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2016 CMA Music Festival Celebrates 45th Year with Record Attendance

NASHVILLE – The 2016 CMA Music Festival sold out months in advance prompting large, enthusiastic crowds at the Festival’s numerous stages and event areas with a record-setting daily attendance of 88,500 fans.

“The advance sell out speaks to the strength of the event, but great weather, the addition of two new, free stages at Ascend Amphitheater, and record crowds at Fan Fair X at the Music City Center contributed to our attendance hike,” said CMA Chief Executive Officer Sarah Trahern. “We continue to see strong local and regional support for this event, which is a boon to the city of Nashville.”

Attendance figures for 2016 include four-day ticket packages and promotional tickets, as well as attendance in Fan Fair X and free areas downtown. In all, more than 600 artists and celebrities participated in more than 250 hours of concerts on 11 stages (seven of which were free).

Tickets for the 2017 CMA Music Festival, which will be held Thursday, June 8 through Sunday, June 11, 2017, are on sale to returning fans through Thursday, June 16. The national on-sale date is Monday, July 11. Fans can order tickets by visiting CMAfest.com or calling the CMA Box Office at 1-800-CMA-FEST (262-3378).

The increased attendance was felt throughout the event. For the first time since moving to downtown Nashville in 2001, Chevrolet Riverfront Stage reached capacity twice on opening day. Official CMA Music Festival merchandise sales increased 16 percent over 2015. The Festival’s newest stages (the AT&T Skyview Stage and Budweiser Acoustic Stage) at Ascend Amphitheater hosted 5,000 fans each day. And the CMA Music Festival app saw 48,800 active users, a 21 percent increase in usage over 2015.

Corporate brand partnerships are a key element to the marketing, fan experience, and support of the Festival with more than 50 different brand experiences activating at CMA Music Festival.

“This year’s Festival brought new and bigger immersive partner activations that enhanced the experience for both fans and brands and continued to differentiate our Festival as a global leader in music festival brand partnerships,” said Damon Whiteside, CMA Senior Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships. “The increased attendance and fan engagement showcases the passion and loyalty of our Country Music fans and artists in addition to the dynamic opportunity for brands to reach this meaningful audience and create lasting impressions.”

Music Education Matters
CMA Music Festival supports music education. The artists and celebrities participating in CMA Music Festival donate their time and 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 behalf of the artists. Since 2006, CMA has donated more than $13.68 million to this worthy cause reaching more than 1 million children nationwide.

During Opening Ceremonies Wednesday at the AT&T Skyview Stage at Ascend Amphitheater, Chris Young invited a drumline made up of students from six local schools (Hillwood Comprehensive High School, Hillsboro Comprehensive High School, McGavock High School, John Overton High School, Cane Ridge High School, and East Nashville Magnet School) that have benefited from the CMA Foundation to drum-kick-start the Festival. Young also performed the Keith Whitley standard “When You Say Nothing at All” with Tristan McIntosh, a student from Nashville School of the Arts who was a recent contestant on “American Idol.”

On Friday, Eric Paslay took time to meet students from CMA beneficiary music education program Notes for Notes at Fan Fair X. Notes for Notes provides an afterschool recording studio experience for deserving children through a partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs and other facilities in several cities including Atlanta, Austin, Brooklyn, Detroit, and San Francisco, with several more slated to be opened.

Sunday, CMA was on hand at Charlie Worsham’s “Donuts and Jam” fan club party to present a $20,000 check to an organization close to Worsham’s heart. The Quest Center for Art and Community Development is a non-profit music education and resource center located in Dickson, Tenn., a rural community 35 miles west of Nashville. The Center makes music education accessible to all members of the community, while providing leadership and a positive, affordable, and safe environment for students.

Keith Urban, who was named the first CMA Foundation Music Education Matters Ambassador in 2015, wrapped his year of service to the cause by meeting Nashville School of the Arts students Sunday during his soundcheck at Nissan Stadium. The students were all recipients of Urban’s signature guitars, which he donated to the music education program.

Global Appeal
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 2016, Festival attendees and media came from all 50 states and 25 countries including: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Czechoslovakia, Finland, France, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and Venezuela.

Fans Connect Digitally
CMA continued its practice of interacting with fans through digital, video, and social channels at the 2016 CMA Music Festival, to both inform and reward loyal Festival attendees.

The free CMA Music Festival App, presented by AT&T, for iPhone and Android received 118,000 downloads, which was more than double from 2015. App features this year included schedule sharing with friends via Facebook and the CMA Country Experience on Pandora, plus new features like CMA Fest Fan Access and Fest Pay. The App also included a popular option for users to create their own personalized schedule of performances, as well as Fan Fair X meet and greets.

AT&T returned as a CMA Music Fest sponsor for the fifth year and continued the tradition of keeping fans connected to their passion for Country Music through their mobile network and the official CMA Music Festival Mobile App, presented by AT&T. In total, more than 4.8 TB of data crossed the AT&T mobile network at the CMA Fest over the first four days combined. 4.8 TB of data is equivalent to nearly 14 million Country Music selfies.

*Total data includes data used by AT&T customers only on the CART in downtown Nashville, the COW at Nissan Stadium and the two DAS systems installed at Bridgestone Arena, Nissan Stadium and the Music City Center during CMA Fest from June 9-12.

CMA Fest Fan Access
New for fans at this year’s Festival was the CMA Fest Fan Access program, sponsored by Budweiser and powered by FISH Technologies. By signing up for CMA Fest Fan Access, fans were able to more easily engage with sponsor activities throughout the footprint, collect their photo and video content, and share experiences with friends via social media. Eligible fans who registered had the chance to win a VIP trip to the 2017 CMA Music Festival and could use their Fan Access QR code throughout the Festival for chances to win instant prizes that included meet-and-greet passes, front row seats to the CMA Close Up Stage, and official merchandise. In its first year, nearly 15,000 attendees registered for the program.

Fest Pay
CMA and Budweiser also joined forces to provide Fest Pay, a Bluetooth-enabled payment system that provided fans a faster way to pay for the food and beverage they purchased at many concession stands. With Fest Pay, fans never had to reach for the wallet, count out the right change, or worry about losing their credit card. Instead, Fest Pay made it easy to pay for orders using smartphone devices, cutting down on transaction times and giving fans more time to spend listening to their favorite artists during the four-day event.

Fans Get Social
For the first time at CMA Music Festival, Facebook Live broadcasts with 20+ artists as well as boosted posts resulted in a 19 percent year-over-year increase in impressions and 141 percent increase in reach for CMA’s Facebook page. All Facebook Live broadcasts from CMA and artist pages resulted in 1.3M views. On Twitter, a partnership with GIPHY, which hosted more than 400 GIFs on GIPHY.com/CMAfest, helped increase engagement rate 5 percent from 2015. Snapchat views increased 260 percent year-over-year with engaging content including artist takeovers by Mickey Guyton, High Valley, and more, plus prizes including Nissan Stadium floor tickets and Fan Fair X meet and greets.

CMAfest.com traffic increased this year as well:

  • Unique Visitors: Up 15 percent versus 2015
  • Page Views: Up 25 percent, driven by integration of a fan social hub

During the day, social posts from Twitter and Instagram were featured on the screens at five different stages, including Nissan Stadium, powered by Postano. Overall, 55,000 social interactions were sent to the video screens during the event, resulting in 1.2 billion impressions.

Content is King
Part of the Festival experience is to keep the fans in the know of exciting news, show schedules, artist appearances, and more. “Best of the Fest” videos hosted by a variety of emerging Country Music artists and television celebrities including Dan + Shay, Mickey Guyton, Granger Smith, High Valley, HGTV’s Property Brothers, and Hayley Orrantia (ABC’s “The Goldbergs”). These entertaining videos were captured throughout the footprint and played back on all Festival daytime screens plus nightly at Nissan Stadium. Fans everywhere could feel part of the Festival through video sharing on CMA’s digital platforms including website, Facebook page, and YouTube Channel.

According to Whiteside, “This year’s Festival featured more immersive digital, social, and video content than ever that was leveraged across CMA’s many digital channels and through partner media. Today’s fans expect digital elements to enhance their experience at the Festival.”

2016 CMA Music Festival Research Recap
With so many ardent Country Music fans in one place, opportunities abound for CMA to conduct research with this important consumer group.

“The popularity of Country Music continues to reach a more diverse and younger audience than ever before which in turn impacts the attendee audience for our Festival,” said Karen Stump, CMA Senior Director of Market Research. “Each year, our ability to capture data about the Festival audience as well as dive into their feedback regarding their experience expands and supports our efforts to deliver on the consumer’s expectations for the event.”

Preliminary attendee stats for this year’s Festival are based on attendee polling and fan registration data via CMA Fest Fan Access. Reported findings include:

  • Overall, 53 percent of attendees were attending CMA Music Festival for the first time
  • Average age of the attendee base is 42 years (excludes minors)
  • 48 percent of attendees have an annual household income of more than $75,000
  • Across all attendees, 63 percent were attending with a four-day Festival/Nissan Stadium ticket
  • 18 percent were attending with only a Fan Fair X ticket for the Music City Center (11 percent for 4 days and 7 percent as a single day)
  • 19 percent were attending without a ticket

“Our goals for attendee research include striving to understand all attendees regardless of ticket type or past behaviors and grow our understanding of the different experiences CMA Festival can deliver in the future,” Stump said.

Kick-Start the Party
Following the Opening Ceremonies Wednesday, the music kicked into high gear with the expanded CMA Music Festival Kick-Off Concert at the AT&T Skyview Stage at Ascend Amphitheater featuring SiriusXM Highway Finds. The event, curated by SiriusXM and hosted by SiriusXM The Highway’s on-air talent, included opening and closing performances by Old Dominion and Frankie Ballard respectively in addition to several acts featured on The Highway’s Highway Finds, the SiriusXM channel’s ongoing initiative to introduce new Country artists to SiriusXM listeners.

Fan Fair X
The epicenter of the Ultimate Country Music Fan Experience was Fan Fair X with meet and greets, concerts, lifestyle exhibits, marketplace, live broadcasts, and more in the Music City Center. 

Each morning (Thursday through Sunday) inside Fan Fair X, a different Artist of the Day welcomed fans in style including Hillary Scott in a Q&A session with members of her family about their new gospel album; Charles Esten, star of “Nashville” who used the opportunity to announce that the popular series is moving to CMT for its fifth season; four-time CMA Female Vocalist of the Year Martina McBride, who discussed her new album Reckless (Nash Icon Records); and Charles Kelley, who gave fans an up-close-and-personal look into his solo album The Driver (Capitol Records Nashville).

During the Festival, 79,055 visitors passed through the turnstiles into Fan Fair X, which was an 8 percent increase over 2015. Four-day ticket holders had 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 four percent over 2015.

Over the four days, 337 artists participated in concerts, events, panels, and meet and greets inside Fan Fair X. Kristian Bush, Billy Ray Cyrus, Sara Evans with TV personality Todd Chrisley, Florida Georgia Line, Maddie & Tae, Justin MooreJennifer Nettles, Marie Osmond, Chase Rice, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, The Band Perry, and Thomas Rhett were among the most popular with fans.

Brand new to Fan Fair X this year was the Radio Disney Country Stage, where fans discovered some of the best up-and-coming talent alongside familiar favorites performing their hits and answering questions. Radio Disney Country personalities hosted the stage and led activities including prize giveaways. Appearances included Lauren Alaina, Kelsea Ballerini, Dan + Shay, Mickey Guyton, Jana Kramer, Maddie & Tae, Cassadee Pope, and Granger Smith, among many others.

Durango® returned to present the Durango Music Spot, which launched in 2004 as a showcase for independent artists, featuring 42 acts. All performances were broadcast and streamed live by 650 WSM-AM Nashville.

Two popular attractions in Fan Fair X were the CMA Awards 50th Anniversary exhibit with rare photos, a timeline, highlights from the past five decades of Country Music’s Biggest Night™, and the exclusive opportunity for fans to take a photo with the prestigious CMA Awards trophy. Also busy was a CMA Foundation interactive element where fans and artists could write messages about what music has taught them, including Chase Bryant and Country Music Hall of Fame member Brenda Lee.

The ABC Red Carpet Party was abuzz with 20,000 square feet of fun and games in Fan Fair X including the ABC Theater, where visitors could enjoy an exclusive, first look at the network’s new fall comedy, “Speechless,” starring Minnie Driver.

Fans could also enjoy Q&A and autograph signings, as well as photo opportunities with stars of ABC’s “General Hospital,” Laura Wright and Robert Palmer Watkins, as well as Hayley Orrantia of “The Goldbergs.”

Additional attractions included a “Bachelorette” themed mini putt-putt game; a comedy corn hole toss; “Celebrity Family Feud” game; and a green-screen photo studio where fans could take a picture with their favorite ABC stars.

AT&T brought fans unique experiences inside the AT&T I DIRECTV Lounge. Not only could Country Music fans cool off and charge their devices, make a fun #ATTCMAFest GIF in front of the Nashville skyline, and check out a Chevrolet Connected Car, but only the home of the NFL Sunday Ticket could bring fans meet and greets with Titans players David Cobb and DeMarco Murray. Also appearing during the weekend were HGTV’s Listed Sisters, exciting new artists Temecula Road and Steve Moakler, and CMT’s “Still the King” star Billy Ray Cyrus.

“AT&T was proud to be a partner with the CMA Music Festival for the fifth straight year,” said Rob Stecklow, AT&T I DIRECTV General Manager Sports and Sponsorship. “This year, we extended the partnership to include activation for the DIRECTV brand for the first time to promote our exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket product. Between music, sports, and entertainment, we feel AT&T and DIRECTV are a great fit with the passionate CMA fans.”

Chevrolet Riverfront Stage
Jake Owen
made a splash arriving by boat to open four days of music at the popular Chevrolet Riverfront Stage with an energy-packed morning concert Thursday. It was a great start to a full slate of performances.

In all, more than 40 acts performed 30 hours of concerts over the four days with 112,235 fans passing through the gates to watch the performances on the banks of the Cumberland River.

Among the many highlights were Brandy Clark performing the title track from her brand new release Big Day in a Small Town; a medley of Country standards by Home Free including “Elvira” and “Ring of Fire”; Chris Young performing “Set the Night on Fire” with Kane Brown; Chase Bryant performing his new single “Room to Breathe”; “Nashville” stars Charles Esten, Chris Carmack, and Clare Bowen performing “I Have a Life That’s Good”; Neal McCoy’s tribute to Country Music Hall of Fame member Charley Pride; a set of Country standards by Lorrie Morgan; Hayley Orrantia (“The Goldbergs”) performing with Jana Kramer; the presentation of a Platinum certification to Canaan Smith for his hit “Love You Like That”; Kellie Pickler performed a song written by her husband Kyle Jacobs “No Cure for Crazy”; and LOCASH’s Preston Burst and Chris Lucas  were presented Gold certification for “I Love This Life.”

AT&T Skyview Stage and Budweiser Acoustic Stage at Ascend Amphitheater
New in 2016 were the AT&T Skyview Stage and the Budweiser Acoustic Stage at Ascend Amphitheater. Hosting 5,000 fans each day, the venue featured state-of-art production, seating, concessions, and more.

A highlight for fans were the numerous collaborations and special guests including Phil Vassar and Jamie O’Neal who performed with Sister Hazel; Dan + Shay, who appeared with the Music City Hit Makers; the Bellamy Brothers and “The Voice” contestant Mary Sarah, who joined Country Music Hall of Fame member group The Oak Ridge Boys; Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers who opened for Marshall Tucker Band; guests during the Bobby Bones and the Raging Idiots and the Wonderful Women of Country performance included Danielle Bradbery, Lindsay Ell, Jana Kramer, Maddie & Tae, Cassadee Pope, Hillary Scott, Lucie Silvas, and Natalie Stovall; and John Berry, T. Graham Brown, Chase Bryant, John Michael Montgomery, Lorrie Morgan, Lee Roy Parnell, and T.G. Sheppard joined Tracy Lawrence for some Honky Tonkin’. The biggest draw over the four days was Sara Evans who was introduced by TV personality Todd Chrisley.

The Budweiser Acoustic Stage, also at Ascend Amphitheater, offered more intimate performances from the format’s hottest new talent including Seth Alley, Carlton Anderson, Chris Bandi, Rylie Bourne, Jeston Cade, Hannah Dasher, Hannah Ellis, Endless Summer, Lacy Green, Emily Hackett, Kree Harrison, Jillian Jacqueline, Hunter Phelps, Post Monroe, Jameson Rodgers, Brent Rupard, Shelley Skidmore, CJ Solar, and Mitchell Tenpenny.

Chevrolet Cruze Park
Chevrolet expanded its presence in the CMA Music Festival footprint this year taking over Walk of Fame Park with the bigger, bustling, Chevrolet Cruze Park Stage. Crowd estimates doubled from 2015 and the fans didn’t hesitate to demonstrate their appreciation for the 40 acts performing on the stage during 26 hours of concerts. The exceptional lineup included up-and-comers, established stars, and legends.

Within the Park, Chevrolet provided fans plenty to see and do between performances including interacting with their latest vehicles, a Pickup Lounge where fans could have their hair styled by professionals, shaded charging stations, emoji fan paddles tied to the launch of the all-new 2016 Cruze creative campaign, and a car karaoke experience where fans could sing along to reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year, Luke Bryan’s hit songs. Bryan also surprised two lucky fans by joining them for their car karaoke session on Sunday.

Fan Alley
HGTV returned for a fifth year with its popular HGTV Lodge, where fans were treated to intimate performances and meet and greets by some of Country Music’s hottest acts, including Frankie Ballard, Charles Kelley, Martina McBride, Kip Moore, Old Dominion, as well as HGTV stars Drew and Jonathan Scott from “Property Brothers” and Lex and Alana LeBlanc from “Listed Sisters.”

During each day of the Festival, fans flocked to the Budweiser Country Club, where they enjoyed ice cold beers and outdoor games between concerts. Guests 21-and-over lined up for free custom leather koozies and got to meet Budweiser partners Florida Georgia Line and Thomas Rhett, who made appearances at the Budweiser Country Club to serve America’s No. 1 full-flavored lager to lucky fans.

Gildan Broadway Stage at the Hard Rock Café
The Gildan Broadway Stage at the Hard Rock Cafe rocked with 36 up-and-coming acts performing over the four days.

“The 2016 CMA Music Festival was a tremendous success for Gildan,” said Keith Whitaker, Gildan Director of Marketing. “It is a great venue and great atmosphere to interact with our consumers. CMA has been a great partner over the last six years and their execution has been exceptional.”

Music City Stage
CMA partnered with the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. to present the Music City Stage in the Visitor Center at Bridgestone Arena in 2016. The stage was the only free, air-conditioned indoor Festival stage in the downtown footprint and a great place to escape the heat while enjoying performances from up-and-coming talent including Haley & Michaels, Joey Hyde, Kristen Kelly, Mary Sarah, and Kalie Shorr.

And with high temperatures in Nashville, the stage stayed packed for performances from 40 acts over four days.

Nightly Concerts at Nissan Stadium
The Nightly Concerts at Nissan Stadium featured nearly 40 acts spanning four nights of star-packed shows.

Performing Thursday were Jason Aldean, Kelsea Ballerini, Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, and Rascal Flatts. The Country Music Hall of Fame was well represented with The Oak Ridge Boys performing the national anthem and 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Charlie Daniels jamming with his famous band. An unannounced surprise was Lady Antebellum performing an acoustic set with special guest Cam for special renditions of “Burning House” and “Need You Now.”

Collaborations are a hallmark of CMA Music Festival and 2016 was no exception. Maren Morris joined Rascal Flatts, and Elle King performed with Dierks Bentley, who told the crowd: “She drinks like Blake Shelton and plays banjo like Earl Scruggs.”

Friday, Frankie Ballard delighted the audience with a guitar performance of the national anthem. Clint Black (who was joined by his wife Lisa Hartman Black), Eric Church, Sam Hunt, Chris Stapleton, and Carrie Underwood performed. Hank Williams Jr. performed with special guests Church, Chris Janson, and Justin Moore.

Marshall Tucker Band kicked off Saturday night with the national anthem followed by Florida Georgia Line, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Cole Swindell, Blake Shelton, Steven Tyler, and Chris Young. During the evening, Cassadee Pope joined Young on their Gold duet “Think of You”; Martina McBride joined Tyler on a soulful rendition of “Cryin’”; and The Oak Ridge Boys and Tyler joined Shelton during his closing set.

Before singing the national anthem on Sunday, Ray Stevens reflected on the significance of singing the song in the aftermath of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, admitting during the backstage press conference that it was going to have more meaning. Later that night, Luke Bryan called for a moment of silence to recognize the victims of the Orlando shooting during his performance of “Drink A Beer,” a poignant song about loss that Bryan originally recorded to recognize the death of his siblings.

Performing Sunday were Bryan, Brett Eldredge, Exile, Little Big Town, Thomas Rhett, and Keith Urban. Collaborations included Eldredge and Thomas Rhett performing together; Urban joining Bryan; and special guest Pharrell with Little Big Town.

Press Here
CMA granted access to 700 journalists, photographers, producers, and videographers representing more than 200 domestic and international media outlets including: ABC News, ABC Radio Networks, ABC’s “People’s List,” Associated Press, Bayerischer Rundfunk (Germany), BBC Radio 2 (U.K.), Bell Media-Much (Canada), Billboard, CMT, CNBC Business News, Country Aircheck, Country Music Channel (Australia), Global Television (Canada), “Good Morning America,” MusicRow, Nash Country Weekly, NPR Music, People, People.com, Premiere Radio Network, Rolling Stone, RTL (France), Seven to Eight-TF1 (France), Sirius XM Satellite Radio, Southern Cross Austereo (Australia), Southern Living, Spin Media, The Tennessean, “Today,” United Stations Radio Network, US Weekly, Westwood One, Yahoo!, and more. Regional attendance was bolstered by unprecedented local media coverage with live morning broadcasts including WKRN, WSMV, WZTV, and WTVF, as well as The Weather Channel and CNBC.

International media represented 12 countries including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Cayman Islands, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K.

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 Wednesday, Aug. 3 (8:00-11:00 PM/ET) and hosted for the first time by Brett Eldredge and Thomas Rhett. The special debuted in 2004 and this is the 12th year the special will air on ABC. Robert Deaton is the executive producer.

Merchandise Sales
The CMA merchandise line was a hit with fans. Sales increased 16 percent over 2015. The best seller was the official event T-shirt with the lineup of the Nightly Concerts at Nissan Stadium, with 100 percent of CMA’s proceeds from the sale of the shirt going to the CMA Foundation to support music education initiatives.

Stay Connected
For CMA Fest ticket information and news stay connected with CMA on CMAfest.com, Facebook.com/CMA, Twitter.com/CountryMusic, Instagram.com/CMA, “CMAsnaps” on Snapchat, and sign up for CMA Country Connection, CMA’s e-newsletter.

Don’t miss 2017 CMA Music Festival June 8-11!

CMA Music Festival is organized and produced by the Country Music Association. Fan Fair® is a registered trademark of WSM, Incorporated and is used by permission.

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