48th year of CMA Fest sets record- Photo CMA

From Humble Beginnings to City Wide domination

Back in the day, the Country Music Association created an event for fans that gave them the opportuntity to get up close and personal with their favorite country stars.  It included autograph sessions, fan club events and concerts held at the racetrack.  Called Fan Fair, it was held each June at the Fairgrounds, a site primarily used for livestock/ agricultural shows and the Tennessee State Fair. 

Fans travelled from near and far, often in RV’s, for the festivities spending hours in line to meet the stars. As you would expect, stereotypical images of country music fans were everywhere.  Budweiser shorts with black socks, big hair, cowboy hats and boots, spangles… you get the picture. 

Stars would stand for hours signing autographs and taking pictures. Fan club members looked forward to the special appearances and involvements of the artists.

Fans flock to Tennessee State Fairgrunds for Fan Fair – Photo The Tennessean

This Ain’t Yo Grandpa’s Country Music

Fast forward to 2019.  CMA Fest is nothing like it’s predecessor.  It is a city-wide hullabaloo designed to have something for everyone.  I counted over 20 stages/venue lineups with non-stop talent.  Of course the big daddy shows at Nissan Stadium and Riverfront Park feature the best of the best, but everywhere you go there is music, and great music at that.

Perhaps the biggest surprise this year, and indicator that country music is everyone’s music was the combined performance of Lil Nas, Keith Urban and Billy Ray Cyrus  singing monster hit “OldTown”.

Lil Nas?  Yeah.


Billy Ray Cyrus, Keith Urban and Lil Nas 

Georgia’s Blanco Brown Burns it up at  CMA Fest


So What’s Up?

Everything! If you look at last year’s “Meant to Be” with Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexa you’ll get it. That song broke all kinds of records for streaming and staying power on the charts. Why? Because it’s modern and people liked it. Who cares about labels today?

Musicians are tired of being put in boxes too-it’s only natural to see people stretching beyond their comfort zones to explore new and exciting sounds.


When do you feel like you’re being labeled?  Or stuck in a box? Just because the majority of your music fits into a specific category doesn’t mean you can’t add some fun twists here and there. Especially when you have friends that play different music than yours who might make a guest appearance.

Here are a couple of tips from our resources to help you jumpstart your thinking about adding new elements to your performances and gigs.

  • Be yourself – figure out what you do best, and enjoy the most
  • Work hard and practice religiously even if you don’t feel like it
  • Be ready to play or sing at a moment’s notice – a fellow musician might ask you to jump in even though their music is different from yours.
  • Pay constant attention to what is new, what is trending
  • Find your groove and experiment with styles that could sound copasetic with your music.’
  • HAVE FUN!!!