CMA Flashes Country Riches

The CMA Country Music Festival in Nashville is making the case that both country and western music are the ways to success.

The former FanFair drew an all-time high daily attendance of 52,000 people June 4-8, according to the Country Music Association, topping last year’s figure of 48,000. Four-day Gold Circle tickets for next year’s event went on sale June 7th and sold out in a record 15 minutes, the CMA reported. Advance sales in general increased as well.

Meanwhile, the Tennessean summed up the increased interest in country music with a feature article on one of its newest stars: Jessica Simpson. Maybe Simpson’s Daisy Duke cutoffs and affection for a Dallas Cowboy made the shift inevitable, but Simpson told the paper she would be making country music "for the rest of my life."

She spent the CMA fest introducing herself to new fans and pitching a song she co-wrote, "Come On Over." Many people have told her they wanted to hate the song but liked it, Simpson told the paper.

The fan-friendly event was launched in Nashville in 1972, giving fans a chance to see top acts and mingle with stars. It’s as much a treasure trove for autograph seekers as a music festival. Some artists spend more time signing than playing.

It was the first festival since Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn floated the idea that the city and the CMA need to find a way to pay top-level artists for their participation or they may go away. Instead of paying the artists for their time, the CMA donates half of the net proceeds to charity on the artists’ behalf.

Alan Jackson said he understands the value of giving back to the fans, especially for successful artists like himself, but performing is financially "tighter" for new artists trying to make it without the traditional income from record sales.

Meanwhile, other cities are trying to court the festival but CMA Chief Executive Officer Tammy Genovese says the popular event is staying in the city of the Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium forever.