Country music has had its fair share of ups and downs over the past several decades, and one can easily argue that it’s currently on the up and up. One can also easily attribute much of this success to a man named Scott Borchetta.
Once hidden behind the scenes as an influential member of the promotion and artist development sectors of MCA Nashville, Dreamworks Records and Universal Nashville, Borchetta has quickly made his presence in Nashville known. He set off on his own in 2005 as the President/CEO of the powerhouse label Big Machine Records, which turns 10 years old today. Big Machine has quickly become the place to be for popular country artists, and Borchetta’s roster continues to grow and flourish with each passing year.
He Knows What Mainstream Fans Want
Tracing back the trends of recent mainstream country music, Borchetta has continuously been at the helm of it all. Country has always had a strong and definite fan base, but it was the launch of Taylor Swift’s crossover hit-producing career that truly began propelling the genre into the mainstream.
From there, Borchetta signed the oft-controversial duo Florida Georgia Line, who blended pop-rock-rap influences with country to create what is now known as the “bro-country movement”. The crossover success of “Cruise” really took hold when Borchetta, himself, suggested a collaboration with Nelly that went on to infiltrate the pop charts.
The BMLG Legacy
Big Machine Label Group encompasses Big Machine Records, Republic Nashville, The Valory Music Company, Dot Records and the newly-formed Nash Icons (which is stepping away from “modern” artists to reignite the careers of legendary country icons). BMLG has helped launch the careers of Thomas Rhett, Justin Moore, Brantley Gilbert, The Band Perry, and Maddie & Tae. The group has also attracted the contracts of more established artists like Rascal Flatts, Martina McBride, and Reba McEntire. Borchetta has also made a habit of taking reality show contestants under his wing, including The Voice contestants RaeLynn, Cassadee Pope and Danielle Bradbery.
Scott Borchetta has a knack for taking on artists that don’t fit within the traditional realm of country music, subsequently turning them into superstars. He has a way of knowing what the public wants before they know they want it. His first big act was a certain 16-year-old girl with curly blonde hair who frequented Nashville’s Bluebird Café and went on to become one of the most successful artists of this generation. Today, Taylor Swift is arguably the biggest pop star in the world.
From video blogs to Twitter and Instagram accounts, Borchetta continues to market his artists – and allows them to self-market their own unique identities – in ways that make them relevant to the increasingly youth-oriented genre.
Changing the Face of Country
The Big Machine Label Group exhibits rather unique techniques in the marketing of their artists. Promotion for a BMLG artist involves more than radio play; Florida Georgia Line, along with other BMLG artists, have graced the boxes of General Mills products in association with the Outnumber Hunger campaign. Taylor Swift has signed endorsement partnerships with everyone from Papa Johns to Covergirl, Keds and Elizabeth Arden. Borchetta clearly understands the importance of keeping his artists in the public eye.
Maddie & Tae’s debut single, “Girl in a Country Song”, became a number one by playfully attacking the lyrical and musical trends of male artists – even those within the BMLG family — and defending the integrity of country girls everywhere.
In the ever-changing world of mainstream music, it’s all about the ebb and flow of knowing when to keep it rocking and when to slow it down, in both musical and business terms.
After a controversial pull of Taylor Swift’s entire catalog from the streaming service Spotify at her own insistence, Borchetta publicly stood up to defend artist and songwriter compensation rights. While the general public may be upset by such a bold move, Borchetta seems to show an unwavering confidence in his artists. He’s not afraid to turn the industry on its head and contradict popular methods to experience new success. He is the quintessential executive of the digital age.
A Golden Ticket to Hollywood and Beyond
It’s no wonder, then, that Borchetta has joined American Idol as an in-house mentor and to help mastermind the winner’s recording contract and future career. Borchetta has already edged BMLG into the pop format with the recent release of Swift’s 1989, and the winner of American Idol will end up with a record deal with Big Machine, in partnership with 19 Entertainment and Universal.
The show, having struggled with ratings in the past several years, produces a lot of talent but often fails to ignite the lasting and monumental careers of past Idols such as Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson. Borchetta hopes to change that. And with his groundbreaking track record…he probably will.