Rain or Shine, the CMA Music Festival’s Popularity Continues to Grow

Rain or Shine, the CMA Music Festival’s Popularity Continues to Grow

2015 CMA Music Festival 75 Percent of the Way to Another Sell Out!

NASHVILLE – CMA Music Festival sold out a record 15 weeks in advance prompting large, enthusiastic crowds at the Festival’s numerous free stages and event areas including AT&T U-verse® Fan Fair X at the Music City Center matching 2013’s attendance record of 80,000 fans per day.

“The advance sell out speaks to the strength of the event with our fans,” said CMA Chief Executive Officer Sarah Trahern. “The popularity of our artists and the entertainment value of this Festival is what drove attendance and filled the streets of downtown Nashville.”

Attendance figures for 2014 include four-day ticket packages and promotional tickets, as well as attendance in Fan Fair X, and free areas downtown. In all, more than 450 artists participated in more than 150 hours of concerts on 11 different stages.

Fans obviously liked what they saw: tickets for 2015 CMA Music Festival, which will be held Thursday through Sunday, June 11-14, are selling quicker than ever. Ticket sales are 28 percent ahead of last year with 75 percent of available tickets already sold. Fans can order tickets by calling the CMA Box Office at 1-800-CMA-FEST (262-3378). To purchase tickets online, visit CMAfest.com.

Intermittent rain on Thursday and severe thunderstorms Saturday impacted attendance in the free areas and delayed the start of the Nightly Concert Saturday, but fans in rain ponchos were undeterred, waiting out the weather to see their favorite stars perform.

Attendance in the numerous free areas including The Buckle, Fan Alley, public events, and concert venues was brisk and attendance at many stages showed significant growth year-to-year. Opening day at Chevrolet Riverfront Stage saw tens of thousands of fans pass through the gates for the free concerts. Crowds for the new Samsung Galaxy Stage in Walk of Fame Park were strong, and attendance at the Bud Light Stage on the Bridgestone Arena Plaza increased over 2013. 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. Nearly 60 different brands participated in the CMA Music Festival – a 39 percent increase from 2013.

“This year’s Festival featured sold-out shows at LP Field in record-setting time, so we knew our corporate partners were going to benefit from the excitement and attendance generated by this event,” said Damon Whiteside, CMA Senior Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships. “The strategy for our partnerships is to develop innovative experiential and marketing opportunities that will engage our passionate fans not only during the June Music Festival, but throughout the summer season leading into our ABC Network TV special, ‘CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock.’ Along with the amazing lineup of talent and fan experiences at all of our stages and AT&T U-verse® Fan Fair X, our brand partners are creating some of the best activations the Festival has seen to date, which is essential for CMA to keep the fans excited to come back year after year.”

Keep The Music Playing Changes Lives

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 signing autographs and performing. In appreciation of their exhaustive efforts, The CMA Foundation donates proceeds from the event to music education on the artists’ behalf through CMA’s Keep the Music Playing program. Since 2006, CMA has donated more than $9 million to this worthy cause.

On Thursday, there was an official presentation of a $10,000 check to The CMA Foundation for Keep the Music Playing programs as part of “Chicken of the Sea: 100 Years of Good.” As a way of thanking Americans for its first 100 years, the brand is investing $1 million in 100 charitable individuals and nonprofits with $10,000 “Great American Gratitude” awards to aid them in continuing their grassroots community service and goodwill efforts.

CMA’s fans are contributing to this worthy and important initiative, too, by bidding on one-of-a-kind experiences and signed items in the Fifth Annual CMA Celebrity Auction, which was held in AT&T U-verse® Fan Fair X and benefited Keep the Music Playing. The auction raised more than $100,000 ($80,000 in 2013) and included more than 100 items including meet and greets, guitars, autographed merchandise and more from stars and celebrities including Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, KISS, Brad Paisley, and The Beach Boys.

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 2014, Festival attendees came from all 50 states and 24 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K.

Fans Connect Digitally

CMA continued its practice of interacting with fans through digital and social channels at the 2014 CMA Music Festival, to both inform and reward loyal Festival attendees.

CMAfest.com once again hosted the live stream from the CMA Close Up Stage at AT&T U-verse® Fan Fair X. Fans all over the world were treated to performances and Q&A sessions from hugely popular Artists of the Day.

The free CMA Music Festival app presented by ATT U-verse® for iPhone and Android saw more than 38,000 downloads – a 67 percent uptick year-to-year. App features included event maps, schedules of activities and performance lineups with the option for users to create their own personalized, custom schedule. Additionally, CMA social media streams and news bulletins were integrated, and the CMA Music Festival app offered push notifications to update attendees on weather alerts and schedule changes.

At LP Field, fans were invited to post their Festival photos to Instagram throughout the weekend using #CMAFEST, and photos were also featured nightly on the LP Field screens. New in 2014, CMA partnered with Spotify to create the CMA Music Festival Spotify Jukebox. The jukebox powered the in-house music that played in between acts. Fans were invited to tweet their requests in to the jukebox using #SpotifyCMA.

CMA’s total aggregate digital audience has reached 2.25 million fans, growth of 18 percent from the 1.9 million in June 2013.

2014 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.
“Country Music is reaching a broader and more diverse audience than ever and we believe these shifts have an impact on our attendee base,” said Karen Stump, CMA’s Senior Director of Market Research. “Our research among Festival attendees about their motivations and experiences related to our event serves as a vital tool for CMA to continuously deliver a memorable and relevant event for our fans.”

Findings from 2014:

  • 50 percent of attendees were attending for the first time (48 percent in 2013)
  • Among first time attendees, 52 percent were visiting Nashville for the first time
  • 17 percent of first time attendees reported they had become a fan of the genre recently (within the past one to five years)
  • 76 percent of attendees traveled more than 250 miles
  • The average distance traveled to attend the festival is 665 miles
  • 96 percent of attendees indicated plans or interest in attending again next year
  • 82 percent of attendees posted to social media about their daily experience
    • 75 percent posted to Facebook
    • 37 percent tweeted on Twitter
    • 46 percent posted to Instagram
  • 62 percent stated they became a “new” fan of an artist they discovered at the Festival
  • 52 percent were under the age of 40 (slightly up from 50 percent last year)
  • 48 percent have an annual household income of $75,000 or more

These preliminary numbers are based on CMA’s onsite/in-person surveying of 437 attendees over the four days. Additional research is being conducted and will result in added insights about CMA Music Festival attendees based on input from more than 2,000 patrons.

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 eight acts including four international artists Lindsay Ell, Tim Hicks, and Small Town Pistols, from Canada; and Morgan Evans from Australia. Rounding out the diverse lineup was honky-tonk traditionalists Brazilbilly; Southern rock legends The Marshall Tucker Band, who made their Festival debut in 2013, were joined on stage by surprise guest Ricky Skaggs; and Shooter Jennings who performed with Waymore’s Outlaws, his father Waylon Jennings’ touring and studio backing band. It was Jennings’ first CMA Music Festival appearance, but he carried on a family legacy. His father Waylon performed at the first Fan Fair in 1972, and continued performing at the annual event throughout the ‘90s.

AT&T U‐verse® Fan Fair X

X marked the coolest daytime spot for Nashville’s “signature” event in the AT&T U-verse® Fan Fair X with autograph signings, concerts, lifestyle exhibits, marketplace, live broadcasts, and more in the Music City Center.

LeAnn Rimes kicked it off on Thursday with an official ribbon cutting, acoustic performance, and Q&A session with the fans, hosted by Great American Country’s Storme Warren.

“I’ve been coming here since when I was really little, so it’s such an honor to be here now,” said Rimes. “Good to see everybody!”

More than 63,000 visitors passed through the turnstiles into Fan Fair X throughout the Festival. The number of artists signing autographs and performing on the stages increased from less than 400 in 2013 to more than 500, participating in more than 800 artist opportunities in 2014.

The number of artists signing in CMA Central, CMA’s signature headquarters in the middle of all the Fan Fair X action, led to some unique photo ops for fans, including surprise activities and ticket giveaways at the red-carpeted fan area, where fans gathered for an opportunity to meet the stars.

Dustin Lynch made a surprise appearance Saturday to sign in the Field & Stream booth. Dan + Shay had scheduled an hour-long signing on Saturday, but stayed an additional two hours to meet their fans. The Oak Ridge Boys unofficially closed the hall on Sunday singing a cappella on the AT&T Showcase Stage. The CMA Close Up Stage doubled in size from 2013 and was packed with standing-room-only performances from Craig Morgan, Lady Antebellum, Charles Esten, Sara Evans, Rimes, and American Country Countdown with Kix Brooks.

Artists of note that signed autographs or participated: Lauren Alaina, Bill Anderson, Rodney Atkins, Big & Rich, Big Smo, Kix Brooks, Kristian Bush, Terri Clark, Mark Collie, Billy Ray Cyrus, The Doobie Brothers, Duck Commander, Eli Young Band, Crystal Gayle, Brantley Gilbert, Gloriana, Jana Kramer, Jim Lauderdale, Brenda Lee, Little Big Town, Lonestar, Love and Theft, Neal McCoy, Scotty McCreery, Jo Dee Messina, Justin Moore, Kip Moore, Sam Moore, Lorrie Morgan, David Nail, Joe Nichols, Charley Pride, Sawyer Brown, Ashton Shepherd, Skaggs, Jamie Lynn Spears, Alison Sweeney, The Band Perry, Thompson Square, Mel Tillis, Chuck Wicks, Mark Wills, Wynonna, and many more.

This marks the third year that AT&T has been title sponsor of the exhibit hall experience, first at the Nashville Convention Center and now Fan Fair X at the Music City Center. The AT&T Showcase Stage featured performances and interviews with 49 of Nashville’s great songwriters and artists.

“Whether it was during a live performance, at an autograph signing or while checking out the Country Deep app, AT&T U-verse Fan Fair X gave Country Music fans unparalleled access to the artists and music they love,” said Brian Collins, Vice President of Wireline Consumer Marketing, AT&T Home Solutions. “We’re proud to participate in another successful CMA Music Festival, and we look forward to next year.”

Durango® returned to present the Durango Music Spot, which launched in 2004 as a showcase for independent artists, and featured nearly 50 performers. The Music Spot was extremely popular with fans and the area stayed packed throughout nearly 15 hours of music in Fan Fair X. All performances were broadcast and streamed live by 650 WSM-AM Nashville.

Chevrolet Riverfront Stage

Arriving via the Budweiser wagon pulled by the world-famous Clydesdale horses, Big & Rich opened four days of music at the popular Chevrolet Riverfront Stage.
“Is everybody ready to have the time of your life? Welcome to Music City!” said John Rich of Big & Rich. “I don’t think there’s a better party in the world than right here at CMA Fest in Nashville.”

“The CMA Fest provides a great opportunity to connect with a passionate fan base in a very authentic manner,” said Michael Weidman, National Promotions Manager, Chevrolet. “Our goal this year was to have fans walk away with Chevy as a part of their memories of the experience. Based on what I saw, this was accomplished.”
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 50 artists performed 22 hours of concerts over the four days. More than 143,000 fans passed through the gates to watch the performances at Chevrolet Riverfront Stage over the course of the Festival.

Bud Light Stage at Bridgestone Arena Plaza

The audiences at the Bud Light Stage at the Bridgestone Arena Plaza were enthusiastic and didn’t hesitate to demonstrate their appreciation for the 51 artists performing on the stage during 18 hours of concerts. The exceptional lineup included up-and-comers, established stars, and legends.

“I have seen quite a few music events in my 19-year career with Anheuser-Busch, but this was by far the most inclusive and widespread music festival I have been part of,” said David Spafford, Director Trade Marketing-Region 2 Anheuser-Busch, Inc. “It is an honor to be part of the CMA Music Festival. We feel it is a wonderful platform of events, parties, and activation elements to reach our core consumers in a real and interactive way. Nashville is an incredible host city for this event which offers big-city feel with down home hospitality. Bud Light is proud to be part of the Festival and look forward to many years of this great partnership.”

Samsung Galaxy Stage in Walk of Fame Park

This year, Samsung hosted the Samsung Galaxy Stage, where concertgoers had the chance to listen to music by the next big thing in Country Music. In addition, the Samsung Galaxy Experience and Samsung Galaxy Owner’s Lounge on the Festival grounds provided attendees with a place to escape the heat and check out the brand’s latest offerings including Samsung’s new, free music streaming service, Milk Music™, and the new Galaxy S® 5, Gear Fit, and Gear 2.

“We were thrilled to have a premiere technology partner such as Samsung embrace the Country Music fan base,” said Whiteside. “Their multiple activations brought engaging experiences that enhanced the Festival for our artists and fans and allowed Samsung to build a stronger relationship with the Country Music industry.”

Nightly Concerts at LP Field

The Nightly Concerts at LP Field featured more than 50 artists spanning four nights of star-packed shows.

Pre-show activities Thursday included the national anthem performed by young musicians from the W.O. Smith Nashville Community Music School, which is a beneficiary of The CMA Foundation’s Keep the Music Playing music education charitable campaign, CMA’s Trahern, and the Governor of Tennessee, the honorable Bill Haslam.

“Country Music is the only genre where artists and fans come so close together,” said Haslam. “You’re going to hear the best music in the world tonight! How many of you are not from Tennessee? If you’re not from Tennessee, let everyone hear it back home!”

Performing Thursday were Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Brantley Gilbert, Tim McGraw, and Rascal Flatts. The audience also enjoyed a heritage performance from Alabama, who hadn’t done a full band performance at the Festival since 1995. To the delight of the crowd, Faith Hill joined McGraw for a performance of “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s.”

Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, and The Band Perry performed on Friday. Travis Tritt, who last performed at the Festival in 2005,was the heritage act of the evening, and Danielle Bradbery performed the national anthem. Special guest performances are a highlight of the Festival and there were several: Lzzy Hale, lead singer of Halestorm, joined Church for “That’s Damn Rock & Roll”; Tritt joined Aldean for “Homesick”; and Carrie Underwood performed “Somethin’ Bad” with Lambert.

Severe storms Saturday delayed the start of the concert by an hour, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the crowd who sat through showers to see Florida Georgia Line, Little Big Town, Darius Rucker, and Keith Urban. Chris Young had to cancel due to an injury to his left hand that required surgery. Sara Evans, who opened the Festival at the Chevrolet Riverfront Stage in 2013, delighted fans at LP Field. Winner of “The Sing Off,” a cappella group Home Free sang the national anthem. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean welcomed the rain-soaked crowd to Nashville. Urban had lot of company during his set including Florida Georgia Line for “You Gonna Fly” and Karen Fairchild from Little Big Town to perform “We Were Us.”

Hunter Hayes, Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley, Thomas Rhett, and Zac Brown Band performed Sunday. Charlie Daniels Band, who joined Paisley for a performance in 2013, was the legacy act. The Oak Ridge Boys performed the national anthem. Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora joined Zac Brown Band for “Wanted Dead or Alive.”

Paisley closed the Festival and capped the night by saying, “Be safe going home – wherever that is – we love you!”

BMI Tailgate Party

For the third year, the BMI Tailgate Party was located outside LP Field with a strong selection of more than 25 BMI songwriters and artists warming up the audience and providing a popular pre-show destination before fans entered the stadium for the Nightly Concerts.


CMA granted access to more than 600 journalists, photographers, producers, and videographers representing more than 230 domestic and international media outlets including: ABC News, ABC Radio Networks, “Access Hollywood,” Associated Press, BBC Radio 2 (U.K.), Billboard, The Boston Globe, CMT, CNN Headline News, Country Aircheck, Country Music Channel (Australia), Country Weekly, “Dr. Phil,” Great American Country, “Good Morning America,” “Headline Country,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” MusicRow, Nashville Business Journal, NPR Music, OK! Magazine, People, People.com, Premiere Radio Network, Rolling Stone, RTL (France), Sirius XM Satellite Radio, The Tennessean, “Today,”’ United Stations Radio Network, UPI Newswire, US Weekly, USA Today, The Weather Channel, and more.  International media outlets represented 12 countries including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K.

Safety First

As always, CMA took numerous steps in 2014 to protect the safety of fans, artists, volunteers, and staff, so everyone could fully enjoy the Ultimate Country Music Fan Experience, including water stations and misting tents for quick relief from the heat.

CMA also utilized the “If You See Something, Say Something” program from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). “If You See Something, Say Something” is a simple and effective program to raise public awareness and to emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious activity to the proper local law enforcement authorities.

Medical tents and roving medical teams from Vanderbilt Medical Center, a nonprofit medical facility, were readily available for Festival-goers needing attention for a variety of ailments including falls and heat. Pre-planning by CMA and the medical crews resulted in lower than average medical treatment for fans. In all, they logged 500 patient contacts with 18 ambulance transports – below numbers for previous years, which typically exceeded 1,000 contacts and more than 20 transports

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. 5 (8:00-11:00 PM/ET) and hosted for the second 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. The primetime event features stadium concerts and intimate club-like performances with beind-the-ropes access to the artists.

Stay Connected

Fans can stay in the loop with CMA Music Festival by visiting CMAfest.com, the official website of CMA Music Festival, where they can sign up for the CMA Exclusive enews. Fans can also connect with CMA at Facebook.com/CMA, Twitter.com/CountryMusic, Instagram.com/CMA, and by texting FESTIVAL to 66937 (message & data rates may apply).

CMA Music Festival – the Ultimate Country Music Fan Experience – is a celebration of America’s music. CMA Music Festival is a four-time winner of the International Entertainment Buyers Association’s LIVE! Award for Festival of the Year (2004, 2006, 2008, 2010). According to Budget Travel Magazine, Nashville is one of the Top 10 Best Budget Destinations and CMA Music Festival is “the” time to visit. Conde Nast Traveler selected Nashville as one of the Best Places to Go in 2013 citing easy access to “incredible live music.” And CMA Music Festival was named one of the Top 10 Summer Festivals of 2013 by Livability.com, a national website that ranks quality of life and travel amenities of America’s small and mid-sized cities.

Don’t miss it June 11-14, 2015!