Troy Tomlinson Leaves Sony/ATV to Head UMPG Nashville; Will Taylor Swift Follow?

Chris Willman

Troy Tomlinson will become the chairman/CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group Nashville after leaving his longtime home, Sony/ATV, where he served as president/CEO of the Nashville division since 2005, it was announced Monday. He assumes the newly created position July 15.

Even before the move was officially announced, there was speculation that Sony/ATV’s most prominent songwriter, Taylor Swift, will follow after her music publishing contract expires at the end of the year.

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“I’m so excited to join Jody and her exceptional team at UMPG,” said Tomlinson in a statement, referring to Jody Gerson, chairman/CEO of UMPG, to whom he’ll report. “For me, this is the right time and UMPG is the right place to channel my energy and passion to build something entirely new and dynamic for Nashville’s songwriting community. I’ve long admired Jody even before I had the opportunity to work with her at Sony, and to see what she’s achieved at Universal and the culture she’s created in just the few years since she joined is nothing short of inspiring.”

As recently as last week, Sony/ATV sources were insisting Tomlinson was in renegotiation talks with the company, despite whispers throughout Nashville that he had already closed a deal with UMPG.

Changes have been afoot at Sony/ATV, most notably the somewhat less-than-voluntary retirement on March 31 of longtime chairman/CEO Marty Bandier, who was succeeded by Jon Platt. Swift, who at 14 was the youngest artist ever to sign with Sony/ATV, was seen as being close with Bandier as well as Tomlinson. It is worth noting that Swift signed a giant deal with Universal’s Republic label last fall, after her deal with Nashville-based indie Big Machine expired. Despite a move away from country music, Swift’s ties to Nashville remain especially tight on the publishing side. The star’s reps did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

UMPG Nashville did not previously have its own chairman/CEO. Kent Earls is departing the company after heading up the division as EVP/GM since 2012.

In a departing statement, Earls said, “The past 21-plus years at UMPG Nashville have been truly incredible. I’m very proud of our many accomplishments while at the helm. … The true joy was either signing, developing (or) furthering the careers of incredibly talented songwriters like Luke Laird, Rivers Rutherford, Chase McGill, Lori Mckenna, Natalie Hemby, Shane McAnally and Andrew Dorff and songwriter-artists like Sam Hunt, Keith UrbanKane BrownChris Young, Maren Morris and so many more. I am also so proud of the staff we assembled in my time there; they are second to none and are the reason we achieved so many highs. I love the Nashville music industry and community and excited to see what the future holds.”

Tomlinson’s new bosses at UMPG were effusive in their praise for the incoming Nashville topper. “Troy’s track record in Nashville is the stuff of legend,” Gerson said a statement. “He is simply one of the best and most successful creative executives the Nashville publishing community has ever seen. And having worked closely with him during my time at Sony, I know firsthand of his ability to take a promising songwriter with a song and turn them into a career artist. I’m thrilled to have him join UMPG’s senior management team and accelerate our transformation into the most progressive and effective partner to songwriters anywhere.”

“When it comes to identifying great songs, songwriters and artists, Troy is one of Nashville’s finest,” added Sir Lucian Grainge, Universal Music Group’s chairman/CEO.

Other artists Tomlinson worked with during his tenure at Sony/ATV besides Swift include country hitmakers Eric Church, Thomas Rhett, Miranda Lambert, Kelsea Ballerini, Kenny Chesney, Darius Rucker, Jon Pardi, Brett Eldredge, Bobby Braddock, Josh Osborne, Ross Copperman, Tom Douglas and Luke Laird.

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