Warner Music Nashville will launch the WMN Creator Hub at CMA Fest 2022 this week in Nashville. The pilot program allows artists on the label to leverage the creator community to build deeper connections with their fans. Cole Swindell, BRELAND, Bailey Zimmerman, Avery Anna and Robyn Ottolini will be part of the CMA Fest activation throughout the four-day festival, which runs June 9-12 in downtown Nashville.
The genesis of WMN Creator Hub was a commitment to keep the artist-fan relationship at the center of the CMA Fest programming and beyond. “Now more than ever, content creators play a pivotal role in helping us connect artists with their fans, existing and potential,” Victoria Mason of Warner Music Nashville SVP, Strategic Marketing & Analytics told me. “This Creator Hub is the evolution and intersection of the immersive in-person fan experience and the digital fan connection.”
Warner Music Nashville partnered with SMACKTOK to identify five TikTok creators who were fans of the label’s artists and the country genre and could both enthusiastically and professionally engage with their artists, Mason says. The label then selected artists on its roster who show a fan-centric approach to releasing music.
“Each of the artists involved in this activation has cultivated an audience and seen successful music consumption driven by digital content and social media,” said Brooke Hardesty, WMN Vice President, Interactive Marketing. “In several cases, this was done in the absence of radio and traditional press.”
Zimmerman, who amassed more than 10 million on-demand streams last week ahead of its country radio launch, is one such select act. BRELAND, who signed with WMN in partnership with Atlantic Records and Bad Realm Records in February, was another natural fit for the label’s Creator Hub.
BRELAND recently reached his first number 1 as an artist and songwriter on Dierks Bentley’s “Beers On Me” with HARDY. He’s no stranger to using social media to his advantage as he quickly gained traction after his 2020 single “My Truck” took off on TikTok. The song has since been certified platinum by the RIAA.
“As an artist who uses TikTok and social media as a way to share new music and reach new fans, digital creators have played a vital role in my story,” says BRELAND. “It’s exciting to see a record label like Warner Music Nashville partner with creators in the same way that we would also work with traditional music partners. I’m thrilled to be at the forefront of this new way to connect with fans and help them find new music wherever they are.
Hardesty says the Warner team has seen a growing fan expectation for access to artists. In turn, artists are now expected to maintain a steady stream of music, videos and personal content to fans on social media.
“It presents its own challenges, but it’s ultimately a major opportunity for artists who don’t fit into one mold or adhere to a traditional business model,” says Hardesty. “We’re only going to continue to see this evolve with the advent of Web3 platforms and fan adoption of new technologies.”
Meanwhile, the WMN team is planning their own challenges by launching an activation during CMA Fest. “Cutting the noise during the busiest week of the year for country music, managing artist schedules and releasing content in a timely manner are definitely priorities,” says Hardesty. “We expect the unexpected and are excited to leave this experience with learnings that can be applied to future installments of similar activations.”
Hardesty hopes the WMN Creator Hub will serve as a pilot for what could become the framework for future creative hubs in different cities run by various labels within the WMG family. In addition to its social influencers, the label has partnered with WMG owned and operated brands and content publishers such as Lasso Nation and IMGN to provide them with opportunities to capture content alongside TikTok creators.
The label will also host four immersive fan-focused parties during CMA Fest at Nightscape on Thursday, which content creators will attend.
“Each part is adapted to the specific vision of the artist; it will offer fans a multi-sensory experience, with 360-degree projection mapping on the walls and ceiling, spatial sound, personalized menus, and even flavors selected to match the virtual environment,” says Mason. “We have a lot of pent-up creative energy, and we’re excited to bring fans, creators, and artists new, innovative and cutting-edge ways to interact with each other.
If all goes well, Hardesty says the WMN Creator Hub will return to next year’s CMA Fest and the team will have the data to support further investment in partnerships with digital creators.
“Ultimately, building and deepening relationships between artists and creators is at the heart of this initiative,” says Hardesty. “We also hope to prove our hypothesis that investing in and cultivating partnerships with digital creators will impact the growth of artists’ fanbases and music consumption in the same way that we have found value in partnerships. with radio, traditional press partners and DSPs.”