NASH Icon is ramping up for a big 2015, making some significant moves on Monday (1-12) to start the year where 2014 ended: stirring conversation about where country music is headed and potentially stimulating a format split that would see more older country music return to the airwaves en masse.
The long rumored signing of Ronnie Dunn to the label has been officially announced. The former Brooks & Dunn member whose status with NASH Icon had been a point of much speculation over the last few weeks was finally given official acknowledgement and a press release by the label on Monday.
“Ronnie Dunn has one of the smoothest, most-recognized and most-popular voices of the last twenty five years in Country music,” Scott Borchetta said as part of the announcement. “I’m truly honored to have him join us and take his rightful place as an Icon. Great music is on the way!”
Ronnie Dunn added, “This is the best possible scenario that I can imagine. The Big Machine and Cumulus combination is a force, and I am proud to be included in this innovative venture.”
After exiting Brooks & Dunn and finishing a deal with Arista Nashville, Dunn released his last album Peace, Love, & Country Music independently through his own Little Will-E Records. Though Dunn has been offering a sizable amount of anti-industry rhetoric through his colorful Facebook posts over the last few years, it has mostly dealt with how the industry had abandoned older talent—the very thing NASH Icon is meant to address.
The announcement comes two weeks after Martina McBride was announced as NASH Icon’s second artist after Reba McEntire. Reba released the first single from the label called “Going Out Like That” on January 6th. Also stirring the NASH Icon rumor mill, on Monday the Vince Gill Twitter account tweeted out, “An exciting announcement coming this week from Vince.” Though there’s no word on whether the announcement will be about NASH Icon, Vince may be a free agent, and within the range of artists NASH Icon is looking for.
Also bolstering NASH Icon’s prospects is an upgrade in access to the NASH Icon network by Cumulus Media through the syndication network Westwood One. According to Country Aircheck, Cumulus has now launched a 24/7 version of NASH Icon that other stations can include in local programming, emanating from NASH Icon’s flagship station, WSM-FM in Nashville. “Nash Icon is quickly emerging as a cornerstone of our Nash country music brand, and we’re excited to make this radio format available to stations nationwide given the growing demand from advertisers and listeners,” says Cumulus Executive Vice President John Dickey.
The move will make it much easier for NASH Icon to grow beyond its dedicated stations. Though the Nashville flagship has been doing resoundingly well, beating all the other country stations in the market including the big Clear Channel rival, poor dial location has kept NASH Icon from expanding in certain markets.
Though some in the industry may see the NASH Icon venture as foolhardy, it has worked very well in certain markets, and Cumulus and Big Machine look to be doubling down on the idea for 2015.