Sunday, 14 October, 2007 5:30 PM
Music Without Boundaries: Country
Artists Find Worldwide Success
COURTESY OF TRISHA WALKER-CUNNINGHAM
Rimes, Ronan Keating and Trisha Walker-Cunningham at the Gstaad
Festival in 2004.
Deborah Evans Price
2007 CMA Close Up News Service
The appeal of Country
Music extends far beyond U.S. borders, so savvy artists realize
the value of developing a fan base abroad. Penetrating foreign territories
takes time and commitment, but for acts that have guitar (or keyboards,
drums, etc.) and will travel, the payoff can be substantial.
Curb Records' the Bellamy
Brothers, who received the 2002 CMA International Artist Achievement
Award, are among the most successful Country acts touring overseas,
with two European tours slated for this year.
is a big part of our career," said David Bellamy. "The
first time we went to Europe we got a call from Warner Bros., and
they said, 'You guys have a hit in Holland!' By the time we started
going over there in 1976 'Let Your Love Flow' was rocking. It peaked
at No. 1 in Germany for eight weeks. Since then we've done 50 tours."
For the past 12 years,
the Bellamys have been represented overseas by Judy Seale, President
of Nashville-based Judy Seale International. Seale began working
in the international market during her early days with the Jim Halsey
"Jim was a pioneer
in getting Country Music overseas," Seale said. "He introduced
me to it and gave me a promotion to VP of International. The very
first tour was with Brenda Lee. We went to Japan for three weeks.
It was a great learning experience and I started making contacts."
One of Seale's most fruitful
relationships started with a fax sent to CMA from a Country Music
enthusiast in Japan. A friend at CMA encouraged her to meet with
promoter Charlie Nagatani, and Japan's Country Gold music festival
"He got a grant
from the government and we had a Country Music festival in Japan,"
Seale recalled. "It was back in '89 and we had 10,000 people
show up. Now we have between 20,000 and 30,000 people a year. Charlie
sends out 5,000 hand-written cards twice a year to the people who
had been before. He tells them who is going to be there, and then
he'll send them tickets and say, 'Can you sell these tickets?' It's
the personal relationship that gets people out there."
Last year, Seale worked
with 27 different festivals, including events in Austria, Denmark,
England, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland
and Wales. But Norway, she insisted, is a particularly good market
for Country Music.
"There's a festival
every weekend, and they turn them into camping events," said
Seale, who has had her own company since 2001, and has won CMA's
Jo Walker-Meador International Award and the CMA International Talent
Buyer/Promoter of the Year Award.
Craponne, France, and
Gstaad, Switzerland are home to two of Country Music's biggest festivals.
Both are handled by Trisha Walker-Cunningham, head of Nashville-based
Trisha Walker International.
"We are in our 19th
year in Gstaad and already have the most stellar lineup," enthused
Walker-Cunningham, citing Riders in the Sky, Julie Roberts, Randy
Travis and Rhonda Vincent. "I co-founded the festival with
promoter Marcel Bach, who has won the International Talent Buyer/Promoter
of the Year Award twice from CMA."
born in Singapore and raised in Cypress before moving to England
at age 11. Nearly three decades ago, she came to Nashville with
$500 and a suitcase full of clothes. That vacation turned to full-time
residency. She became the first recipient of CMA's Jo Walker-Meador
International Award in addition to receiving honors from two Tennessee
governors and two Nashville mayors and having Jan. 5, 1989 designated
"Trisha Walker Day" in Nashville.
"So much has changed
in the last 10 years," she said. "Icons like Willie Nelson,
Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers and Don Williams can tour over there
as long as they want because European fans are very loyal."
Newer acts can build
their fan bases in foreign as well as American markets simultaneously,
in part through radio and TV exposure from festivals such as Craponne's
Festival Country Rendevous and Gstaad but also through recording
duets with popular artists in their home countries.
For example, the Bellamys
guested on two tracks from Here I Am, the latest album by Danish
Country singer Wenche (pronounced Winke) Hartmann, including their
Parton duet "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body (Would You
Hold It Against Me)" and "You're the World," which
David Bellamy co-wrote with his son Jesse.
Trisha Yearwood embarked
on a similar project, after Walker-Cunningham brought her together
with Australian Country star Lee Kernaghan, the 2003 CMA Global
Country Artist Award winner. Proceeds from their collaboration were
donated to farmers battling drought, though Yearwood also benefited
from her greater exposure in the Australian market.
"And two years ago,"
Walker-Cunningham added, "LeAnn Rimes recorded a song with
Ronan Keating and it went No. 1 in the UK and the Top 5 in most
European countries. LeAnn has a name, but that No. 1 with Ronan
broke her to the point where she now has an album on the British
Seale cited the Bellamys
as a shining example of how to have a successful global career and
still perform around 200 dates in the United States. "I could
book them every night of the week," Seale said. "They
went to Europe in 1976 when they had their first hit and they went
back every year."
Bellamy added that going
into foreign territories and building relationships is important.
"'Let Your Love Flow' gave us the foundation we needed, and
because of that, Switzerland really doesn't look at us like an American
act. We've played there so much, we're practically local."
Seale said BR5-49, Kenny Rogers, Marty Stuart and Dwight Yoakam
are among the acts that continue to draw crowds around the world.
For those artists who do play internationally, there's more money
to be made in CD and merchandise sales.
"They usually do
well," Seale said. "Ninety percent of the festivals don't
charge a commission for bringing the product in because you already
have to pay to ship it and pay duty when you bring it in. So everything
you make is yours."
Seale said new areas
are continually opening up, including China, where a group of sponsors,
with support from CMA, maintain a booth at the China Home Entertainment
Center, a sprawling permanent exhibition in the port city of Guangzhou,
"We are promoting
Country Music and the state of Tennessee," said Seale, who
also volunteers her time to take artists on trips to support the
U.S military. She did 10 military tours last year, citing Charlie
Daniels, Aaron Tippin and Chely Wright as some of the most supportive
Seale encourages Country
newcomers to travel overseas. "If they would just take two
weeks out of their lives and go over there and build a marketplace,
then in the long run, those people will be fans for life."
BY LIZ CAVANAUGH
County rocks Japan's Country Music Festival, Country Gold, in 2004.
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