When Scott Borchetta joined the American Idol team as mentor this season and committed Big Machine Label Group to signing this season’s winner, there was plenty of speculation that he might push for a country (or “country”) winner, based on the fact that BMLG’s track record so far has been almost exclusively in promoting acts to the country market. But there have been a few signs indicating that Borchetta and BMLG have been working on developing a pop presence beyond their megastar act Taylor Swift, and that partnering with American Idol may instead be a step to bolster that effort. Let’s take a look at those signs now, in chronological order:
In April 2013, Borchetta announced a joint venture between Big Machine Music (BMLG’s publishing arm) and Dr. Luke’s Prescription Songs, with the goal of encouraging more cross-pollination between genres and songwriting communities:
The goal for both teams is to keep an eye open for the other, sending writers to L.A. from Nashville and vice-versa to fit the needs of the two teams. Naturally, both sides see the current landscape in pop music as receptive to the merging of the two cultures, evidenced by Swift’s use of various non-Nashville experts to assist with her music on her latest Big Machine release “Red.”
Both Dr. Luke and Borchetta see the new agreement as an aid to the A&R process, in songwriting and producing as well.
Voice alum and Valory recording act RaeLynn was the joint venture’s 1st signing. And while she was not associated with this venture in any way, 2014 breakout Meghan Trainor, who has gone from a Nashville-based publishing deal (with Big Yellow Dog Music) to a major label recording contract with Epic Records, two hit singles, and a #1 album (which features a mix of LA-based songwriters and Nashville-based songwriters), is a sign that we can expect the pop world to look more often to the Nashville songwriting community for both material and talent. More on this below.
From the personnel side, Borchetta & Big Machine Label Group made a big move in May 2014 when they hired David Nathan away from his Senior VP Promotion & Artist Development position at Republic Records to “spearhead promotion efforts” for BMLG acts. At the time, Borchetta said:
“We’re thrilled to formally welcome David to the team. He’s an incredibly talented and energetic executive who’s always thinking big. David has been involved with Taylor Swift’s history-making crossover success from the very beginning as part of the mighty Republic pop promotion department. I simply could not pass up the opportunity to acquire 100 percent of his focus to the artists at the Big Machine Label Group. This is another step in the evolution of our company and we know it’s going to bring mega pop muscle for our initiatives. We can’t wait to begin working together.”
At the time, it seemed like this move have been to bring promotion of Taylor Swift’s pop music in-house within BMLG. That may have been part of the calculation, but a more recent development suggests there’s more to it.
This mid-September 2014 report from IHeartRadio Fest included this tidbit:
Big Machine label boss Scott Borchetta tells Billboard that Swift’s 1989 may not be the only pure-pop release on the label for very long. As part of a 2013 deal with hitmaker Dr. Luke, Borchetta has already identified another artist, male singer-songwriter Fancy, as the next potential pop-crossover breakout for 2015. Further aiding the effort: Scooter Braun has signed on for management.
So who is “Fancy”? His Twitter account mostly feeds the mystery, but we can fill in a few more details. Jake “Fancy” Hagood is a Nashville singer/songwriter signed, per the above, to the Big Machine/Prescription Records joint venture. He landed a cut last year on the Nick Carter/Jordan Knight joint album, Nick & Knight, called “If You Want It” (cowritten with Carter, Jeff Halavacs, Knight, and Emily Warren). Kree Harrison fans may know him from her original song “Strong & Silent” which they cowrote with Kate York. You can check out some of his older material, which leans country/folk/pop, here.
A few days ago, Scott Borchetta tweeted a link to his “other favorite new song,” and it just happened to be a new song called “Goodbye” by Fancy:
“Goodbye” is cowritten by Jesse Frasure, Fancy Hagood, and Stephenie Jones, and it is pure pop. The song started to pick up spins at radio a few days ago, and Z100 Program Director Mark Medina tweeted to add to the buzz yesterday:
— Mark Medina (@Z100Medina) January 28, 2015
So what do you think…about “Goodbye,” about Fancy, and what they say about Scott Borchetta’s pop hit instincts? And what does all this make you think about what Scott Borchetta’s looking for out of American Idol?