“Individuality” and “a sense of who they are”–according to Big Machine Label Group CEO and president Scott Borchetta, those are some of the key characteristics that define the artists he signs. Borchetta sat down for an interview today with CBS This Morning and talked about the state of country music and country radio, how and why the format is skewing younger, and some of the rumors surrounding the artist that Big Machine is best known for, Taylor Swift.
Founded in 2005, the Big Machine Label Group (which also includes the labels Valory and Republic Nashville) is the home of such superstar acts as Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, The Band Perry, and of course Taylor Swift. The label group is also home to such up-and-coming artists as Brantley Gilbert, Justin Moore, Florida Georgia Line, and the Eli Young Band. As CBS This Morning notes, “Combined, Borchetta’s artists have sold more than 40 million albums worldwide.” In this day and age, that’s a lot of music.
The label’s biggest success story remains Taylor Swift, who was among the first artists on Big Machine. Though she was only 14 when Borchetta first heard her, Taylor’s young age was not a deterrent to him. “What I saw in Taylor was…just a great artist,” he says in the interview. “Even at 14 years old I was enamored by her songwriting prowess, and just her process. So I just always saw her as a great artist.”
And that term “great artist” has serious weight for him. As he explains it, the main thing he’s looking for when he signs an artist is “individuality.” In other words, he says, an artist who “has an artist vision and a sense of who they are and what they want to say.” Music fans are “not going to hear artists on our label that sound like other artists. I don’t need somebody that sounds like Tim McGraw. I have Tim McGraw.”
The main impetus that drove Borchetta to go his own way was his frustration with “the major label system.” As he explains it, there were “a lot of things that were wasteful” and, maybe most importantly, “I didn’t think they were looking forward.” So he decided to break out and go independent.
When cohost Charlie Rose asks why he thinks country music has been so successful lately, Borchetta focuses on one word: consistency. And it makes a lot of sense.
“If you look over the last 30 years, [country music] always there. And it always continues to grow.” In fact, he says, “it’s been the most listened to music format for years. There are more country stations in the U.S. than in any other format.”
On top of that, “it’s getting younger. I think that’s a function of the media moment. And Taylor’s leading the pack when it comes to bringing that younger demographic into country music.”
And speaking of Taylor, the interview then turns back to talk about the Red superstar, whose tour hits New Jersey this weekend. What does Scott think about the negative press that circulates around her dating life? And is, as the New York Times reported, her popularity waning?
“You’ve got to sell newspapers, right?” Borchetta says, smiling. “So a lot of it is bogus. We have the biggest sales in the world right now with her.” He also points to the popularity of her current Red Tour. “When you have that much love, there’s going to be haters,” he says, “so bring on the haters.”
The bottom line, Borchetta tells CBS This Morning, Taylor is “extremely determined. She is really wired for this moment. It’s not like she has to wake up and say, ‘now it’s time to be Taylor.’ That’s who she is.”