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Thread: Sony CEO reviews year (mention of Carrie's album launch)

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    Ultimate Carrie Fan Farawayhills's Avatar
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    Sony CEO reviews year (mention of Carrie's album launch)

    "One of our most significant achievements was the Carrie Underwood launch three months after we arrived,” Chairman/CEO Randy Goodman begins. “That release set a positive tone and helped shape what we were trying to do culturally by bringing us together with a sense of urgency."

    He is up-beat about the strength of the new team, and its marketing prospects. The short article is here:
    HITS Daily Double : Music City - STATE OF THE STATE: SONY MUSIC NASHVILLE

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    (I'm going rather off-topic with this follow-up - but it may be of interest, and I can't really think where else to post it)

    Despite the Sony chief's optimistic assessment above, it's often felt that UMG are the bigger power on Music Row. In a much longer article, one of their executives makes some interesting points, which focus particularly on "crossover" and genre blurring (an area where UMG have definitely seemed more active - Sam Hunt, Keith Urban, Kacey Musgraves, Lady A, the Band Perry are among those mentioned)
    HITS Daily Double : Rumor Mill - THE DUNGAN METHOD


    The UMG article is complex, but these are some key points relevant to the above issue:

    1. Country has been relatively slow to embrace digital sales and streaming - though that is rapidly changing.

    2. It is young consumers who are the key market

    3. There is prejudice against Nashville in the General Music world

    4. Because of this, there is reluctance to play more than a small number of Nashville crossover artists in the same time frame

    5. UMG have been most successful in this respect with their younger, genre-blurring artists.

    6. They see one way forward in increasing joint venture promotion with their Pop labels

    7. Country is not one thing, and there will be markets for other artists - but the tone of the article seems to be that UMG will continue to see genre-blurring as the big money spinner.

    (The Sony group have not generally seemed equally crossover-oriented - bear in mind though that their principal female artists, Carrie and Miranda, both now in their thirties, made a career choice not to deliberately court promotion to off-genre formats. This was one of the principles of the "new wave" in contrast to 90s trends - and their wishes have so far acted as a constraint on the label in that area - one which does not seem to have been shared by the UMG artists. My feeling is that Sony's next female hope, Maren Morris, also seems unlikely to share that reluctance.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Farawayhills View Post
    (I'm going rather off-topic with this follow-up - but it may be of interest, and I can't really think where else to post it)

    Despite the Sony chief's optimistic assessment above, it's often felt that UMG are the bigger power on Music Row. In a much longer article, one of their executives makes some interesting points, which focus particularly on "crossover" and genre blurring (an area where UMG have definitely seemed more active - Sam Hunt, Keith Urban, Kacey Musgraves, Lady A, the Band Perry are among those mentioned)
    HITS Daily Double : Rumor Mill - THE DUNGAN METHOD


    The UMG article is complex, but these are some key points relevant to the above issue:

    1. Country has been relatively slow to embrace digital sales and streaming - though that is rapidly changing.

    2. It is young consumers who are the key market

    3. There is prejudice against Nashville in the General Music world

    4. Because of this, there is reluctance to play more than a small number of Nashville crossover artists in the same time frame

    5. UMG have been most successful in this respect with their younger, genre-blurring artists.

    6. They see one way forward in increasing joint venture promotion with their Pop labels

    7. Country is not one thing, and there will be markets for other artists - but the tone of the article seems to be that UMG will continue to see genre-blurring as the big money spinner.

    (The Sony group have not generally seemed equally crossover-oriented - bear in mind though that their principal female artists, Carrie and Miranda, both now in their thirties, made a career choice not to deliberately court promotion to off-genre formats. This was one of the principles of the "new wave" in contrast to 90s trends - and their wishes have so far acted as a constraint on the label in that area - one which does not seem to have been shared by the UMG artists. My feeling is that Sony's next female hope, Maren Morris, also seems unlikely to share that reluctance.)
    Farawayhills, thanks so much for decoding this article for us! I have always respected Carrie's wishes regarding her dedication to the country format, but I wish she would step out of that box and become an official genre-blurring artist. She is still young, popular, and at her peak. In fact, so many of her songs are on the cusp of crossing over anyway....they just need a little nudge from her and many more people would be exposed to her incredible talent. The digital age is somewhat forcing artists to be creative so that their music can be heard. I really feel that she can be part of the "new wave" without jeopardizing her credibility. What do you think?

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    Quote Originally Posted by bluetb4 View Post
    Farawayhills, thanks so much for decoding this article for us! I have always respected Carrie's wishes regarding her dedication to the country format, but I wish she would step out of that box and become an official genre-blurring artist. She is still young, popular, and at her peak. In fact, so many of her songs are on the cusp of crossing over anyway....they just need a little nudge from her and many more people would be exposed to her incredible talent. The digital age is somewhat forcing artists to be creative so that their music can be heard. I really feel that she can be part of the "new wave" without jeopardizing her credibility. What do you think?
    On that question, I have to try and separate my personal views from the commercial and wider career implications (not an easy - or even pleasant - thing to do.

    On the personal side, I do strongly admire the stand Carrie has taken (she's made clear her views on re-mixing and on the difference between "incidental" playing off-genre, and deliberate pitching to off-genre formats - but, for me, a particularly apt comment was when she said that the attitude of some of her predecessors disappointed her. She named no names, which was the right way to do it, but I think it needed to be said - and I rate that alongside her support for the Opry as a keynote of her attitude to Country Music.

    On a personal note, I'd also say that I greatly appreciate her attitude to promotion in the UK, where I think she's made her commitment to Country Music clear, and avoided the temptation to appear as a Pop artist (which has historically been the tactic of the bigger UMG female artists). Country fans here have sometimes felt abandoned by the US artists they've supported, who then side-step them in favour of a bigger audience - I'm proud that they don't need to feel that in Carrie's case. CAA have also done a good job of promoting her within her chosen frame of reference - their local promotional chief said that Carrie can appeal to both groups by just being herself, and I think that is right.

    On the question of promoting outside Country in the US, I, personally support this where the artist has no viable choice not to. That would apply to Alt Country artists like Brandi Carlile, who are played on Rock stations and Triple A; to mature artists like Alison Krauss and Emmylou, who are played on AC; and to younger artists like Kacey Musgraves, who can't get regular radio support within the format. No one should have to be a silent martyr to Mainstream radio because they are not Mainstream enough to fit into its current programming priorities. However, where a Country-identifying artist does enjoy regular support on Mainstream radio, I would share Carrie's disappointment if they looked elsewhere to boost their career.


    However, I'll also try to look at things from a purely commercial perspective. On that, I agree that a strong case could be made for spreading her promotional net more widely. If she's going to do it, I think she would need to do it soon - as she moves nearer to 40 than 30 in a few years, she will be moving into the mature category that is more AC than the pop leaning Hot AC. Some of her "Storyteller" songs - not least the strongly Americana-influenced "Choctaw County Affair" - are already, in my opinion, taking her work more in that direction.

    A promotional move now (as opposed to releasing a whole Pop album, which I think is unlikely) could, arguably, do her little or no personal harm in Country. Mainstream Country radio is almost entirely owned by conglomerates which also control stations in other formats. I think they would happily play her singles in both markets (and may even want to, to a greater extent than at present - though Sony respect her wishes on format pitching). Also, I think Carrie's work has always tended to appear ambivalent to many in Country. However loyal she is, she has always tended to be seen as a "genre-blurrer", whether she presents herself in that way or not. So dual promotion is unlikely to make much difference to the stylistic perception that already exists.

    And I suspect that there is some risk that if Carrie does not support dual promotion, she could begin to slip behind artists who do. Some on this board are obsessed with Miranda Lambert - who actually poses no credible career threat to Carrie. The real risk to her radio and sales position is likely to come (as one commentator pointed out recently) from "Cindy Mabe's boys" - the UMG and UMG-partnered artists who happily court other formats. Carrie has recently collaborated with two of these - Sam Hunt and Keith Urban - though I think it is arguable whether she is helping them more than they are helping her. The industry feeling is that many consumers today, especially in the high spending younger demographic, are used to genre-hopping, have relatively little format loyalty, and love hearing their artists on other stations, or performing with artists from other musical backgrounds. The risk is that demand for artists who cross-promote will grow at the relative expense of ones who don't.

    The downside of this is that the present trend to genre-blurring becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more it occurs, the more it grows. Artists who are currently following it as as trend already seem to many, not just Pop influenced, but Pop immersed, to the point of barely retaining a stylistic Country Music identity. That, generally, hasn't applied to Carrie. She blends influences, but both the edge in her voice, and the Country references in her lyrics, themes, and music do retain a more identifiable Country feel than is currently the case with some of the men.


    Apologies for the long post - but I hope I've set out how I see the issue, both as a fan and as an observer. I'd love to hear other views on this topic, which I think is important both for Carrie and for the format itself
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    I love reading your posts! They are always so informative and the explanations are very understandable! After reading your pro's and con's for genre hopping, I really want Carrie to cross promote her music. As a fan, I want her to continue to grow and stay relevant. I feel the only way to stay ahead of the curve is to occasionally promote her music on additional formats. The country artists who are currently cross promoting their music are not suffering in the country community for doing so. I hope Carrie reconsiders branching out.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluetb4 View Post
    I love reading your posts! They are always so informative and the explanations are very understandable! After reading your pro's and con's for genre hopping, I really want Carrie to cross promote her music. As a fan, I want her to continue to grow and stay relevant. I feel the only way to stay ahead of the curve is to occasionally promote her music on additional formats. The country artists who are currently cross promoting their music are not suffering in the country community for doing so. I hope Carrie reconsiders branching out.
    I feel the exact same way. I think musically Carrie could go any direction that she wanted, but I think she is content where she is at. However I would love if she became a household name outside of North America. I think if she promoted herself more, she would be really popular in the UK and Ireland. As well as Australia and New Zealand.

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    So what I personally see happening in the coming years (and I might be entirely wrong about this) is Carrie receiving more critical praise than having enormous commercial success, and I'll explain why.

    I was quite surprised (and impressed) when Carrie released Smoke Break as the lead single but it was quite an unlikely choice for a lead single, considering her previous pattern of releasing uptempo songs that attract attention and commercial appeal for the rest of the album. Smoke Break was focused more on its social realism, production and being rooted in the country genre than trying to appeal to a wide crowd. It clearly shows Carrie's commitment to the genre and her willingness to compromise commercial success (and possibly awards, both of which she has stated before as not having the prime importance for her career). Whether it's starting a family that has toned her overall perspective about her career or whether it's her way of proving herself to the critics, what is sure is her need to establish herself as a country artist in the long run, and not just one that has a big voice and wide appeal but also one that has really done something for the genre. As Faraway has pointed out earlier, she has done that before but she isn't given much credit for retaining her countryness.

    Considering all that, her commercial success might decline. Even though she is still the leading female artist and her tour numbers are spectacular (although I don't count those in commercial success), and she still might continue to reach the top of the charts, but her prior dominance over men as well might not hold true anymore. This might be a stretch for some but after the release of Storyteller, I've begun to see Carrie closer to the likes of Ashley Monroe, Brandy Clark and Kacey Musgraves in terms of wanting to "save" the genre. Carrie turning a new leaf in her life, entering her thirties and the ongoing climate of country music have all contributed in her realization of the role that she has to play in the genre that is more important right now than it ever was. I think what she is probably trying to establish over time is also that she has not only been extremely successful but has also put out music that has done quite a lot to change what country music talks about. That's why all her songs on Storyteller are way more evolved and rooted in reality than on her previous albums as a whole. (I also see Smoke Break as a more evolved version of sugary anthems like Nobody Ever Told You and Crazy Dreams).

    I would also say that the need to have more commercial appeal perhaps no longer exists as Carrie has already established her that not only in country music but in music generally. Even if she continues to put out music that aren't earworms and garner massive downloads, heads will still turn when she does something.

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    If he really wants to impress us, get Carrie a CMA Female Vocalist trophy!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Momin View Post
    So what I personally see happening in the coming years (and I might be entirely wrong about this) is Carrie receiving more critical praise than having enormous commercial success, and I'll explain why.

    I was quite surprised (and impressed) when Carrie released Smoke Break as the lead single but it was quite an unlikely choice for a lead single, considering her previous pattern of releasing uptempo songs that attract attention and commercial appeal for the rest of the album. Smoke Break was focused more on its social realism, production and being rooted in the country genre than trying to appeal to a wide crowd. It clearly shows Carrie's commitment to the genre and her willingness to compromise commercial success (and possibly awards, both of which she has stated before as not having the prime importance for her career). Whether it's starting a family that has toned her overall perspective about her career or whether it's her way of proving herself to the critics, what is sure is her need to establish herself as a country artist in the long run, and not just one that has a big voice and wide appeal but also one that has really done something for the genre. As Faraway has pointed out earlier, she has done that before but she isn't given much credit for retaining her countryness.

    Considering all that, her commercial success might decline. Even though she is still the leading female artist and her tour numbers are spectacular (although I don't count those in commercial success), and she still might continue to reach the top of the charts, but her prior dominance over men as well might not hold true anymore. This might be a stretch for some but after the release of Storyteller, I've begun to see Carrie closer to the likes of Ashley Monroe, Brandy Clark and Kacey Musgraves in terms of wanting to "save" the genre. Carrie turning a new leaf in her life, entering her thirties and the ongoing climate of country music have all contributed in her realization of the role that she has to play in the genre that is more important right now than it ever was. I think what she is probably trying to establish over time is also that she has not only been extremely successful but has also put out music that has done quite a lot to change what country music talks about. That's why all her songs on Storyteller are way more evolved and rooted in reality than on her previous albums as a whole. (I also see Smoke Break as a more evolved version of sugary anthems like Nobody Ever Told You and Crazy Dreams).

    I would also say that the need to have more commercial appeal perhaps no longer exists as Carrie has already established her that not only in country music but in music generally. Even if she continues to put out music that aren't earworms and garner massive downloads, heads will still turn when she does something.

    Great write up by the way, but what I highlighted I think you hit the nail on the head......

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    If Carrie does win the FVOTY trophy again (which I hope she does), I think it will owe more to the factors that Momin outlined, than it would to any influence the Sony CEO might have. Like other potential Carrie allies, he has a seat on the board, and that should help to ensure that she will have the hosting role for the foreseeable future, as long as she wants it, and may help with potential special commemorative awards in future. His influence among the wider membership, though, is more of a moot point. He's a successful businessman, and widely admired, but (for example) his long association with Rascal Flatts (whose musical style is divisive) may have mixed reactions among voters. In any case, the Sony Group are not widely regarded as the leading power force on Music Row. Looking at the articles (from the same publication) which began this thread, it's noticeable that his was much shorter. Whether this reflected the interview questions put to him, or simply his own priorities in expounding his vision for development is impossible to say - but Mike Dungan's article for UMG was considerably fuller in setting out trends and expectations for the future.

    I know that awards are a very big fan concern - but they are not generally seen as a high priority for artists. The evidence does suggest that Carrie too has other priorities - it would not be too difficult for her to adopt changes in representation, touring and collaboration strategies, and/or musical styles that could have more potential impact on awards. But she seems to be happier with the career she's following, which has led to generally greater success in other areas.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Farawayhills View Post
    If Carrie does win the FVOTY trophy again (which I hope she does), I think it will owe more to the factors that Momin outlined, than it would to any influence the Sony CEO might have. Like other potential Carrie allies, he has a seat on the board, and that should help to ensure that she will have the hosting role for the foreseeable future, as long as she wants it, and may help with potential special commemorative awards in future. His influence among the wider membership, though, is more of a moot point. He's a successful businessman, and widely admired, but (for example) his long association with Rascal Flatts (whose musical style is divisive) may have mixed reactions among voters. In any case, the Sony Group are not widely regarded as the leading power force on Music Row. Looking at the articles (from the same publication) which began this thread, it's noticeable that his was much shorter. Whether this reflected the interview questions put to him, or simply his own priorities in expounding his vision for development is impossible to say - but Mike Dungan's article for UMG was considerably fuller in setting out trends and expectations for the future.

    I know that awards are a very big fan concern - but they are not generally seen as a high priority for artists. The evidence does suggest that Carrie too has other priorities - it would not be too difficult for her to adopt changes in representation, touring and collaboration strategies, and/or musical styles that could have more potential impact on awards. But she seems to be happier with the career she's following, which has led to generally greater success in other areas.
    You are very correct - if awards mattered most to Carrie she could pull a Garth and switch to WME. We all know he's doing it to get the EOTY award.
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    Ultimate Carrie Fan Farawayhills's Avatar
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    In another interview, Sony's Chief Operating Officer, Ken Robold, has filled in some more background detail on how the group sees its existing major artists:

    You’ve got some of the biggest acts in the business. If the growth is going to be flatter, what do you focus on/how do you grow them?

    Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley and Kenny Chesney are the superstars we consider the four pillars of the label. All are obviously incredibly well established and distinctly different brands. With all four continuing to achieve the highest levels of success during their careers, our focus is to keep them at the superstar level each time we bring a new project to the marketplace. To do that, it is vital that our team works in conjunction with them and their teams to develop the most robust plans we can in an ever-evolving marketplace and challenging revenue environment.

    What is the most creative thing your team has done this year?

    I would say launching Carrie Underwood’s Storyteller essentially three months after Randy, Steve [Hodges] and I walked in the door at Sony. In a very short amount of time, we had to meet Carrie and her team, hear the new music, formulate a comprehensive marketing and promotion plan and instill in Carrie and her team the confidence and belief that we could deliver in a big way. Of course, Carrie had the music and a creative vision before we entered the picture; however, it took a great team effort and a lot of creativity to deliver. One of the key components of that plan was that Carrie became the first country artist to headline the Apple Music Festival in London, which was a big success.

    HITS Daily Double : Music City - NASHVILLE OUTSIDE IN: KEN ROBOLD
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    And this quote, from Cindy Mabe, President of UMG Nashville is relevant to the perceived need to promote on a wide front

    "Music is still having impact, but it has to matter. No artist can just live and die through one source. You really have to keep an eye on everything the artist is and how their fans want to engage and find the hole to keep exposing and reinventing the artist from a song to a brand. Instead of looking at how high you can go vertically with radio airplay or album sales, look at how far you can go with that artist horizontally."

    HITS Daily Double : Music City - NASHVILLE OUTSIDE IN: CINDY MABE
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kizmet311 View Post
    You are very correct - if awards mattered most to Carrie she could pull a Garth and switch to WME. We all know he's doing it to get the EOTY award.
    But awards do matter to Carrie. She herself said she was hurt she was not nominated for EOTY by the CMAS- ever- and that she doesn't know what she is doing wrong.

    Her own Aunt Donna recently tweeted to the CMAS telling them to nominate her for EOTY.

    So I think they do matter. She is not a saint or a robot. She is a human being and she said she is competitive and wants to win.

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    Quote Originally Posted by teesharky View Post
    But awards do matter to Carrie. She herself said she was hurt she was not nominated for EOTY by the CMAS- ever- and that she doesn't know what she is doing wrong.

    Her own Aunt Donna recently tweeted to the CMAS telling them to nominate her for EOTY.

    So I think they do matter. She is not a saint or a robot. She is a human being and she said she is competitive and wants to win.

    Everybody in Carrie's orbit benefits from winning industry awards....her band, her writers, her management, her fans, and her entire TEAM. She WANTS to win for all these people.

    She doesn't NEED another trophy for her mantle. But, she DESERVES these awards to give her music or brand, if you will, credibility and recognition in the public's eyes.

    Remember, the general public has no idea about the award show shenanigans and block voting. They are just left scratching their heads year after year wondering why Carrie didn't win.

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    I feel like we've always discussed Miranda and Carrie's contribution to the genre and expanding its reaches. Faraway (or anyone else), I would like to know your thoughts on Taylor's contribution to the genre in terms of paying homage to its roots and incorporating country elements in her songs (that is, of course, in the earlier part of her career).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Momin View Post
    I feel like we've always discussed Miranda and Carrie's contribution to the genre and expanding its reaches. Faraway (or anyone else), I would like to know your thoughts on Taylor's contribution to the genre in terms of paying homage to its roots and incorporating country elements in her songs (that is, of course, in the earlier part of her career).
    I first became aware of Taylor on MySpace (in the days when that was still a great place for music fans to discover bands, and interact with artists - in a way that I miss, and don't think has been generally matched (with the same atmosphere anyway) by the later social media.
    What I remember about Taylor was that she was using videos and fan blogs to build up a relationship, with a mainly young female, fan base - and that she was almost fanatical about controlling her image (for example, when a fan wanted to be photographed with her, she would often take the phone and hold it to pose the shot herself).

    Her use of the medium was early, and comprehensive - but I can't say that I took much notice of her. Her music wasn't really to my taste - and the young artists I interacted with didn't seem to refer to her, in the way, for example, that some of them were talking about Carrie. Carrie herself made little use of the medium - she had a personal page, that was only accessible to people who knew her College days - I think I may know the password now, but certainly didn't in those days. However the people I talked with (including some musicians) did belong to an unofficial page dedicated to her dog, Ace. It was there, for example, that I heard the rumour that she and Miranda (whom I'd already followed for some time) had made a pact, following the rather drastic shake out of artists at Sony, that whatever happened they would always support each other. It was partly through those musicians, one of whom had a song on the CR album recorded by Carrie that led me to check out her work, and write a first short review on a UK site.

    I had no such introduction to Taylor, though - and I'm still not very familiar with her early songs. One thing I've always noticed in relation to both Carrie and Miranda is that, whatever influences they use, they are usually careful to make Country Music references, in their backing, their vocal "edge" the ethos or "soul" of their interpretation of a song, and their lyrical themes. They often differ in the parts of the Country Music spectrum they emphasize - but the spectrum is broad, and they do both show that awareness and loyalty.

    I'm much less aware of this connection in Taylor. This may be due to my more limited familiarity, and to my less Mainstream bias - but, on what I've heard, I struggle to find much sign of it. I would tend to say, on what I've heard that much of Taylor's huge and admirable success has benefited her career personally more than it has benefited the wider ethos of contemporary Country Music. Her confessional "diary" songs do not seem to have been widely imitated in the genre, and she seems an "outlier" - admired for her lyrical insight and great success, but not having much wider influence on the music itself

    On that, though, the industry may well strongly disagree - I think many see her as a figure who has revolutionized the market demographic drawn to Mainstream radio, bringing in younger consumers, who are high spending on merchandise, and include a high proportion of females, who are noted for "brand loyalty", and (as a broad generalization) were believed to be less prone to the trend towards illegal downloads. Some would say that Taylor also accelerated the trend towards consumers listening to mixed genres. (I am, however, skeptical about the claim that that introduces consumers to sample much more Country music - there may be individual exceptions, but I suspect that most Taylor fans gravitate to music that is also Pop leaning, and are unlikely to go "deep genre)

    Taylor may well have been influenced by Shania Twain and Faith Hill, as she's claimed - but this influence may lie mainly in their glamour and eclectic stage styles. She also claims Dixie Chick influence - but, as a long term fan, I struggle to see that in her music or song styles.
    I do, though, see genuine Alt Country influence from Ryan Adams, and their mutual admiration seems to be as genuine as her liking for some British folk-influenced singers.
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    Quote Originally Posted by teesharky View Post
    But awards do matter to Carrie. She herself said she was hurt she was not nominated for EOTY by the CMAS- ever- and that she doesn't know what she is doing wrong.

    Her own Aunt Donna recently tweeted to the CMAS telling them to nominate her for EOTY.

    So I think they do matter. She is not a saint or a robot. She is a human being and she said she is competitive and wants to win.
    Where did I say that awards don't matter to Carrie? I said if awards mattered MOST to her, out of all aspects of her career, then she could switch to WME for management. Clearly, awards do not matter the MOST to her out of all aspects of her career or she would drop her current management and do whatever it takes to become a member of the right voting block.


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