On Miranda Lambert Leaving Sony Nashville After 20 Years

It’s the time of year in the National Football League for free agency, where some of your favorite players are signing with new teams, being let go by old ones, and the decks are being reshuffled in ways that sometimes can boggle the mind. Can you even imagine Aaron Rogers in a New York Jets uniform, or Ezekiel Elliot playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

Then here comes Miranda Lambert announcing that she’s leaving Sony Records Nashville—the team she’s been on for the entire 20 years of her career. She made the announcement amid a montage of the album covers that she’s released through the label. According to sources, the announcement was a complete shock to the Sony folks on Music Row.

“Together we have released albums that allowed me to share my story with the world, and we’ve reached heights I’d never even dreamed were possible,” Lambert said. “I’m so thankful for our time together and everything they made possible for me, yet I wouldn’t be true to myself if I wasn’t constantly looking for the next challenge and a new way to stretch my creativity.”

Miranda Lambert also made the announcement on March 15th. This is the same day that she released her debut album Kerosene in 2005. The title track of that album is the one about giving up, drenching everything in accelerant, and burning it all down. Miranda Lambert is now officially a free agent.

Many hypotheses are swirling about why Miranda Lambert made this move. Some think it may have to do with trying to secure more creative control. Perhaps that is the case, but Miranda launched her own imprint on Sony called Vanner Records in 2016, which preceded the release of what many consider her most critically-acclaimed work, the double album The Weight of These Wings. Miranda has regularly talked about how her career has progressed on her terms.

When you consider things like how Miranda has always been able to champion her favorite songwriters, release side projects and passion projects like her work with the Pistol Annies and her recent collaboration with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall on The Marfa Tapes, it’s hard to not conclude that Sony has given her latitude, at least for the most part. Miranda Lambert has always been her own woman. But there are always trappings working with a major label.

Similar to Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert has also been one of those mainstream artist that delineates herself from most mainstream contributors by following her heart, sometimes to the detriment of her commercial appeal or success, while then sliding right back into the good graces of the industry with a radio friendly single.

The problem is, radio has not always been very friendly back to Miranda. In some respects, Miranda Lambert is the most successfully unsuccessful artist in modern country, or maybe in country music history. She’s the most awarded artist in ACM Awards history, and has 13 CMA Awards on top of that, including seven for Female Artist of the Year.

But all of that comes with only three #1 songs—something many nondescript males in the genre get for rolling out of bed in the morning.

So is that lack of radio support the reason that Miranda Lambert is leaving Sony? After all, in mainstream country, label support behind radio singles is one of the most instrumental roles they play. Perhaps that’s the catalyst, but it remains inconclusive if radio and Miranda Lambert would have gotten along even on a different label. Miranda’s career came around at the wrong time as a woman to compete for radio play since it coincided with the Bro-Country era.

If it’s not Miranda Lambert’s radio woes, what is the reason? Sorry, but I don’t have a super secret source that can answer that question conclusively. If Miranda Lambert is smart (and she usually is about these things), she’ll wait to spill the beans when she’s looking to promote a new record to help create buzz around it.

This leads to the next question: Where might Miranda land? Let’s face it, it’s not like Lambert’s albums are flying off the shelves these days, or streaming like crazy. But she’s no slouch either, and having Miranda Lambert on your roster would be a big get for a label, including one who may be looking to attract younger talent, and having a proven veteran on the roster like Miranda Lambert might lure some in.

Maybe Big Loud or BBR would be willing to work with Miranda. Their rosters have done well lately working with artists that don’t exactly fit the mainstream mold, but can ultimately break out when the right strategy is put behind them. Miranda Lambert may consider someone like Thirty Tigers in the minor leagues, but if creative control and a greater chunk of the profits is what she’s after, this would be the smartest option, or perhaps the company’s more mainstream offshoot Triple Tigers, which is a partnership between Sony and Thirty Tigers.

Wherever Miranda Lambert lands, she will land on her feet, because she’s Miranda Lambert. She’s been a survivor throughout her career. But make no mistake, this is momentous, like Aaron Rogers moving on from the Green Bay Packers. It’s the end of an era, and it’s an era where Miranda Lambert has dominated as a country music female. It will be interesting to see what the new era has in store.

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