Saturday, June 16, 2018
By Kristin M. Hall
The hundreds of artists appearing at the CMA Fest this past weekend weren’t the only ones trying to court new fans. Streaming music providers had a larger presence at this year’s festival, hoping to convert country music fans, who have been slower to adopt streaming compared with other genres.
With roughly 80,000 people in town to watch more than 300 artists perform at multiple stages throughout Nashville, Spotify, Amazon Music and iHeartRadio’s streaming platform all used the festival to persuade country music fans to use their technologies as music discovery tools.
Country music made up about 13 percent of physical album sales last year but only 5.5 percent of on-demand streaming, according to Nielsen’s year-end music report.
“Spotify is looking to not just have a presence, but really start to integrate into this culture of country music fans,” said Brittany Schaffer, head of artist and label marketing for Spotify Nashville.
The festival, now in its 47th year, had a new streaming exhibit area where fans could learn about the services, make playlists, find artists they liked or sign up. For the first year, Spotify had a significant footprint at the festival, including curating four days of performers at Blake Shelton’s new downtown restaurant and integrating Spotify directly into the CMA Fest app, which prompted users to listen throughout the weekend.
Country Music Association CEO Sarah Trahern said its large study of country music fans that was released last year showed streaming as an area for potential growth.
“Some of the more traditional fans didn’t quite know how it worked or how different services worked,” Trahern said. “And that was a chance for them to interact in a low-key kind of tutorial but in a fun environment.”
And some artists who performed that weekend saw immediate results in terms of increases in streaming.
Country star Dierks Bentley used the festival as a platform to launch his new album, “The Mountain.” His single, “Woman, Amen,” topped the Billboard Airplay chart the same week, and he’s aiming to get “The Mountain” into the No. 1 slot on the country albums chart. In Nashville alone, his streams increased 239 percent over Saturday and Sunday during the festival compared with the previous weekend, the highest percentage increase for any of the stadium headliners at CMA Fest.