Well the saga of Sony Nashville CEO Gary Overton’s comments to The Tennessean of “If you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist” uttered in late February just took another interesting turn. Gary Overton is out at one of Music Row’s very top executive spots.
Announced Tuesday morning (3-17), Gary Overton is stepping down from his position as Sony Nashville’s top executive at the end of March. It is the result of a “mutual agreement” between Overton and parent company Sony Music Entertainment.
“Working at Sony Music has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career,” Overton said briefly in a press release. “I will deeply miss the talented team at SMN [Sony Music Nashville], but I am also excited about starting the next chapter of my career. I want to thank the amazing staff for their tireless commitment to supporting our incredible artists.”
Gary Overton has been the Chairman and CEO of Sony Nashville since 2010. The imprint also includes Arista Nashville, Columbia Nashville, and RCA Nashville, and one of the largest gatherings of mainstream country music talent in the major label business. Overton has also worked as the executive vice president at EMI Music Publishing, at BNA Entertainment, and as the personal manager for Alan Jackson.
Though no specific reasons were given for Gary Overton’s departure, Billboard cites the firestorm over Gary Overton’s radio comments as one of the factors, as well as disparaging comments from the country outfit Love & Theft recently about how they were treated by the label.
Gary Overton’s radio comments had many artists in the successful Texas country scene speaking out, including Aaron Watson who said to Saving Country Music, “My name is Aaron Watson. I’m not played on country radio. And I have the #1 record in country music this week. I do exist.” Charlie Robison, who had worked with Gary Overton in the past, also went on a rant about the comments, stimulating Florida Georgia Line to respond to Robison. It all sparked a debate about the nature of success in the music business and the role of radio. The debate regularly put Overton’s perspective at odds with others, including Big Machine Records CEO Scott Borchetta, who called the comments a “very broad statement” and cited Sturgill Simpson as an example why they were incorrect.
In the end Overton’s radio comments were likely just another piece of evidence in the growing case against Gary keeping his job. Apparently the rumors of his impending demise at Sony were swirling around Music Row for the last few months, and likely have more to do with his inability to develop top tier talent—something the entire country music industry is struggling with. Though there appears to be no current plans for restructuring Sony Nashville in the aftermath of Overton’s departure, Sony Nashville artists such as Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, and even Garth Brooks will keep a close eye on developments to watch for any further shakeups.