Find Out About: Music Row Magazine, Nashville’s Premier Music Industry Publication
Publisher Special, Pitch Sheets, Charts, @MusicRow and More!
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Richard, Music Row has articles where several people are interviewed about a certain topic. How often are those interviews included, and how are the topics chosen?
Richard McVey It really depends. We have an editorial calendar that we look at for each issue. It depends on what the issue is. For example, if we’re planning the studio issue, we’ll poll the studio owners around town, ask them about trends, rates, are they going up or down, where do they see the business going. The same goes with publishers. We’re working on the next “Publisher Special” right now.
We sat together in a room with the five biggest publishers in Nashville, Donna Hilley, who is president and CEO of Sony ATV/ TREE/Acuff Rose; Gary Overton who is executive vice president and general manager of EMI Music Publishing; Tim Wipperman, who is executive vice president and executive general manager of Warner/Chappell Music; Karen Conrad, who is senior vice president of BMG Music Publishing; and Pat Higdon, who is senior vice president and general manager of Universal Music Publishing. We put all five of those people in a room and had a big round table discussion. It will be the feature story that will run in the “Publisher Special” issue this year. We talked about everything you can imagine, from how the business has changed, (times are tough), what they are doing as far as signing new writers, how draws and advances have changed for new writers, what areas are the publishers going into, such as film and TV, and how the Nashville publishers are trying to branch out. It’s going to be a fantastic story.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] I can’t wait to read it!
Richard McVey It was great. I learned so much just sitting in a room for a few hours with those people.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Music Row also includes lists of upcoming events in and around Nashville. What kinds of events are included in the Industry Events Calendar column?
Richard McVey Most of the listings are songwriting events. ASCAP and BMI are really big on workshops, trying to educate people, so we try to make our readers aware when those events are coming up. Deadlines for balloting for certain events, is another example, and when the Country Music Association awards are coming up, and other industry awards shows. It’s a short list of big functions and events that are coming up so that our readers don’t have to try to remember everything that’s going on.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Richard, let’s talk about the genres of music that Music Row covers on a regular basis. It covers Country, of course, but anything else?
Richard McVey Like you said, our primary focus is Country. We do cover some of the Christian music industry, but not nearly as much as Country. The Christian music industry is fairly big here in Nashville. If something big happens here in the Christian music industry, we’ll cover it, especially if it has to do with marketing. For example, if they have something that has really huge sales, we’ll want to find out why. We also regularly cover the Americana market. In fact, we just did a feature on the Americana Music Conference that happened here in Nashville recently. There are a lot of artists that might not fit the mainstream Country market, but who fit perfectly into the Americana category and who have great music.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] One of the issues that Music Row turns to frequently is the relationship between the major record labels and commercial Country radio. You talk about issues such as shrinking radio playlists, who is reporting to the charts, and how the charts are – or aren’t - working. Music Row recently started it’s own singles chart. What is that about, why did you do it, and what function does the Music Row chart serve?
Richard McVey We started the Country Breakout™ Chart a few months ago. We talked about starting a chart at the beginning of this year. Our publisher David Ross raised the idea, because Music Row was the only music trade magazine that didn’t have its own chart. We had been talking about maybe doing something in the middle of the year. There is a lot of work involved in creating a chart: calling radio stations, getting them signed up, and setting up a system for people to enter their playlists. All of the DJs and music directors who report to us do it online. However, when the Gavin charts went under, we saw that there was a huge void there, and we needed to speed things up with the chart idea. The entire office just jumped in with both feet and said, “Now’s the time to do this.”
We now have a chart that lists the top 75 singles. We have 85 reporting stations from all around the U.S., but we looked at stations that had a pretty wide playlist, stations that weren’t locked into playing a 15-song rotation. A lot of the stations that we use are very open to playing new music. Reporting stations certainly don’t have to go by this criterion, but it seems that a lot of our reporting stations are playing new music. The playlists are generally bigger than the stations that you’ll find reporting to some of the other charts.
Our deal from the get go was to help some of the acts build a story, and try to be a catalyst to generate some excitement for the new artists who are trying to get their career going. It’s been great so far. There is always that learning curve in the beginning, and it’s nice to get all of the bugs worked out and see some excitement coming out of it.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Music Row also does general “what’s happening on the street” coverage, particularly in the weekly newsletter, @MusicRow. What kinds of topics are included in the general music industry coverage?
Richard McVey In a lot of ways, we let the news dictate the coverage. Our publisher, David Ross, writes one column called Just The Fax. He chooses the topics, unless it’s some really big topic like Acuff Rose being purchased by SONY/ATV TREE. We’ll want to get into the heart of this topic, to find out what happened, how it happened, and why it happened. He’ll also look at trends, what’s going on in the industry. For example, Internet file sharing: what are the pros and cons, what are the fans’ perspectives, are we missing the boat as an industry, what are the publishing perspectives, etc. We try to cover every topic we can. I also write the Revolving Door column, which covers general news and job changes in the industry for that week.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] When and why did Music Row start the @MusicRow weekly newsletter?
Richard McVey We decided roughly three years ago. We were publishing a bi-weekly magazine at that time, but the news was happening so fast that it was old news by the time we got our publication out. So, the weekly newsletter has been a great way for us to get the news out as it’s happening. Actually, for our subscribers via e-mail, we also include an instant News Flash if something is happening that we think they need to know about right away. @MusicRow include other weekly columns: The Spin Zone column by John Hood profiles a DJ or someone in the radio industry; Artist News column covers career events that artists are engaged in; Publishing News covers job changes and writer signings in the publishing industry; and Radio News covers radio industry events. David Ross also writes an editorial/news column in @MusicRow called First Take. We also run some of Oermann’s reviews in the weekly newsletter. Another column is the Concert Grosses. That column lets you know who is playing where, what the sales were and related information. The source for Concert Grosses is Billboard BOXSCORE.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Who uses that information, Richard? The Concert Grosses column includes the artist, the concert gross, tickets sold, the percentage of seats filled, the venue, the city, state and date o the concert. Who uses that and why?
Richard McVey In a lot of ways, it’s a barometer of how well the industry is doing, as well as how well the specific artists are doing. I’m sure that a lot of booking agents look through that, as well as the Billboard BOXSCORE. Booking agents might ask, “If Lyle Lovett sold this many tickets in this city, how will my act fare in this city?” It’s a great barometer of how things are working.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Or, maybe they’d decide that the label has to do some more marketing and promotion in this market!
Richard McVey Exactly. If my act is selling out a venue in a particular city, then I have to make sure that the stores are stocked with the artist’s CDs. It’s amazing what some of the grosses are at one venue, and then elsewhere, 35 people showed up.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Music Row also has another service called Row Fax that will be of particular interest to songwriters and publishers outside of Nashville. Tell us about that.
Richard McVey Row Fax is a weekly pitch sheet. We include who’s looking for music right now. We include the artist, what label they’re on, who’s producing the project, when they’re looking for music, where and to whom you need to send it. Row Fax probably isn’t going to be for the brand new songwriter who is sitting at home writing songs, and they want to try to get their work tape to George Strait. But, if you’re a publisher or an accomplished songwriter, it’s something to get. It’s perfect for that.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Row Fax is a separate subscription from Music Row magazine?
Richard McVey Correct. You can get that via fax or e-mail, and it’s completely separate from the Music Row/@MusicRow subscription. The subscription for Row Fax is $155/year via Fax and $129/year via e-mail.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Does Music Row offer any other services?
Richard McVey We offer a tracking service for promoters based on our charts, just like every other chart does. They are called tracking services. If I’m a promoter and I want to see which stations are playing a song and how many spins the song is getting each week, tracking will tell them that.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Richard, I’d like to ask you a few broader view questions, now that we have a foundation in what Music Row does. What would you say is the role of Music Row magazine in the Nashville music industry?
Richard McVey Our job is to inform, entertain and educate our readers--how to improve their business, look at the trends, and hopefully, help them make money. If you’re new in town and you’re trying to get a sense of how all of this works, we have a lot of informative pieces that are the basics to educate you. We’ll have articles about how everyone gets paid. If you’re a songwriter and someone records your song, you don’t just magically get paid. We take you through the steps and how that happens. We also try to keep people updated on who is working where in our column called Musical Chairs. Who is being hired, promoted, laid off, who is leaving. We try to inform and educate the business.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] If I’m a songwriter and I’m at the point where I want to start interacting with the Nashville music community, I want to start pitching to publishers, and get my music out, how would I use Music Row?
Richard McVey We have a piece running in the upcoming “Publisher Profiles” issue from Rich Carnes, who is the president of the Songwriters Guild of America, called “So You Want To Be A Songwiter?” It will discuss how to take the next steps in your career. We also list the publishers in town, contact names, phone numbers, addresses and some e-mail addresses. We often hit on publishing issues in the magazine.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] This would be helpful for a small publisher looking to break into the Nashville market?
Richard McVey Yes. We look at topics such as: Is this is a good time to open a new publishing company? Is this something that you really want to do? We’ll talk to some new publishers and hopefully give the reader a sense of what's really going on in the publishing world right now.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] If I were an aspiring Country artist wanting to come to town to get a record deal, how can I use Music Row?
Richard McVey From an artist standpoint, get a subscription and read everything from beginning to end. There is something in there for everybody. I mentioned before that we have an article in a recent issue about when to get a manager. Do you need a publicist and what do they do? There are so many questions that a young artist has, and we try to cover them. We take a hard look at the industry and talk about what really happens from behind the scene.
We had a great piece a while back about what a real recording contract means in dollars and cents. We looked at it from the standpoint of what does this really say and what does it mean for a new artist? A lot of new artist contracts are heavily favored towards the labels for obvious reasons. They’re putting such an investment into the artist without a sure fire payoff. Do you want to go with a major or an independent? Each issue gives you a little more of a piece of that. Put them all together, by the time your year subscription is up, you’ve increased your education about the business. You don’t want to come here and sign anything that somebody puts in front of you.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] One last question, Richard. If I have limited resources and I was interested in the Country music market from what ever standpoint, why would I chose to invest in Music Row over one of the other trade magazines, such as R&R or Billboard? How is Music Row unique?
Richard McVey I would say that if you want to be a pop star, I don’t know that we’d be the best publication for you. If you want to move to LA and do that, that’s great. But, if you’re getting into the Country music business, we’re sort of the Bible for that. We know the business, we know the people here, we profile them and their business. If you want to know how this business happens, we’re the place to be. Billboard and R&R touch slightly on the Country market, and all genres, but it depends on your focus. They are heavily weighted toward the radio industry. If your focus is to come to Nashville and become a Country songwriter, artist, or producer, if you want to get into the management side of things, we’re going to place a lot more focus on the business side of this market than the other trades are going to. It’s our core business. We look at Nashville and how it’s done here.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Richard, do you have any parting thoughts for our MusicDish readers?
Richard McVey If people would like to get a sense of what the publication is like, I invite them to visit our website at www.musicrow.com. A lot of the information is for subscribers only, but it’s a good place to get a sense of the publication. You can also purchase single issues of Music Row via the website, or you can call us at our office, what ever works best for you.
Educate yourself as much as possible. You don’t want to be five years down the road, just learning things that you should have five years earlier. Read as much as you can, lean as much as you can, and meet as many people as you can. And don't be afraid to ask questions when you don't know something.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Thank you so much, Richard, for spending time with MusicDish today to talk with us about Nashville’s trade magazine, Music Row, and how aspiring songwriters, artists, publishers, and anyone interesting in the Nashville-based music industry can learn and promote their careers through Music Row magazine, @MusicRow and Row Fax.
Richard McVey Thank you, Anne.
THE MUSIC ROW STAFF: David M. Ross, Publisher/Editor, Chuck Aly, GM Operations, Richard McVey II, Managing Editor, John Hood, Senior Writer, Christie King, Art Director/Prod. Mgr., Jamie Meyerhoeffer, Director Marketing/Sales, Susana Ross, Administrator, Eileen Shannon, Receptionist.
Music Row Publications, Inc., 1231 17th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37212
Phone: 615-321-3617, Fax: 615-329-0852