Fans urge CMA festival not to leave Music City

Fans urge CMA festival not to leave Music City

By: AP

By JOHN GEROME AP Entertainment Writer NASHVILLE (AP) — From the guy copping a smoke on the steps of the Ryman Auditorium to the two women resting in the shade by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the very notion that country music’s biggest fan event could possibly move from Nashville to another city seemed preposterous. “It needs to be in Nashville because it’s the heart of country music. They have to do it where the Grand Ole Opry is because of the history,” said Sheryl Umphrey of New Brunswick, N.J. “It just wouldn’t be the same if it moved.” Just as sure as Nashville turns hot and muggy come June, the Country Music Association kicked off its annual four-day festival Thursday. Started in 1972, it gives fans a chance to see top acts and mingle with stars and is the city’s biggest country music event, with attendance topping 190,000 last year. But there’s an undercurrent this year that some find more disagreeable than the heat. In February, Kix Brooks, half of the hit duo Brooks & Dunn and a member of the CMA board, suggested that the city and the CMA need to find a way to pay top-level artists for their participation or they may go away. Other cities already have expressed interest in nabbing the festival if Nashville should lose it, a prospect CMA Chief Executive Officer Tammy Genovese says will never happen. Currently, instead of paying the artists for their time, which includes performances and autograph signings, the CMA donates half the net proceeds to charity on the artists’ behalf. Fans say that’s the way it should be. “We buy their CDs, go to their concerts. This should be a time for them to thank the fans,” Umphrey said. Julie Dieters of Breese, Ill., remarked, “They should give back. It’s not that much of their time.” Alan Jackson, as big a star as there is in country music, can see both sides. He said younger artists, in particular, could use the help. “You know, we make a lot of money off what the fans spend buying records and coming to shows all year, so I haven’t really worried about the expense part,” said Jackson, who signed autographs Friday and was scheduled to perform Saturday. “But I’ve been pretty lucky. I made a lot of money. If you’re a new artist and haven’t made the money and records aren’t selling like they used to … it’s tighter for the artists. “The record labels are not putting out money to support all this stuff like they did years ago because they’re not selling records either. So I would just guess in some cases it probably would help for younger artists or newer artist who are hot if they (CMA) could cover some expenses, make it easier for them to play here. And they might be able to bring in acts that wouldn’t normally play.” The one thing just about everyone agrees upon is that the festival belongs in Nashville, the hub of the industry. Published in The Messenger 6.10.08

Leave a Comment