An industry-wide major label shake-up continues with Kenny Chesney‘s decision to end a 20-plus year run with Sony Music Nashville to sign with Warner Music Nashville (WMN).
Chesney first joined Sony for his 1995 sophomore album All I Need to Know. From there, his part country boy, part beach bum image propelled him to superstar status. Future releases by Chesney will be on his Blue Chair Records imprint via WMN.
Although country stars have hopped between labels for years, ending longstanding label relationships used to signal career struggles. For example, pre-outlaw Willie Nelson’s inability to fit the Nashville mold culminated with his early 70’s exit from RCA. Chesney’s move comes at a time when his album and ticket sales are all but guaranteed.
Warner’s big score furthers the label group’s mix of proven commodities and upstart talents. In recent years, they brought Steve Earle back to the big label game and resigned Blake Shelton. Add in new such newer names as Aubrie Sellers, Brandy Clark, Chris Stapleton and Ashley McBryde, and Warner has a varied roster of superstars and songwriters.
“Kenny Chesney embodies the relentless pursuit of artistic freedom and expression,” said WMN Chairman & CEO John Esposito in a press release. “An unapologetic free spirit, he has built a career on perseverance, drive, innovation, and most especially, great songs. Everything he does is inspired. It is with deep respect and honor that we welcome Kenny to Warner Music Nashville. We couldn’t be more excited to work with him and his team.”
Sony, meanwhile, finds itself positioned for a youth movement. Luke Combs, Old Dominion and Maren Morris highlight its remaining roster of country acts. Time will tell if Sony focuses on younger, streaming-friendly artists or looks to replace Chesney and Carrie Underwood with another proven commodity. Underwood left Sony last March to ink a deal with Capitol.