Will Nashville Be The Next Detroit?

February 17, 2011 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  64 Comments

During last week’s Super Bowl, one of the most gut-stirring commercials featured rapper Eminem in a spot for Chrysler, showing solidarity with the embattled city of Detroit which has taken the brunt of the economic downturn over the past few years, and by proxy has become the brunt of jokes that many times unfairly portray the hard work and strength that has come out of that city and its people.

When cities like Detroit have large sectors of their economy focused around one industry, it can leave them vulnerable to economic swings. Music City, just like Motor City, has a large economic stake in one area, that of course being the music industry and its subsidiaries, potentially giving Nashville the same vulnerability that has led to record unemployment and a general economic malaise in Motown.

The knock against Detroit was that its auto industries were stuck in models of the old economy, that they were unwilling to innovate and change with the times, or come up with new and fresh ideas. That they were creating products that Americans didn’t want, and that there were issues with quality. Do some of these same criticisms not ring true with the music that is being turned out on the similarly antiquated assembly line of Nashville’s Music Row?

Read About The Old Style Songwriting Culture Still Alive in Nashville

Granted, compared to Detroit, the city of Nashville does have a fairly diversified economy. With large stakes in finance, health care, and insurance, a vibrant tourism and trade show culture, and some big universities, it’s hard to say that even if the music industry completely imploded, it would leave Nashville bankrupt. And music-based institutions like The Country Music Hall of Fame, The Grand Ole Opry, and possibly some of it’s rights and publishing businesses would likely stick around, even in a cataclysmic scenario.

But at the same time, the music industry is so concentrated in “Music Row”, a collapse of this micro-economy could leave a gaping economic hole. And unlike Detroit, where the majority of the domestic auto industry is headquartered, a lot of Nashville’s music infrastructure is funded by major labels and entities headquartered elsewhere, in New York, LA, or overseas, that simply use Nashville offices as satellites and subsidiaries. If they leave, it could leave a much larger empty footprint compared to the “scaling back but staying put” that happened in Detroit.

One thing that has kept Detroit from becoming a virtual ghost town is that the government stepped in and bailed out the big auto firms and backed up the local economy. It is pretty easy to sell the auto industry as vital to the overall economy, with transportation being an essential need, and a backbone of American economic development for a century. The auto industry is also tied heavily with the vibrancy of the blue collar workforce. But can we really sell Trace Adkins’ “Brown Chicken Brown Cow” or “Honky Tonk Bandona Donk” as essential economic elements? Art and music funding are the first things to be cut out of federal budgets during economic downturns. And hasn’t the will of the people and the ability of the government to bail out an industry changed since the government takeover of GM and Chrysler?

Without question, the music industry is going through massive contraction, and as you look at Nashville, the question becomes, “What’s the plan?” The tailspin the industry is in is obvious, but they seemed to be focused on blaming it on the actions of others: illegal downloaders and such, instead of trying to define what they are doing wrong. In some ways it seems like the same things that are dooming Music Row are being indulged in even more. More formulaic music, more focus on big names as a lack of talent development continues. If there is a plan, it seems to be “make hay while you can at the expense of the future”, trading a sugar high for a sustainable future of music.

Read Why Country Music Is In Trouble

Nashville’s Music Row is not all to blame for the tough times in music. The move to digitization has decreased revenue, and the general problem of music consumers having so much access to so much music has created an overload, marginalizing the effectiveness any one music project can have. And I don’t mean to be alarmist or “talk down” Nashville’s economy. But we live in an era where whole sectors of the old economy have dried up. Is it a stretch to see the rapidly declining revenue numbers for music leading to a massive reduction or reorganization of the music business as we know it, and this directly effecting Music City in a large scale manner?

When hard times hit Detroit, many Nashville-based musicians lent their support in many ways. The song “Shutting Detroit Down” by John Rich is a good example, and of course, it was a musician, Eminem, that lent his support through the aformentioned Chrysler commercial, that regardless if it had any economic impact, impacted the pride of Detroit’s embattled population. I think it goes without saying that the talent of Music Row would rally around Nashville as well if hard times befall the city. They certainly did so during last year’s record flooding in middle Tennessee. The question would be, with the big money leaving town, the infrastructure auctioned off or significantly downsized, and the relevancy and popularity of it’s stars marginalized, would anybody listen?

64 Comments to “Will Nashville Be The Next Detroit?”

  • I see the point your trying to make here about the music industry in Nashville, but this is an awful awful comparison since you clearly don’t realize what the main reasons are US automakers struggle.

    Also, you have to take your shot at Trace Adkins and Jamey Johnson don’t you? As if they are the reason music is in the shitter based on music row standards.

    Maybe Detroit is the next Nashville with the music coming out of there? Sorry trig, much like your hiphop/rap history lesson in the grammy article, your in over your head on this one.


    • Did I mention Jamey Johnson in this article?

      I got a hip hop/rap lesson in my Grammy article?

      Or did you make assumptions that I didn’t know about the history of rap, just like you’re now making assumptions I don’t know about the economic factors behind the US auto industry?


      • I could find plenty of things to criticize in this article, but hey, I live in the area, and its a close point to my heart.

        My family grew up working in the auto industry, something I was able to avoid for the most part(a couple of shop jobs when younger, but, never directly employed by an automaker)—

        but, at no point did I read anything into it about Jamey Johnson….weird that it would even be brought up.


        • I wrote/published this article fully knowing it was going to create high criticism for me from some people, but that’s fine, I’m a big boy, I can take it, and whatever you and anybody are critical of, please feel free to share beyond what you already have. But I wrote it to get people thinking. Look at that graph above. This is what’s going on in the music industry, and specific to Music Row, there seems to be no plan, no change in philosophy, no new approach, no provisions being made, just indulgence in the same things that have led to this point. Some will revel in the idea of Music Row imploding, but my guess is those won’t be the people whose jobs count on it.


          • I think criticism that adds to the discussion is important—and that’s really all it is—discussion—at least that’s what I get from this site.

            I love reading people’s input at things they are passionate about. Hence, I generally stop by here whenever I can.

            Cheers man.


          • And, believe me, I have genuine concern for anyone who loses their job. I’ve been laid off 9 times in my life. Its awful.


      • You mentioned bodonkadonk, and it is certainly brought up around her the author of that song.

        You could have easily picked on Rascal Flatts or Tim McGraw, but you picked on Trace and Jamey. I know your smart enough to know you did that on purpose.

        You mentioned in a prior article that hiphop/rap was built on drug money and we all should remember that. Not entirely the whole story on that genre of music.

        I am not making assumptions, I am reading what you wrote, and I guess I can only assume that is your knowledge, or else someone else is writing it for you?


        • The reason I mentioned those two songs was because they are silly, gimmick songs that are easily recognizable by the general public. As bad as I might think Tim McGraw or Rascal Flatts is, it’s not a gimmick in the same sense. I probably could have used one of Brad Paisley’s gimmick songs, but they may not be as easily recognizable. The point is that these are not essential to the economy. And it’s funny that you’re ragging on me for inadvertently bringing Jamey into the mix when you argued with me that “Badonka Donk” was more seen as a Trace Adkins song in an previous article.

          And yes, I still assert that the initial capital for the rap machine behind Eminem came from selling drugs, and that this same thing can be found in other parts of rap music. If you have caught me in an assumption, I am not backing down from that assumption one bit.


  • The auto industry isn’t the only problem Detroit has had. Its a glaring problem, but not the only one.

    The riots of 1943 and 1967 are ugly scars that have never healed leaving damage that was unrepaired still to this day.

    The corrupt dominance of Mayor Coleman Young from 1974-1993 and his disasterous People Mover nightmare and his thieving police chief was a huge problem.

    And, after a nice run of recovery during Dennis Archer’s reign as mayor, the fine people of Detroit made the horrible mistake of electing the now in-famous crook Kwame Kilpatrick—in jail, and likely will be eventually found to be the murderer he was.

    The auto industry is a problem–but, it ain’t the only one.

    Nashville does has the diversity that you’ve pointed out. It has the tourism–if the music industry does continue to flounder and basically shuts down–it may even be a good thing for tourism—you’ll actually have real musicians pounding out the tunes on Broadway instead of people itching for their next payday as a backing musician for some arena star. It might actually get interesting…might.

    I think the whole country is in trouble—and while here, we look around and say Detroit is heading to where Flint is(nightmare), I’m able to look out and see that the rest of the country will likely catch up to us. Except for maybe Texas, they seem to run things much different there—their own way, kinda like they’re a seperate nation. Good for them.

    Things are rough—the music industry is rough. The one thing I laugh about came from another musician friend of mine from Cleveland(another down trodden city)…He said, “…while all our friends went out and wasted their money on college degrees that they don’t use for jobs they don’t have–we found that we always have a way to score $100 on a Friday night….who’s laughing now??”

    He’s right.


    • You beat me to my thoughts about Nashville, good points.


    • Good point. Music Row has had it’s fair share of corruption and controversy over the years, but probably nothing compared to Detroit, and specific to the political sector.

      And yes, Texas seemed to have weathered the storm for a time, but right now across the state school districts are facing record budget shortfalls. San Antonio schools are cutting 1,500 jobs. Austin 1,200. And guess what is the first thing that gets cut? Music and art. It’s hitting down here too. Don’t believe anyone who tells you we’re out of the woods. A select few might be, but the rest of us aren’t.

      When will society understand that the human soul needs music to survive?


      • Music=the reason I get out of bed in the morning. Its necessary and people who don’t listen to it scare the crap outta me. I don’t care what kind you like, but, as Willie pointed out in one biography–Life has a rhythm and everything in it has a pitch.

        Cuts you can expect going forward after music and arts=garbage pickup, police, fire depts(they are combining cities departments now and laying off staff left and right), school sports programs, snow removal(heads up Dallas..haah)…and that’s just the tip.

        Take a long look at Detroit—or for a more defined model–take a look at Flint—and look around your respective cities—this is what alot of people have to look forward to—this country is in trouble.

        Music, I believe, will rebound. But, before anything can be fixed, it has to be acknowledged that its broken. Subconsciously, the general public is starting to get that music is broken–they just haven’t felt it entirely yet.

        Suprised, I don’t think I’ve seen anything on here about EMI’s collapse….if you did, I apologize, cos I’ve forgotten. Its a pretty damn big deal.



        • Wow, I hadn’t seen or heard of that at all. I guess because EMI is UK? TONS of great info in that story. That adds a lot of substance to this “speculative” theory.

          “Despite EMI’s mismanagement, it’s nevertheless amazing that a company with these kind of assets can fall (I’m sure they were surprised, too). Is this only the first in a series of bankruptcies as the pitiless Internet reshapes the music industry?”

          I may have to add this to the body of my article.


          • OK hold on, I’m not sure that story is entirely true. I think there’s speculation that EMI is about to go bankrupt, and Citi is their financier, but it hasn’t officially happened yet. Or at least as far as I can tell.

            But this is how you will see the beginning of the end, banks calling in notes, seizing and liquidating assets.


  • Good short read that made me think. I could picture the 16th Ave/Music Row area becoming a ghost town, or maybe the record company buildings would be replaced with other businesses or apartments or something.

    I bet the Lower Broadway area would survive. People will still want to go to the Ryman and Hall of Fame. Your articles about Joe Buck and the rest of the underground’s support of the honky tonks show a big part of the community that would keep that stretch alive. Now that I think about it, that could be a great thing.


    • Nashville is a pretty vibrant, hip city, and I could see even if the music industry moved out, the real estate being re-incorporated for other uses, especially as the whole country is experiencing a re-urbanization movement. This could possibly open it up for more artists/musicians as well. The music industry tanking in Music City, might be good for the music scene in Nashville. The irony of that statement illustrates just where we are right now.


  • baseless speculation. Nashville is a healthy city, and will remain healthy due to the “diversified economy” you mentioned. Health care, universities, professional sports, and tourism alone could keep this town healthy. The music industry is not made up of major labels alone. It’s mostly comprised of successful artists, producers and songwriters who choose to live in Nashville because thats where like-minded talented people live. Record labels will come and go, but the talented people who actually make the music happen will stay in this town for a variety of reasons. Everybody should move to Nashville, it’ll be thriving for another generation at least.


    • I’d agree there’s a lot of speculation here. Some of it might be baseless, but some of it might not be. But I think it’s a fair question to ask that if a lot of the major labels and other elements of the industry moved out, wouldn’t many, or at least some of the songwriters, producers, and artist leave with it?

      I’d agree that Nashville is vibrant, and might be able to withstand such an economic shock better than many cities. But the simple question is, how can you support the same infrastructure and manpower that you had ten years ago, when the revenues have sharply declined, and are foretasted to continue to do so with no bottoming out or recovery in sight.

      I’m not asking this question because I want to see Nashville tank and validate my speculations, I’m asking it with the idea that someone needs to, and a plan must be created for what I see are some inevitabilities.


      • 10-15 years ago was the boom of country music going mainstream, and pop-country followed right behind.

        There is no way it was going to sustain. Not matter what. If Music Row played the music that people on this site hand picked, guess what, the sales would be down still.

        They hit a peak, now there will be a down cycle. People will be effected. But it has to happen. Country music wasn’t going to get as big as it did with out the pop-country. So for a group that doesn’t like pop-country, you can’t expect the same growth and to sustain the same level, when the music we enjoy, isn’t going to get the mass appeal.


  • The whole country was in a tailspin, from the top three to mortgage companies to banks, etx so why would the music industry not be affected? I live where automobiles are putting food on the table. I would love to live in Nashville, where the streets hold special memories and the walls feel alive. I don’t care for assembly line songwriting. I write when the art hits me. That’s when the words flow easiest and are most true. Music Row takes their daily hits and apply them to the current IT singers and thinks that is good enough. Blah. I walked the streets of Nashville one sunny afternoon and saw the open guitar cases. The love of music can never die, no matter how messed up Music Row tries to make it.


    • I think the music industry was in a tailspin way before the economic downturn. Check the above chart. How the downturn effects the music industry now is that the capital that must keep flowing to keep the executive pays and posh office buildings alive on Music Row could get pulled quicker, especially when it is obvious the returns are dwindling at a monstrous pace.

      And that takes me to the whole theme of this article, which is “What’s the plan”? When the money being generated is 1/3 of what it was 10 years ago, and the cost of everything has risen, and some point the situation reaches critical mass, and offices must be moved or shut down, manpower must be reduced, OR they must figure out how to reverse the revenue trend. Their solution seems to be to add a reggae break to a Sugarland song, or put a new spin on the Rascal Flatts hairdoos. That will get the kids excited!

      How about a re-invigoration of substance?


      • Rascall Flatts hair will never make me like music! Sorry to disappoint the frosted tippers in the world.

        Substance sounds like just what the doctor ordered.


    • “Music Row takes their daily hits and apply them to the current IT singers and thinks that is good enough.”

      That is good enough- good enough to make them money. That is what the labels are there for. Business, make money.

      They have been doing that for a LONG LONG time. Not just the pop country era.


  • This is an interesting topic. Like you said, Nashville does have a more diverse economy which doesn’t rely on one industry alone. Health care and tourism are both big, as is education. As you probably know, before Nashville called itself “Music City” it was known as the Athens of the South because of its many schools. Meanwhile, Opryland Hotel has been revamped and the new Omni Hotel and Convention Center will bring in some bucks I guess. What could really impact the Nashville economy in the immediate future would be an NFL strike in which the next football season is canceled as Titans games bring a lot of people downtown.


    • As for Music Row and its subsidiaries crashing, I almost want to say good riddance. It would be horrible for the economy, but it would be exciting to see what kind of changes to the music scene in its wake. The music business itself has consolidated so much and like most corporate industries, its structure has become completely top down and beholden to big wigs who call all the shots from New York or LA, I feel like Nashville has kind anchored its fate to the industry at large. I’m sure whatever happens, some great country and folk music will come out of the tough economic and social times ahead, but it might be coming from an underground band or a busker on the streets rather than a corporate pop country station, which seems to focus on escapist themes mostly.

      Also, this point has been made before, but I hope people don’t get confused by all the trash talk about “Nashville.” People use it as a metonym for “the country music industry” or the “the music row suits” but Nashville the City is a beautiful place, with a very diverse music scene, and I’m proud to live here.


      • I agree Frank, like I said in a comment above, the irony of the statement “The music industry tanking in Music City, might be good for the music scene in Nashville.” shows just where we are today.

        And I’m sure there will be some people that will read this and think I am trash talking Nashville. I love Nashville, that is why I fight for it, because the history, people, art and music that has come out of that city for years is worth it.

        Didn’t think about the NFL strike. That’s an interesting dynamic, but again one that might be marginalized by Nashville’s economic diversity, unless too many of those diversified elements give at the same time.

        And something that I thought about mentioning up above, is that some of Nashville’s diversity has come at the expense of music. The bulldozing of the Musicians Hall of Fame to make way for a new convention center comes to mind.

        And for those that are not in the loop on that story, or think that I’m an interloper on Nashville infrastructure issues:




        And not that I expect anybody to read any or all of these articles, but here’s one I wrote about the importance of separating Music City from Music Row, like you importantly articulated up above:



        • Football strike in Detroit=complete disaster.
          Bars will crumble–parking lots empty=employees in the stadium, around the stadium and every restaurant will suffer huge consequences.
          Despite how bad the Lions have been, they almost always sell out–and its not people in the city buying the tickets–it brings suburb money into the city.
          Good point Frank.


        • Ugh. I was aware of the Musician’s Hall of Fame thing, but I didn’t realize that some of the stuff had gotten destroyed in the flood. I was under the impression everything was eventually going to get restored in the convention center or something. That’s bullshit.

          And considering the “Music City USA” ad campaigns the city was running on TV a while ago, shutting down a museum dedicated to hardworking musicians really doesn’t bode well.

          At least, thank God, they didn’t tear down the freaking Ryman, cause they sure talked a lot about it back in the day.

          Also, I didn’t think you in particular were bashing Nashville. Actually, I’m glad you care about the future of this place. Besides, growing up in TN has given me thick skin about that kind of thing.


  • are the good times really over? interesting article Trig, well done, asking an interesting question. your point about the government not stepping to save the music industry is a good one. something else that might lend some support to idea of Nashville going the way of Detroit is the interdependencies that develop in the local economy. in addition to all of the the things Jeremy pointed about local politics and other factors, Detroit is in rough shape because so many businesses there (lots of them small businesses) depend on the money that the auto-industry brought/brings in. without the big three raking it in, parts suppliers, warehouses, construction, marketing, reasearch, hotels, retaurants, etc. all take a hit. so, without rambling too much more, if the recording industry takes a serious hit and the money dries up, lots of smaller time players in Nashville’s economy start to hurt. in a place like Nashville, where tourism is big, if the music money starts to dry up, and places start closing down the city gets more deserted, and that’s not good for tourism… and the problems start compounding themselves…. anyway, you got me thinking.


    • What came first? Country music in Nashville or music labels in Nashville? Music did.

      The car wasn’t invented in Detroit. Car companies brought it to Detroit. (Ford invented a better way to assemble a car, not the car.)

      So Nashville’s music scene has been around longer than the money hungry labels. Labels leave, sure there will be an effect, but to think the music scene is going to die because the labels we dont’ like are going to leave?


      • That’s a good point, and like has come up in some of these other comments, it would probably help the local music scene. But a janitor and Curb Records’ corporate offices doesn’t want to hear about that as shes being served a pink slip. Speculation of course, but the vibrancy of the local music scene and the economic impact of the music industry moving out of the city are not as intertwined as one might think.


        • I know, but you know what, I can’t do anything for the janitor. People lose their jobs everyday. I might lose mine being I have been online during work ranting for two days on here, just in a mood I guess, but as much as it would suck for those losing their jobs, I want to see better country music. I support the bands I like, I can’t help the janitor.

          that sounds really “icecold” but, you know what I am saying?


        • You can also ask yourself how many jobs did the pop-country movement give people in Nashville? How big did it make the city?

          I am not a pop-country supporter, but things wouldn’t be as “good” in Nashville with out it. But now it is time to go, and some of the good might go with it.

          We might one day soon find better times musically, and as one artist puts it, “Thank God the good times ain’t what they used to be.”


  • Interesting article and interesting thoughts comparing two cities and two industries. Despite the other negative or questioning comments, I only have one issue with this article “one of the most gut-stirring commercials featured rapper Eminem”, nope – this commercial (like most car commercials) was pandering clap-trap. It might have been better directed, and more subtle than most, but it was a poorly managed American car company trying to create solidarity with the working class people (that are now un-employed or under-employed and can’t afford a Chrysler anyway in part because of Chrysler’s business practices and the auto bailout.) Sorry, but I react strongly whenever anyone implies that that ad had any redeeming qualities.


    • I definitely understand what your saying Stu, and my initial reaction to that commercial was exactly like yours. But then I tried to take the perspective of someone from the area, and I understood how if you have been directly effected by the downturn of Detroit, that commercial could speak to you in a completely different way. Just like it did Jeremy who commented above. He also commented about the commercial specifically on my Super Bowl article. He is the bass player for Whitey Morgan & the 78’s, based out of Flint, MI just north of Detroit.

      Even though some will accuse me of knowing nothing about Detroit or Nashville, I lived in Flint, MI, which is part of the greater Detroit area and where Buick is based. I know a lot of people from that area, and have seen first hand what has happened. Not saying I have Detroit cred or anything, but when you know someone who’s been laid off from an auto job and is worried about putting food on the table for their family and you’ve seen the concern in their eyes, or when you’ve had your car stolen with everything you own in it (including 350 CD’s of some of the best classic country) because the economy has gone completely to shit and people are stealing to survive, your perspective can change.

      But yes, NOBODY should be duped into thinking that commercial was anything more than a ruse to sell cars. But if it inadvertently helped the people of Detroit feel a little more pride in their city or themselves, more power I say.


      • I feel no shame, I’m proud of where I came from
        I was born and raised
        in the boondocks


  • Trig, are you concerned that the major labels will fold up and leave Nashville? So what? Aren’t the labels the problem?

    Nashville will easily survive if major labels pull out, As Vince explains above.

    Then they will probably come back, as the music scene re-establishes itself to truer country music. Then eventually in say 30-50 years, pop country will be the new/old big thing coming back around.


    • Honestly, I am trying to divest myself from thinking about what I’d like to see happen sonically in Nashville, from looking at it from an economic or infrastructure standpoint. Yeah, in many ways like like to see the big money in Nashville be brought to it’s knees. But for people that live in Nashville, this COULD effect their livelihoods, their jobs, their quality of life. This IS all speculation, but given the dramatic decline in music revenue, I do not think it is unfair to ask.


      • I know what your saying. Talk about a double edge sword.

        Nashville music row wouldn’t be nearly as big had the class of 1989 not come along and then the pop-country boom. Now pop country sales are declining, and it will hurt that aspect of the city. Which, I really never wished had developed, pop country that is.


  • Another problem Nashville has is that unless you enjoy music history or country music or whatever, there aren’t that many “tourist” things to do for people who like those kind of “tourist” activities.

    For instance, Opryland used to be here, now in its place is the boarded up water-logged remains of shopping mall called Opry Mills that has been closed for nearly a year, and which Gaylord sold its stake in a long time ago. I would like to see a new theme park somewhere, and not just a shitty Six Flags with a few token Batman rides. It could incorporate local history and have stages to showcase local bands and artists.

    Maybe Dolly Parton should get on that.


    • Man, don’t get me started on Gaylord, and how they’ve gobbled up important elements of Nashville real estate, just to sit on it and let it fall into disrepair, or exploited it for quick commercial gain at the expense of the future.


    • That’s a great idea Frank. Would provide jobs and help revitalize the economy. Who doesn’t love rollarcoasters?


    • yes, and they could change the name to Nash-Branson-ville.

      Shit, country music in Nashville isn’t going anywhere. The pop-country money might leave, but why are we trying to argue to save that?
      There are to many proud artists to allow Nashville to become a ghost town. People don’t come to Nashville to tour a record label lobby or some mall. They come for the music. If Carrie Underwood isn’t playing the Opry, guess, what, it will still draw a crowd.

      Your giving way to much credit to the pop-country machine that brought money to the city.

      It doesn’t need an amusement park.


  • I know music sales are going down, but I really wonder if total music revenues are going down proportionally. Just looking at the Billboard Top 25 tours of 2010, Bon Jovi pulled in $146 million gross from touring. As far as the “country” monogenre, Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley, George Strait and Reba, Rascal Flatts, and Carrie Underwood all made the Top 25 tours pulling in $45-30 million each. I would bet that country music revenues are down, but I bet they are not down as much as we think. Recorded music revenues are just slowly being replaced with live music and marketing revenues.

    I don’t see Nashville as a big, decaying monolith that is slow to adjust, quite the opposite actually. I think they are too smart for their own good and they got too good at making money at the sake of the core values of their business. The only resistance against values erosion is the consumer and, as a collective group, we have failed miserably.


    • Good stuff Big A, and yes, live revenue will be what replaces recorded revenue, but you don’t need labels and many of their subsidiaries to do that. What you do need is talent, and this is where people like Taylor Swift might be exposed.


      • Doesn’t live show revenue put money in the artist pocket more so than recording revenue, which puts money in the labels pockets?

        I think this article has perhaps taken a 180. But for those employed by the large record labels, losing any job sucks, large record company money leaving Nashville won’t be so bad. It probably didn’t belong there anyway.


  • That’s it, right there boys, that’s why we do what we do
    It ain’t for the money, it ain’t for the glory, it ain’t for the free whiskey
    It’s for the badonkadonk


    • I been hacked! lol good article Trigg.


  • TM,

    I think this is much too general. As others have stated, Nashville’s economy is diverse in heath care, Universities and sports teams -though terribly lacking in the IT field. But since we’re talking music industry, Nashville has more industry jobs than LA and New York combined. While many are thinking of the obvious jobs being in record labels, this is not the case. Nashville employs a barrage of song pluggers, copyright lawyers, Performance Royalty Organizations (ASCAP and BMI) + a number of subcontractors who write voice recognition software that listen to the internet to ensure royalties are collected from MP3 blogs -for example (this is where you get into having difficulty defining exactly what the music industry is).

    Then there is music mgt, probably the highest concentration of (music) booking agencies of any city in the world, and a host of local, regional, national promotion companies. Add to this a flurry of home studios, a concentration of extremely wealthy country stars and their sprawling estates (technically, the guy who cleans Kix Brooks’ pool is employed by the music industry, after all).

    Then you have the tour bus industry. If you rent a tour bus, it likely comes from 1 of 3 cities in the U.S, nashville being the Southeast hub. Then there’s the mechanics that repair them, the auto parts supplier, the insurance agent who specialize in them (15 millions dollars of insurance to take a bus on tour), the drivers who drive them. What about tour managers? Merch sellers? Guitar techs? drum techs? Pyro guys? How many professional monitor men do you know that live in OK? Riggers? Personal security? Rehearsal spaces? Equipment storage? Equipment rental (ever tried renting a guitar amp in Salt lake City?), a full time musicians union headquarters? … The people that answer the phones for all of these people? The janitorial services that clean their offices? The real estate agents that lease their offices? Where do you think the people that work in this field live? Where the work is, of course.

    All of this aside, Nashville is home to the highest density of musicians of any city in America. So, realistically, a couple of heads rolling in Nashville based labels, and even int’l labels closing up shop, does little to affect the overall industry climate since, so long as there are songs to be written, players to record them, studios to record them in, publishers to publish them, lawyers to copyright them, managers to manage them, agencies to book them, buses to drive them, road managers to manage them, merchandisers to merchandise them, promoters to promote them and PROs to collect royalties… there will be people in place to provide these services.

    With regards to these services, as it just so happens, TN is, in general, a very business friendly state. Want to create a start up booking agency based in CA? You better have $10,000 to bond yourself with the state. TX, IL and NY all have heavy restrictions on entertainment business and, in some cases require extensive licensing, state bonds and regulations on exactly how one earns money doing so. Apparently, they haven’t heard the news that free markets are self regulating due to competition. What that means for these states (and therefore cities) is that they lack influx of start ups and entrepreneurship with regards to the entertainment business and, in the case of this subject matter, the music business. While Nashville still runs, to a certain extent, on the “good ol boy” system (for years, Hank Jr’s mgt deal was a mere hand shake with manager Merle Kilgore), it does have a unequalled amount of boutique business supplying music industry related services and, in many cases generating millions of dollars of revenue via local, state, and interstate economies.

    This is why, for the foreseeable future at least, and barring total economic collapse, Nashville will remain “Das Capitol” of the music business. Detroit became a ghost town for just the opposite reasons: Lack of adaptation, top heavy management, and heavy handed regulation. What’s left? The federal government sodomizing the carcass of archaic business modeld.

    I’ve never found myself in the role of passionately defending of Nashville’s music industry before, but these two examples are not comparable.


    • Fair enough. I agree this is a broad discussion, but I don’t run a business journal, I run an opinion blog. I would defer to your knowledge and experience of Nashville and the music business for sure. The devils advocate point would be to list all the subsidiary and boutique business that exist because of the auto industry in Detroit, which did not insulate Detroit from the downturn, but exacerbated it, as was broached in a comment from someone above, even though we all still drive cars.

      But to take it back to broad generalities, all of these various operations and businesses depend on money. The were built when the music business was bringing in X revenue. Now its bringing in X minus 60%, and falling. At some point there will not be enough money to sustain. I know not all of the music depends on recorded music revenue, but a lot of it does depend on the popularity of the stars. You combine a decline in both, and all of a sudden there’s not nearly the same demand for those Prevost buses, and the people that drive them, repair them, and clean them, and all the other various services.


      • TM,

        I still think that you are failing to acknowledge the “one door closes, another one opens” mentality. While the bass player for Sammy Kershaw may have to pick up a part time job for the first time in 25 years, a artists like those featured on your website, for example, may very well be using, or moving towards, mid-level scale tour infrastructure, while paying their rent from monies collected from a PRO (ASACP/BMI).

        The entire Nashville infrastructure is diversified enough to absorb the most significant blow to the record labels.

        As we move away from records and more toward singles, how does it hurt Nashville? The PRO’s are increasingly efficient at collecting “non-traditional” royalties (this is because the market requires it to be so -aka they adapted to the economic climate). Therefore, the writers collect as do the associated infrastructure (publishers, pluggers, copyright lawyers). These well promoted “singles” are pushed harder since they are single sources of revenue for that end of the business, thus making bigger “hits” and creating more demand for live appearances, increased merchandise sales, both of which are where the artists actually earn money.

        Essentially, the infrastructure is already in place to proceed without mega labels. The labels are sounding the alarm, just like the car companies did at the end, because they are desperately trying to hold onto their way of life. In the end, failure to adapt and top heavy thinking is their downfall. The primary difference is that artists have to be prepared to rely on “non traditional” forms of financial backing to get to where they want to be, but how is this really any different than any other business mindset in the current economic climate? Creativity. Improvisation. Adaptation…. Just like Mamie said, “Only the strong will survive”

        Overall, Nashville has one of the stronger economies of cities of comparable size or even larger. As the city municipals run on almost half the cost of many similar size cities, they are not in the economic straight jackets of many cities in America. Honestly, I just don’t see the economic meltdown (again, short of a economic crunch on a national or int’l scale, which, for the record, I believe is a tangible possibility) singlehandedly due to the failure of the traditional Nashville record label infrastructure.

        I don’t want to sound like I’m pushing a pro-Nashville agenda here, nor do I want to sound overly optimistic about the state of the music industry in general nor the economic climate of the US, because I certainly am not. But, comparing Nashville to Detroit is just not accurate. -your time is better invested is pursuing a different angle of criticism.


        • I think you’re making some very good points Christian. I think maybe we are looking at this thing from two different perspectives. Since you’re in the area and work daily in the business, you see things from a very specific point of view. Because I do not have my hands deep in the workings every day, I think I have a more broad, general view. Your comments have really helped me zero in on all the aspects of how a music reorganization could go down.

          “The labels are sounding the alarm, just like the car companies did at the end, because they are desperately trying to hold onto their way of life. In the end, failure to adapt and top heavy thinking is their downfall.”

          This is exactly why I saw a correlation between Nashville and Detroit, and made the comparison. In the end, Nashville might be much more able to adapt to the change when it comes, and I mentioned this in the article as well, but bridging the SYMPTOMS of the downfall of the two industries was what I wanted to get people thinking about.

          When I posted this article, I knew it would create heavy criticism, specifically toward me, and I’m totally fine with that. Because I knew it would also get people thinking. I think that a lot of people can’t fathom many of Nashville’s big labels failing and the music business being massively reorganized. I personally think it is inevitable, and that we could see it in the next 3 to 6 months.

          Another point you brought up:

          “The PRO’s are increasingly efficient at collecting “non-traditional” royalties (this is because the market requires it to be so -aka they adapted to the economic climate). Therefore, the writers collect as do the associated infrastructure (publishers, pluggers, copyright lawyers).”

          I’ve been studying this in very close detail over the past few months. I do agree this is keeping revenue coming in for the music industry, and in some cases even increasing revenue, but the problem with that is the revenue is going to less people. 2/3’rds of Nashville’s songwriters have had to either quit or find supplemental income over the past 10 years, and more of the big celebrities are wanting a piece of the royalty pie to keep their income up. So I could see this working AGAINST Nashville’s music economy as well.



  • Very eye-catching header. Complete nonsense, but very attention getting. Comparing these two cities, why? Part of the logic behind the equation is missing from your thesis.
    First off, Nashville is thriving, despite the national economic downturn. For those of us who invested “inside the loop” as locals say, we are now sitting on goldmines while nation wide, other cities suffer real decay. That’s not because of the music business, it’s because Nashville is first and foremost a College Town, with 5 major Schools based here and dozens of other smaller ones. Vanderbilt is the largest employer in the city and is of course, partly on Music Row. The future of Music Row is a student based economy and a walking Village around the area of the Row with condos, cafes, and nighttime activity in a classy setting. Right now it’s a lot of wasted empty office space.

    As far as old school music row, that will never die. If you understood the backbone of the genre itself better, you’d understand that. It will merely change hands and be inherited by the children of the wealthy and powerful that run the town.


    • I thought I was pretty clear why I was comparing the two cities. You may think it is “nonesense” and that’s fine, but as I stated above:

      “When cities like Detroit have large sectors of their economy focused around one industry, it can leave them vulnerable to economic swings. Music City, just like Motor City, has a large economic stake in one area, that of course being the music industry and its subsidiaries,”

      I thought that was a pretty clear explanation of why the comparison was being made, and then specific to the industry that a town has a large economic stake in:

      “The knock against Detroit was that its auto industries were stuck in models of the old economy, that they were unwilling to innovate and change with the times, or come up with new and fresh ideas. That they were creating products that Americans didn’t want, and that there were issues with quality. Do some of these same criticisms not ring true with the music that is being turned out on the similarly antiquated assembly line of Nashville’s Music Row?”

      Think about it like this. What is the one easily-definable industry of New York? Chicago? Cleveland? Houston? Miami? Or most major American cities? In the case of Detroit and Nashville, they both are defined, even nicknamed by an industry, and an industry that is in rapid decline.

      You may disagree with my assertions, or their substance, but I think it’s a stretch to say this article is a flashy title with no logic presented behind it.

      “As far as old school music row, that will never die. If you understood the backbone of the genre itself better, you’d understand that.”

      I’m always fascinated by the wild assumptions people make about me and my knowledge base, without knowing me personally whatsoever. And they are always wrong.


      • You may want to think that Nashville is a all music music music, but it just isn’t. You thinking that, asserting that, etc. is plain wrong. Sure the city is known for that, but that is not the only thing that makes it go. And when you are referring to that music and the large stake in one area, your referring to pop-country money.

        “Think about it like this. What is the one easily-definable industry of New York? Chicago? Cleveland? Houston? Miami? Or most major American cities? In the case of Detroit and Nashville, they both are defined, even nicknamed by an industry, and an industry that is in rapid decline.”

        New York- Financial
        Houston- Oil
        Cleveland- always been looked at as in decline, but somehow they continue on.
        Chicago- Business
        Miami- South Beach and vacation tourism

        That is what one might answer for those cities. But we know that is not all that makes them go. Same as the case in Nashville. And with Detroit, there are more than simply the auto makers as the problem, and your assertion of why the auto makers struggle isn’t entirely accurate either.


        • Are you just trying to get shots in, or are you in any way trying to contribute to a healthy dialogue?

          “You may want to think that Nashville is a all music music music, but it just isn’t. You thinking that, asserting that, etc. is plain wrong.”

          Well actually, I went into great detail about that in the article itself, have clarified even further in the comments. From the article:

          “Granted, compared to Detroit, the city of Nashville does have a fairly diversified economy. With large stakes in finance, health care, and insurance, a vibrant tourism and trade show culture, and some big universities, it’s hard to say that even if the music industry completely imploded, it would leave Nashville bankrupt.”

          You’re so busy running around trying to find things to bust my balls about, you’re forgetting the context of the original article.

          And to say that a city is known for “business” is about as ambiguous as you can get. Detroit = “Motor City” Nashville = “Music City” . That was my point.


          • Maybe I am just taking shots, I wouldn’t call it that, but you wrote an article with tons of speculation. Which certainly is going to stir things up. As a journalist/blog writer, that I am sure is one of your goals, as it should be. Get people talking and thinking.

            However, in that article you made some references to business models and economics of a city. When some others on here took you task on those topics, you did back up a bit and admit it was mostly opinoin based but you tried to argue to broaden it out and stretch it to fit vs. the simple fact the comparison doesn’t hold water on any level.

            Furthermore, you have done nothing to address the fact that the money that your concerned is going to up and leave Nashville, is money that was generated by the very issue you fight against, pop-country.

            And what I meant by Chicago-Business, is there are a lot of corporate headquarters in Chicago. When I think of Chicago, I think big business (outside of the sports teams and food) Besides, you asked to compare Nashville (#25 biggest city) to cities #1, 3, 4 and then Miami and Cleveland hanging in the 40’s. So your not really comparing apples to apples at all.


  • I know you can’t know every album that comes out and do a review on it, but rather than articles about SuperBowl halftime, ACM issues we already know, Grammy awards that don’t matter, and speculation articles like this, perhaps a review on an album that has seemed to slip through with the hype on Bob Wayne.

    I know you’ve been dissapointed with some of the early 2011 music, but Jackson Taylor & The Sinners put out a pretty good album 2/1/11. With the exception of two weaker tunes (you will know them) the album “Let the Bad Times Roll” is very very good TX/Honky Tonk country. Few covers and some really good originals.

    Just letting you know it is out in case you missed it. I know you can’t know every album that drops.


    • I agree with ya..I’d like to see a review of Jackson Taylor also


      • Someone get me a CD or a download link and I’ll get on it!


    • IceCold,

      I write what I am passionate about at any point, regardless of what that is. I appreciate your suggestions, but SCM has gotten to this point by me following my “write what you’re passionate about” formula. I had three albums I was planning to write reviews for last week, and they were all so weak, it wasn’t worth it. I have a feeling the upcoming weeks there will be more album reviews, but i won’t write them unless I want to. That’s because it’s my website, and I do what I want. If there’s something that doesn’t fit your style, you don’t have to read it.


      • Yes, absolutely write what your passionate about.

        In my humble opinion, and as much as we might clash at times, I do very much apprecite your work on this, your site, I would prefer to know what albums those were that you thought were to poor to write a review and why.
        There must be some bad stuff coming from underground groups too? What is it. Calling out the shitty pop country only is obvious. I think your opinions and energy on the shitty bad underground stuff would mean more than an article like this.


  • This is by far the funniest article I’ve ever read. I wish I could meet Triggerman and laugh at him for hours on end about what a waste of space he is. And what a waste of space his words are. What a close-minded POS. Comparing the music industry in Nashville with the auto industry in Detroit?!?!?!? HA! If only Triggerman knew the billions of dollars generated in Nashville from healthcare companies compared to the minuscule amount generated by the music industry. It is like comparing a swimming pool with a goldfish bowl. The term “music city” is just a nickname, Triggerman. It’s a brand.

    And I know what you’re going to say, Triggerman–that you were just trying to get us to “think.” But I really think you believed a “a cataclysmic scenario,” was going to strike. And I guess that’s why you’re writing for this blog and not a periodical.


    • “With large stakes in finance, health care, and insurance, a vibrant tourism and trade show culture, and some big universities, it’s hard to say that even if the music industry completely imploded, it would leave Nashville bankrupt.”


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