Charlie Robison Comments on Gary Overton’s Departure From Sony
Sony Music Nashville head Gary Overton surprised Nashville insiders when he announced he was stepping down from his position earlier this week, and now an artist who recently had some very harsh public words for him is weighing in.
Texas country artist Charlie Robison made waves when he slammed Overton in a Facebook post after the executive told Nashville's Tennessean newspaper, "If you're not on country radio, you don't exist."
Overton made that comment in the context of talking about the annual Country Radio Seminar, which brings together Music Row executives, artists and radio programmers from around the country and helps set the radio agenda for the rest of the year. He added, "I can't think of one star, much less superstar in country music, who wasn't broken by country radio. It's just a fact. That's where the active audience is. That's where they go to listen to it ... I defy you to tell me one act that made it big without country radio."
The line about "If you're not on country radio, you don't exist" received widespread coverage, and Robison — who's had a long career both within the Nashville label system, and later independently — responded in an angry Facebook post that touched off a flame war with Florida Georgia Line, who are not a part of the Sony family, but were named in his online rant.
Now Robison is claiming victory in the wake of Overton's announcement.
"It more p---ed me off that someone could say something like that about my peers or people that I have looked up to all my life and think they could get away with it," he tells Saving Country Music of his response to Overton's remarks. " I thought I was going to wake up the next morning and see 50 ‘likes’ and that’s all there was going to be to it. I had not earthly idea that Florida Georgia Line was going to jump in the mix and that this was going to end up maybe forcing him out of his position as president [of Sony Nashville]. You know, I feel for his family, but to tell you the truth, I really don’t give a s--t about him."
Looking back on his own past experiences with Warner Brothers and Sony, he adds, "They had me convinced that I had to be on radio to be successful because there wasn’t this [Texas] scene. Now I really don’t give a s--t if I’m on the radio or not. I’ve had a very unbelievable career for a long time, and it’s going better than ever. I really didn’t have a dog in this hunt to tell you the truth. Like I said, this was more about my peers and my friends in this business. And the fans, because [Gary Overton] was not just saying artists don’t matter. If it was only me posting that rant, then nothing would have happened. But it was the fan backlash, and them taking it personally as well. It was them saying, 'Hey, you’re not going to talk about the people we love, our artists that way and get away with it.' It was mostly them."
Robison points out that the freedom he has to market his own music outside of the mainstream radio system also gives him the freedom to speak his mind.
"It’s my fan base that gives me the freedom to say that, because I don’t have the fear of any kind of repercussions of any record label or anything like that," he says. "I can speak as freely as I want to because of the amazing fan base that we have down here. So it isn’t like I have anything to lose by p---ing off some Nashville big wig. And I’m just really glad my comments shined a light on how some people just s--t on other people’s dreams."
According to a statement from Overton and Sony, their decision to part was mutual.
"Working at Sony Music has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career," he said in a press release. "I will deeply miss the talented team at SMN, but I am also excited about starting the next chapter of my career. I want to thank the amazing staff for their tireless commitment to supporting our incredible artists."
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