put out. I’m not sure why you and others are picking up on that thread. It’s about Scott Borchetta and his consolidation of Nashville power and influence.


  • Good for Tim he always picks some great song to record , I wish him luck , He’s come along way since recording he’s first hit that indian song ha ha ha , forgot the name of it now.


  • He recorded a Steve Seskin tune , he’s far from bubblegum imho
    But we all have our tastes. Most artists don’t write or at least record there own stuff.
    Why do you think Nashville is on the map, it’s for the great writers.
    Toby Kieth is one of the few that does. They basically don’t have time being on the road. Writing is a whole different animal then performing, Very intense.


  • I have been so thrilled about this, every since I heard it !!!! Love my Tim McGraw- can’t wait for your new future Tim and— Thank You Scott Borchetta.


  • […] The Season of Discontent in country music continues with yet another big name country music personality lending his voice to decrying the wayward trajectory of the genre. But this time it’s not a performing artist, it is Scott Borchetta, the label owner of Big Machine Records, affectionately known at Saving Country Music as the Country Music Anti-Christ, and arguablythe most powerful man in the country music business. […]


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