Another day, another noteworthy release of information about the potentially historic partnership between Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Label Group, and the 2nd largest radio station owner in the United States, Cumulus Media. Their “NASH Icons” joint venture that means to re-instill “classic” country artists back to commercial prominence and create a new home for them on mainstream radio has the country music world buzzing about a potential format split, and now we’ve been served some additional insight into the NASH Icons plans via Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey.
During a recent conversation with Billboard Magazine’s Rich Appel, Dickey says Scott Borchetta is aggressively looking to sign many of the artists that fall between NASH Icons’ 25-year artist window, including but not limited to Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson. “I would look for Scott to make an announcement in the next 30 days,” Lew says.
“It’s not that 35- to 54-year-olds don’t like the hits,” says Lew Dickey. “They just miss the biggest country artists of the last two decades, who are still recording and touring but not getting enough exposure today … While in pop you have the middle ground of [adult top 40] between top 40 and classic hits, there’s really no such thing in country.”
Interestingly enough, Alan Jackson has announced a special June 6th press conference to be held at the Country Music Hall of Fame. This is the same location where Tim McGraw announced his signing with Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine label in May of 2012. It is also where George Strait announced his touring retirement in September of 2012. Garth Brooks has also been curiously mum lately, after saying in late 2013 he wants to return to country music with new music, a big tour, and do it “at a level I’ve never seen before.” Big Machine is one of the few labels flush and fleet footed enough to pull off such a feat.
Cumulus owns over 70 country radio stations, and has access to another 1,500 affiliates through its Westwood One network. According to Lew Dickey, they hope to have the NASH Icons network up-and-running by 2015, but some non-Cumulus owned stations are already adopting the new 25-year format. NASH Icons is also not limited to just a label or radio. Under the new NASH brand, they’ve acquired Country Weekly magazine, and hope to have a huge presence throughout media. “We want to be thought of as an omni-channel, multiplatform brand,” Lew Dickey says.