2015 CMA Music Festival sold out seven months in advance prompting large, enthusiastic crowds at the Festival’s numerous free stages and event areas with a record-setting daily attendance of 87,680 fans – besting 2014 numbers by 9.6 percent.
“The advance sell out speaks to the strength of the event, but great weather and the numerous free stages and activities downtown contributed to our attendance bump,” said CMA Chief Executive Officer Sarah Trahern. “The popularity of our artists and the entertainment value of this Festival is what increased attendance and filled the streets and parks of downtown Nashville.”
Attendance figures for 2015 include four-day ticket packages and promotional tickets, as well as attendance in the AT&T U-verse® Fan Fair X, and free areas downtown. In all, more than 500 artists participated in more than 250 hours of concerts on 11 stages (seven of which were free).
Fans obviously liked what they saw: tickets for 2016 CMA Music Festival, which will be held Thursday through Sunday, June 9-12, are selling fast with 62 percent of available tickets already sold to returning fans. The national on-sale date is Friday, June 19. Fans can order tickets by visiting CMAfest.com or calling the CMA Box Office at 1-800-CMA-FEST (262-3378).
Attendance in the numerous free areas, including The Buckle, Fan Alley, and concert stages, was brisk and showed significant growth year-to-year. For the first time in Festival history, Chevrolet Riverfront Stage reached capacity Saturday afternoon with 25,000 fans in attendance.
Crowds at the Bridgestone Arena Plaza increased over 2014 and the new Gildan Broadway Stage at the Hard Rock Café stayed busy all four days. The BMI Tailgate Party stage at LP Field, which debuted in 2012, was a hit with fans entering the stadium for the Nightly Concerts.
Corporate brand partnerships are a key element to the marketing, fan experience, and support of the Festival with more than 40 different brands participating in the CMA Music Festival.
“We are pleased to have a number of returning partners, some of which are expanding their presence, as well as many brands that are new to the Festival,” said Damon Whiteside, CMA Senior Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships. “This year more than ever, the brand activations enhanced the fan experience and continued to differentiate our Festival with unique and exciting partnerships. The overwhelmingly positive response from our brand partners illustrates the power of Country Music, the appeal of our fans, and the efforts of our CMA Partnerships staff.”
It’s for the Kids
CMA Music Festival supports music education. The artists and celebrities participating in CMA Music Festival donate their time. They are not compensated for the hours they spend in meet and greets and performing. In appreciation of their exhaustive efforts, the CMA Foundation donates proceeds from the event to local and national music education programs on the artists’ behalf as part of the Music Education Matters initiative. Since 2006, CMA has donated more than $11 million to this worthy cause.
Keith Urban was introduced as the first Music Education Matters ambassador on Thursday to a standing-room-only crowd of 2,500 people at the CMA Close Up Stage. Urban was treated to a performance by students who have benefited from the program and performed with four guitar players from Nashville School of the Arts, another beneficiary of the program.
Linda Friend of JFK Middle School, who led the student singers in Urban’s hit “Days Go By,” said: “It’s just sitting there. The talent is sitting there in a lot of our kids, and the instrument in their hands allows them access to the magic that’s in each of our children.”
On Sunday, Ron Samuels, Chairman of the CMA Foundation Board of Directors, presented a grant check to The Quest Center for Art and Community Development during Charlie Worsham’s fan club party in Nashville. Worsham is a passionate supporter of the Center, which is a music education and resource center located in Dickson, Tenn., a largely rural community with limited access to music programs. The Center makes music education accessible to all members of the community, including individuals with disabilities, while providing leadership and a positive, affordable, and safe environment for students.
Saturday’s Artist of the Day Chris Young and Farmers Insurance “Thank America’s Teachers” paired up inside AT&T U-verse® Fan Fair X at the Farmers Thank America’s Teachers bus when Young surprised one of his own music educators, Brenda Gregory, with a $2,500 check on behalf of Farmers.
CMA fans are contributing to the CMA Foundation’s worthy and important initiative, too, by bidding on one-of-a-kind experiences and signed items in the Sixth Annual CMA Celebrity Auction, which was held in AT&T U-verse® Fan Fair X benefiting the CMA Foundation. The auction raised $150,000 ($100,000 in 2014) from bids for more than 100 items including meet and greets, guitars, autographed merchandise, and more from stars and celebrities including Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Ariana Grande, Hunter Hayes, Sam Hunt, Little Big Town, George Strait, Meghan Trainor, and Zac Brown Band.
CMA Music Festival, which started as Fan Fair® in 1972, is about the fans and their relationship with the artists and the music. The theme is universal and in 2015, Festival attendees and media came from all 50 states and 20 countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U
Kick-Start the Party
The fun kicked into high gear with the expanded CMA Music Festival Kick-Off Concert at the Chevrolet Riverfront Stage featuring SiriusXM Highway Finds. The event, curated by SiriusXM and hosted by SiriusXM The Highway’s on-air talent, included performances by 23 acts featured on The Highway’s Highway Finds, the SiriusXM channel’s ongoing initiative to introduce new Country artists to SiriusXM listeners. Attendance at the Kick-Off Concert increased 26 percent over 2014.
AT&T U‐verse® Fan Fair X
The epicenter of the Ultimate Country Music Fan Experience was AT&T U-verse® Fan Fair X with meet and greets, concerts, lifestyle exhibits, marketplace, live broadcasts, and more in the Music City Center.
Little Big Town kicked it off on Thursday with an official ribbon cutting and Q&A session with the fans. At the ceremony, the group announced that they will be returning to host “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” for the third time. The special airs on the ABC Television Network on Tuesday, Aug. 4 (8:00 PM/ET).
“We just love CMA Fest,” said Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town. “It’s just about the fans. I don’t think there’s any other genre that could do this kind of thing – a weeklong celebration of our fans. I love that our artists all participate. I love that the fans come from around the world and we have this big ol’ party here. Nothing compares to it.”
Other artists of the day included Hunter Hayes, Chris Young, and Darius Rucker. All Artist of the Day appearances attracted between 2,000 to 2,500 fans. Also popular were special performances by “Nashville’s” Charles Esten, Sara Evans in an exclusive CMA Songwriters Series showcase, Jo Dee Messina, and Kellie Pickler.
More than 72,000 visitors passed through the turnstiles into Fan Fair X throughout the Festival, which was a 14.3 percent increase over 2014. Four-day ticket holders have free access to Fan Fair X, but fans were able to purchase tickets to visit the popular artist meet and greets, marketplace, and exhibits. Single and four-day ticket purchases for Fan Fair X increased 26 percent over 2014.
“It was important for people to know that just because they didn’t have a ticket to the Nightly Concerts at LP Field that there were plenty of free concerts and activities for them to enjoy,” Trahern said. “The increase in attendance at Fan Fair X and the increase in ticket purchases is a strong indication that locals and regional residents are attending in higher numbers.”
Over the four days, 371 artists participated in concerts, events, and meet and greets inside Fan Fair X. Charles Esten, Brenda Lee, Marshall Tucker Band, Darius Rucker, and Darryl Worley all carved out additional time for fans. Other popular meet and greets included Lauren Alaina, Keith Anderson, Kelsea Ballerini, Craig Wayne Boyd, Jessie James Decker, Sara Evans, Florida Georgia Line, Nick Fradiani, Hunter Hayes, Little Big Town, Lonestar, Dustin Lynch, Joe Nichols, Cassadee Pope, Josh Turner, Phil Vassar, Wynonna, and Chris Young.
Reigning CMA New Artist of the Year Brett Eldredge made a surprise appearance Saturday on the AT&T U-verse® Showcase Stage.
This marks the third year that AT&T U-verse® has been title sponsor of the exhibit hall experience at the Music City Center. The AT&T U-verse® Showcase Stage featured appearances by 36 of Nashville’s recognized stars and up-and-comers with performances and Q&A’s live streamed on uverse.com/CMAfest and recorded to be featured as VOD clips on the Country Deep TV, online, and mobile platforms.
“Once again, AT&T U-verse Fan Fair X gave Country Music fans unparalleled access to the artists and music they love with live performances, autograph signings, and our Country Deep app,” said Brian Collins, Vice President of Wireline Consumer Marketing, AT&T Home Solutions. “We’re proud to be a part of the Festival and we look forward to next year’s CMA Music Festival.”
Durango® returned to present the Durango Music Spot, which launched in 2004 as a showcase for independent artists, and featured more than 50 performers. The Music Spot was expanded this year and was an extremely popular destination for fans. All performances were broadcast and streamed live by 650 WSM-AM Nashville.
Chevrolet Riverfront Stage
Gary Allan opened four days of music at the popular Chevrolet Riverfront Stage with an energy-packed morning performance Thursday. It was an auspicious start to a full slate of performances. The stage bustled with a roster of outstanding artists delivering longer sets for the appreciative crowd.
In all, more than 36 acts performed 30 hours of concerts over the four days with 132,000 fans passing through the gates to watch the performances at Chevrolet Riverfront Stage. Throughout the footprint, Chevrolet logged more than 51,000 vehicle interactions and for the first-time the longtime partner brought their Chevrolet Riverfront Studio to the event featuring a variety of artist meet and greets and radio interviews.
“We had an incredible week at CMA Fest this year,” said Michael Weidman, National Promotions Manager, Chevrolet. “The crowds have been larger than we have ever seen. Each year we try to bring something new to enhance the fan’s experience. The CMA team is an integral part of that; and they provide all the support we could ever ask for to bring new ideas to life.”
Bud Light Plaza Stage at Bridgestone Arena Plaza
The audiences at the Bud Light Plaza Stage at the Bridgestone Arena Plaza were enthusiastic and didn’t hesitate to demonstrate their appreciation for the 72 artists performing on the stage during 23 hours of concerts. The exceptional lineup included up-and-comers, established stars, and legends.
Bud Light brought their popular “House of Whatever” experience to the Festival for the first time this year. The custom-built environment was stationed outside LP Field and included a karaoke stage featuring surprise performances by Brett Eldredge, Kelsea Ballerini, Cassadee Pope, and Dan + Shay.
“The partnership with CMA Music Festival continues to be an important component for the Bud Light brand because of the authentic connection with Country Music fans,” said Kevin Boyd, Manager, Region Brand Activation for Anheuser-Busch, Inc. “The four day Festival gives us a great platform to enhance an already incredible music experience for fans with meaningful Bud Light engagement and unique experiences. We’ve seen firsthand the growth of the Festival over the years and how loyal the fans are, not only to the artists, but to the partners as well. Bud Light is proud to part of the Festival and look forward to continuing and growing our partnerships with CMA.”
Belk Park Stage in Walk of Fame Park
For the first time this year, Belk hosted the Belk Park Stage, where concertgoers had the chance to listen to music by soon-to-be stars and established artists with the addition of screens providing everyone a front-row view. The park setting and enhanced staging proved popular with the fans who enjoyed performances by 38 acts.
“At Belk, we understand the role that music and the outdoors play in the Southern lifestyle, and the CMA Music Festival brings the best of both to Nashville,” said Jon Pollack, Executive Vice-President of Marketing, Sales Promotion and e-commerce. “The event provides Belk an opportunity to reach its customers in an environment that offers the best in Country Music, through a variety of activities, in a great Southern city. We love bringing our Modern. Southern. Style. to the CMA Music Festival.”
Gildan Broadway Stage at the Hard Rock Café
This year saw the addition of a new official CMA Music Festival Stage at the foot of Broadway and First Avenue. The Gildan Broadway Stage at the Hard Rock Café rocked with up-and-coming talent each day.
“The 2015 CMA Music Festival was a very successful event for Gildan,” said Keith Whitaker, Gildan Director of Marketing. “It provided great exposure for our brand and allowed us to interact with our consumers in a fun and meaningful way. The CMA has been a great partner over the last five years and we appreciate how hard they work for us.”
Nightly Concerts at LP Field
The Nightly Concerts at LP Field featured more than 28 acts spanning four nights of star-packed shows.
Pre-show activities Thursday included the national anthem performed by Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, with a welcome by the Mayor of Nashville, Karl Dean.
Performing Thursday were Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Florida Georgia Line, Sam Hunt, and Rascal Flatts. The evening was bittersweet with the passing of 2015 Country Music Hall of Fame member Jim Ed Brown. During his performance, Alan Jackson performed “Pop A Top” in honor of the format legend.
Lee Brice, Luke Bryan, Randy Houser, Lady Antebellum, Maddie & Tae, The Band Perry, and Zac Brown Band performed Friday. Restless Heart performed the national anthem.
2015 Country Music Hall of Fame inductees The Oak Ridge Boys were the heritage act of the evening performing, “Elvira” with Little Big Town. The legendary brothers of harmony also honored Brown in their remarks to the press backstage.
Brett Eldredge, Little Big Town, Thomas Rhett, Carrie Underwood, and Chris Young performed Saturday. The heritage act was Wynonna & The Big Noise, while Kellie Pickler performed the national anthem. Pickler also received the Operation Troop Aid Chris Kyle Patriot Award, presented by Kyle’s parents, Wayne and Deby Kyle, founder and CEO of Operation Troop Aid Mark Woods, and previous award recipients Mark Collie and Darryl Worley.
Eric Church, Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, Cole Swindell, and Keith Urban performed Sunday. Neal McCoy was the heritage act. Lee Greenwood performed the national anthem on saxophone.
During the nightly press conference leading up to the concert, Paisley was presented the CMA International Artist Achievement Award by Trahern and Urban. The banter was quick and clever:
Urban: It’s a huge honor to be able to do this for you Brad. I know travel internationally has always been important to you. I know you’ve travelled to Japan. Maybe down to Cabo?
Paisley: International waters.
Urban: Maybe we’ll get to do an international tour sometime.
Paisley: That would be great. Hey, where are you from?
BMI Tailgate Party
For the fourth year, the BMI Tailgate Party was located outside LP Field with a strong lineup of more than 23 BMI songwriters and artists warming up the audience and providing a popular pre-show destination before fans entered the stadium for the Nightly Concerts.
ABC Television Special
As previously announced, the Festival was filmed for a three-hour television special “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” airing Tuesday, Aug. 4 (8:00-11:00 PM/ET) and hosted for the third time by reigning CMA Vocal Group of the Year, Little Big Town. The special debuted in 2004 and this is the 11th year the special will air on ABC. Robert Deaton is the executive producer.
The CMA merchandise line was a hit with fans. Sales increased 63 percent over 2014 with a 45 percent jump in online sales. The best seller was the official event T-shirt with the lineup of the Nightly Concerts at LP Field, with 100 percent of CMA’s proceeds from the sale of the shirt going to the CMA Foundation to support music education initiatives.
Don’t miss 2016 CMA Music Festival June 9-12!