* Big Machine Records partners with new TV drama
* Independent label launched 2005, with Taylor Swift
By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES, Oct 11 New ABC television drama
"Nashville" takes inspiration from the city's rich history of
country music, yet the brightest star may not be the actors but
rather a small record label with big ambitions.
"Nashville," seen by some nine million U.S. viewers on its
Wednesday night debut, shows veteran country singer Rayna Jaymes
(played by Connie Britton) face off against young starlet rival
Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) as she struggles to keep her
But another insight into the industry comes from the show's
partnership with one of Nashville's independent success stories.
For Big Machine Records, which landed on the map seven years
ago after signing a 15-year-old Taylor Swift as its first
artist, "Nashville" presented a rare opportunity for the company
to not only distribute the music from the TV series, but to also
become part of the fabric of the plot.
The label, which also represents country music stars
including Tim McGraw and Rascal Flatts, will exclusively release
music sung by cast members in the show each week.
Big Machine Records artists such as rising star Justin Moore
will also see some of their songs and performances featured
throughout the series.
Scott Borchetta, 50, a former DreamWorks Records executive,
who founded Big Machine Records in 2005, said Swift's success
gave the label "extraordinary license" to expand into new
"Because of the success of Taylor and the momentum of the
label and bringing on Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw, Reba McEntire,
and also breaking artists like The Band Perry, we're really
fortunate right now. There's not really anywhere that we can't
at least get in the door and have a conversation," Borchetta
told Reuters in an interview this week.
BEG, BORROW, STEAL
Borchetta said the biggest challenge he came across with his
fledgling company was trying to get a foot in the door of an
already over-saturated industry.
"We had to go beg, borrow and steal every opportunity and
those were the times we couldn't get the door open so we had to
kick it down or we had to sneak in the window," he said.
"(Taylor and I) showed up at red carpets we weren't invited
to. We were not going to be stopped."
Since then, Swift, now 22, has gone on to sell more than 20
million albums worldwide and won six Grammy awards. Country
music is also booming, accounting for 42.9 million albums sold
in the U.S. in 2011 - a year which saw Lady Antebellum as the
biggest selling band across all genres in the U.S. music
industry, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Big Machine Records' collaboration with "Nashville" allowed
Borchetta to expand the company across a new, visual platform.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
"You take the craziest parts of the old TV show 'Dallas' and
smash it into the Nashville record industry, and you've got this
show that might just end up being a huge hit," Borchetta said.
The label executive added that he didn't have high
expectations for "Nashville" when he first was presented with
the opportunity, but he soon spotted a chance for the label to
make its screen debut.
"I love the ability to weave and intersect what's happening
right now today on the ground into the TV show," Borchetta said.
Unlike music-rich TV programs such as "Glee" or "Smash,"
which feature celebrities in cameo or guest-starring roles,
"Nashville" producer R.J. Cutler said his show uses genuine
country music artists to serve the story.
"It's not a cameo-driven show...those are real Nashville
musicians who are greatly respected there and known to people
who know about country music," Cutler told TV reporters while
promoting the show in August.
Borchetta said he hoped the partnership would help his label
grow even more in the industry.
"It could be the biggest hit from the last several years for
ABC, or we could be done in six episodes, and that's exciting
because we have a chance to help make it a hit," he said.
"This is our first chance to really do it on a big stage so
I hope we don't screw it up."
"Nashville" is a co-production between Walt Disney Co's
ABC Studios and Lionsgate Television.