(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)
How would you like to be immortalized in country music history? Well, you can’t exactly be a Country Music Hall of Famer, but your name can live on in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, thanks to the modern phenomenon of naming rights.
As one example of naming rights, you may not have known that what you thought was the New York Public Library — the famous edifice with the two majestic lions guarding its entrance at 42nd and Fifth in New York City, the building that you saw in the opening of the movie Ghostbusters — is actually not called that. It is now officially the Samuel A. Schwarzman Building.
It is still the library’s main branch building, but it is now but one of dozens of total NYPL locations.
A billionaire banker and investor named Samuel A. Schwarzman had the historic Beaux-Arts main building of the New York Public Library named after him in 2007 after he gifted the library with a $100 million donation. That seems like a bargain now for one of the most famous and photographed structures in the world.
The naming of the Taylor Swift Education Center, now under construction at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, came after she donated $4 million to the museum. Of course, neither Schwarzman nor Swift actually bought the rights. The NYPL and the HoF named structures after them because of their largesse and their generous donations to those institutions.
In today’s era of rampant financial insecurity for nonprofit institutions across the board and of fractured government on many levels, many such institutions would fail were it not for charitable donations from the private sector. Most of them certainly would never be able to grow without an infusion of private cash.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is part of Nashville’s new downtown re-imaging, with a large, new convention center under construction that’s attached to an adjacent hotel and a greatly-expanded museum.
As part of that expansion, the Country Music Hall of Fame is offering new opportunities for your sponsorship and naming right. There are many examples already named, such as the Country Music Association Theater, Stage & Foyer, the Frist Family Library and Archive, the Frist Grand Fifth Avenue Entrance, the Vince Gill Band Room, the HCA Lobby, the BMI Pre-Function Space, the Goodman Family Green Room, the SESAC Dressing Room and the Sony/ATV Dressing Room.
You could also sponsor one or more of the Grand Staircase Steps, with your name attached to a step (as has President Sebastian Pinera of Chile). Or you could do the same for seats in the new 800-seat CMA Theater. And there are more opportunities. Contact the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum for details.
Well beyond the sphere of educational and nonprofits, though, seemingly everything today is for sale or is sponsored and named after a person or a corporation. There is a registry that for many years now has offered to sell you the right to name a star — a real star out there in space, I mean. And many people have kicked around the idea of selling naming rights for the Earth’s moon — without seeming to worry about who actually owns the moon. Which, after all, does not really have a name, other than the moon. And there are plenty of people who should have the right to be themselves named after the planet Uranus.
NASCAR long ago pioneered the plastering of ads all over their jumpsuits and cars and races, with advertisers ranging from Winston cigarettes to Tide detergent to Viagra and Nesquik.
Now, sponsoring and naming have seemingly jumped every boundary. As more and more cities face financial crises, they are trading naming rights for structures ranging from fire hydrants to train and bus stations to buildings, in exchange for cash. Universities are swapping names for dollars, from buildings to departments and programs.
How about the restroom at the Harvard Law School that is now named the Falik Men’s Room? The name “Falik” is pronounced just the way it looks, and it was named for Harvard Law graduate and current University of California at Berkeley School of Law professor William Falik. For real. For how much? $100,000.
If you’ve ever wondered why the balcony in Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium is named the Confederate Gallery, rest assured that it was not sold to the Confederacy. It was named after Confederate veterans of the Civil War, who constructed that balcony for their convention in 1897.
Football and baseball facilities themselves should be the subject of a quiz show, ranging from the first such park. Boston’s Fenway Park was named for a realtor in 1912. See if you can identify the following: Monster Park, Busch Stadium, Wrigley Field, Rich Stadium, 3Com Park, Candlestick Park, Forbes Field, MetLife Stadium and QualComm Stadium.
And who can possibly keep up with college bowl games’ names and sponsors? They range from the Capital One Bowl to the Chick Fil-A Bowl to the Outback Bowl.
I think donations to educational nonprofits are a worthy and worthwhile gift. Your name or your family’s name will live on in supporting a very valuable institution. That’s better than sticking your name on a football stadium, any day of the week. Or, certainly, better than putting it on a urinal.
You know what I would like to have named after me? A bookmobile, that’s what. They are one of civilization’s greatest inventions. Bookmobiles still venture out into the wilds of the world where the Internet and Amazon.com don’t function. And bookmobiles allow books to bring light to otherwise dark corners of the world.