Sony Music Nashville (SMN) has shuttered its Arista imprint, shifting the artist roster to SMN’s Columbia and RCA labels.
Old Dominion and Megan Moroney move to Columbia while Nate Smith goes to RCA. The other artists on Arista — including Brooks & Dunn, Ryan Hurd, Seaforth, Morgan Wade and Adam Doleac — will be reassigned when they have projects headed to radio. No acts are being dropped. Country Aircheck broke the news of Sony dissolving Arista Thursday morning (March 23).
In an exclusive interview, SMN CEO/chairman Randy Goodman tells Billboard the move was to realign better with radio’s needs.
“RCA, Columbia and Arista are really imprint names that we use for three different promotion teams because that gives you multiple calendars. We’re now targeting our approach to radio to be more strategic,” Goodman says.
That means bringing songs to radio that already have a story in terms of fan engagement and at digital service providers, so they don’t “languish in overnights” at radio, he continued. “What we said to radio is, ‘Give us dayparts immediately,’ and if it works, great. If it doesn’t, then we’ll move on because we’re going to be moving on things quicker in the DSP landscape as well. So based upon our more targeted approach, we just felt like this was a more efficient way to do it.”
Goodman has been vocal about the tremendous amount of time, expense and manpower it takes for songs to climb the country airplay chart, with some tunes taking as long as 52 weeks to reach No. 1.
“That’s not a model that is an efficient or effective artist development model and so we thought, ‘How do we approach this with a better model in mind?’” he says. “Let’s not go to radio until we know we’ve got something that we can go to the major chains with and show them there is momentum and there is a reason other than us just saying, ‘We want you to play it.’”
Goodman stressed that SMN will not be sending fewer songs to radio and that the realignment strengthens Columbia and RCA by increasing the number of regionals on each team by one.
In the restructuring, Arista’s senior director of promotion and artist development, Lyndsay Church, has left the company. Ali O’Connell, director of promotion and artist development, is moving to RCA, as is specialist/promotion & artist development Amy Menz. Nicole Walden, former RCA specialist/promotion & artist development, moves to the national team. Lisa Owen, also an Arista director of promotion and artist development, shifts to Columbia.
Steve Hodges, SMN executive vp of promotion and artist development, called the managers of the artists on Arista’s roster on Wednesday to give them the news. In addition to his other duties, Hodges has been running Arista Nashvhille since Chris Schuler left his post as vp of promotion at the imprint in November after a seven-month stint at the label.
The moves come as SMN is having a banner year at radio. So far in 2023, Smith’s “Whiskey On You,” Kane Brown and Katelyn Brown’s “Thank God,” and Luke Combs’ “Going, Going, Gone,” have reached the top of Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, with both “Whiskey” and “Going” spending two weeks at the summit.
Goodman adds that the move is really business as usual. “Our job is artist development, our job is to break new artists, our job is to expand careers of the artists that have already broken through,” Goodman says. “And so, in this new world as things continue to change, we’re constantly evaluating what’s the best way to do that.”