Entertainment Titan BMG Bets on Panattoni’s 1 Music Circle South in Bid to Grow International Business

Wednesday, September 11th 2019

Country singer Lindsay Ell walked into label executive Jon Loba’s office in tears.

Ell had endured a few failed radio singles and she thought Loba’s hands were tied.

“I know you have to drop me,” she said.

“I said, ‘I’m not giving up until you give up, and I know you’ll never give up,’ ” recalled Loba, the executive vice president at BBR Music Group. “We just have to figure this out.”

They did just that in more ways — and for more people — than one.

Two-and-a-half years since Germany-based entertainment titan BMG bought BBR Music Group and executives leveled goals including an enhanced international presence and a more diversified roster, Ell has a top 15 hit with Brantley Gilbert on “What Happens in a Small Town.” The label group’s trio Runaway June just became the first all-female group to log a top 10 on Billboard’s country airplay chart since 2005. Loba signed African American country singers Jimmie Allen and Blanco Brown, both scored massive hits, and Brown is poised to take his “The Git Up” worldwide. Ell, who called from Canada, has done multiple international tours in the last 12 months, and Brown will visit Poland and Italy within the next month, with Norway and Ireland on the horizon.

Runaway June also felt BMG’s international support. When the trio’s “Buy My Own Drinks” was floundering at country radio, Berlin-based CEO Hartwig Masuch pledged his support.

“On paper, you might look at it and say they’ve had enough chances,” Loba said. “Hartwig would say, ‘No matter what is going on domestically, what else can we do internationally? Let me rally the troops. If you need me to make the phone calls to each territory, I’ll do that.’ ”

Now parent company BMG has reinvested in BBR Music Group and Music Row. Tuesday the company will celebrate the opening of its new building — a 36,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art office space at 1 Music Circle South. While many record labels are relocating to downtown Nashville away from the famed area that’s been country music’s geographical hub for decades, it was important to Loba to stay on Music Row.
The two-floor, full-service music facility brings BBR Music Group as well as BMG’s publishing, copyright and royalty operations under one roof for the first time.

The impact is a more collaborative space that will elevate the feeling of community among the different Nashville-based arms of the company.

“I feel like we’re just scratching the surface, and this building is a big part of that,” Loba said. “It all starts with the song … publishing can bounce things off the teams responsible for taking it to market. There’s an immediate exchange of ideas and an immediate excitement of them as well.”

For Masuch, bolstering the organization’s presence in Nashville represents a worldwide investment in country music.

“BMG acquired BBR Music Group not just for what it was — an absolute powerhouse and one of the largest independent country label groups in the U.S. — but for what we believe it will become,” he said. “Streaming is turning country music into a worldwide force, and we believe country music’s new audience is waiting outside the U.S. The music is too good for America to keep to itself.”

Masuch worked closely with the Country Music Association and BMG’s sister company European television network RTL to bring the CMA Awards back to European television. RTL will also launch a country radio station this fall timed to the creation of a German country music festival.

In addition to Ell, Runaway June, Allen and Brown, BBR Music Group is also home to artists including Jason Aldean, Dustin Lynch, Chase Rice, King Calaway, Randy Houser, Granger Smith, Trace Adkins, Kid Rock, Zac Brown Band and Billy Ray Cyrus.

Aldean recently renewed his contract for another three albums and is expected to reveal his next project with the record label soon. As for the rest of the roster, Loba said he thought it was “getting into a really attractive place.”

“We have several artists who are poised for the next level, and it’s making sure we execute and deliver for them while leaving space for that next independent thing that comes out of the middle of nowhere,” he said.

Adds Masuch: “We have a very simple business model: We believe we prosper by doing the best possible job for our artists and songwriters.”

, Nashville TennesseanPublished 10:00 p.m. CT Sept. 5, 2019 | Updated 11:20 a.m. CT Sept. 9, 2019

Reach Cindy Watts at ciwatts@tennessean.com or 615-664-2227 and on Twitter @CindyNWatts.