Warner Music Nashville will launch the WMN Creator Hub at CMA Fest 2022 this week in Nashville. The pilot program allows the label’s artists to leverage the creator community to build deeper connections with their fans. Cole Swindell, BRELAND, Bailey Zimmerman, Avery Anna and Robyn Ottolini will take part in the CMA Fest activation throughout the four-day festival, held June 9-12 in downtown Nashville.
The genesis of WMN Creator Hub was a commitment to keep the artist and fan relationship at the center of CMA Fest programming and beyond. “Now more than ever, content creators play a pivotal role in helping us draw the connection between artists and their fans, both existing and prospective,” Warner Music Nashville SVP, Strategic Marketing & Analytics Victoria Mason tells me. “This Creator Hub is the evolution and intersection of the in-person, immersive fan experience and 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 who could both enthusiastically and professionally engage with its artists, Mason explains. The label then selected artists on their roster who show a fans-first approach to delivering music.
“Each of the artists involved in this activation have cultivated an audience and seen successful music consumption driven by digital content and social media,” WMN VP, Interactive Marketing Brooke Hardesty says. “In several cases, this has been in the absence of radio and traditional press.”
Zimmerman, who amassed more than 10 million on-demand streams last week ahead of his launch at country radio, is one of those acts selected. BRELAND, who signed to WMN in partnership with Atlantic Records and Bad Realm Records in February, was another natural fit for the label’s Creator Hub.
BRELAND recently achieved his first No. 1 as an artist and songwriter on Dierks Bentley’s “Beers On Me” with HARDY. He’s no stranger to utilizing social media to his benefit as he swiftly 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 that uses TikTok and social media as a medium to share new music and reach new fans, digital creators have played a vital role in my story,” BRELAND says. “It’s exciting to see a record label like Warner Music Nashville partner with creators in the same way that we’d also work with traditional music partners. I’m pumped to be on the forefront of this new way to connect with the fans and help them find new music wherever they are.”
Hardesty says the Warner team has seen an increasing expectation from fans for access to artists. In turn, artists are now expected to maintain a constant flow of music, video and personal content to fans on social media.
“This presents its own challenges but is ultimately a major opportunity for artists who don’t fit into a mold or adhere to a traditional business model,” Hardesty says. “We’re only going to continue to see this evolve with the advent of Web3 platforms and adoption of new technology by fans.”
Meanwhile, the WMN team foresees its own challenges launching an activation during CMA Fest. “Cutting through the noise during country music’s busiest week of the year, managing artist schedules, and the timely publishing of content are definitely top of mind,” Hardesty says. “We’re expecting the unexpected and are excited to walk away from this experience with learnings that can be applied to future installments of similar activations.”
Hardesty is hoping 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 like Lasso Nation and IMGN to provide them with opportunities to capture content alongside the TikTok creators.
The label also will host four immersive, fan-focused parties during CMA Fest at Nightscape Thursday, which the content creators will attend.
“Each party is tailored to the artist’s specific vision; it will offer fans a multi-sensory experience, featuring 360-degree projection mapping on the walls and ceiling, spatial audio, custom menus, and even scents curated to match the virtual surroundings,” Mason says. “We have a lot of pent-up creative energy, and we’re thrilled to be bringing fans, creators, and artists new, innovative, tech-forward ways of interacting with one another.”
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 more investment in digital creator partnerships.
“Ultimately, establishing and deepening artist and creator relationships is at the core of this initiative,” Hardesty says. “We also hope to prove our hypothesis that investing in and cultivating partnerships with digital creators will impact the growth of artists’ fan bases and music consumption in the same way that we’ve found value in partnerships with radio, traditional press partners, and DSPs.”