It was supposed to be a party for Little Big Town, but it turned into a round robin of hugs for virtually everyone who had helped make the group's current album, The Road to Here, achieve platinum sales status for shipments of 1 million copies to retailers.
Photo Credit: Brian Tipton
Co-sponsored by Equity Music Group and RLM/Mission Management, the celebration took place Monday (April 2) at the Rosepepper Cantina in Nashville. Nearly 300 guests came by for good vibes and margaritas.
Singer Clint Black, who co-founded Equity with former Sony Music Nashville executive Mike Kraski and financial adviser Charles Sussman, stood beaming benignly in a corner of the restaurant as revelers worked their way over to greet him.
With Mexican music pumping out of the speakers and a warm breeze blowing through the open windows, the affair felt more like a neighborhood festival than an awards presentation.
"Sober up! Come on! Just for a couple of minutes," Kraski shouted to the chattering crowd when he took to the stage to start the ceremony. He called Little Big Town's success "a testament to trust and faith."
Recording, Kraski continued, is "supposed to be about enriching people's lives with music." Equity, he pledged, intends to "cut out that malignancy" that makes the record business all about sales numbers. (Equity is built on a business model under which the artists -- not the record company -- own the music they record.)
Both Kraski and Little Big Town left Sony Music several years ago after a change in the company's leadership. Kraski noted that the group could have sought another conventional record deal but decided instead to "stay true to their music," even though many in the industry considered them "damaged goods."
"I hope we live up to all of the things he's said about us," said Little Big Town's Karen Fairchild. "The only reason we're here is that we've kept showing up."
Group member Kimberly Roads singled out their co-producer, Wayne Kirkpatrick, for special praise. "He believed in us. He fed us. He paid for our record," she said.
Others who were brought forward for commendation and plaques were representatives of Mission Management (the group's managers), CAA (its booking agency) and Navarre Distribution (which distributes Equity's CDs).
Black concluded the presentations by summing up his views about how the goals of Equity and Little Big Town dovetailed.
"I spent 13 years at RCA Records," he said. "I saw the best the majors had to offer." While acknowledging the value of that association, he added, "I did believe things could be done in a better way."
Under Equity's cooperative setup, Black continued, "The more success you have, the more reason you have to stick around. ... Pegasus was the winged horse [of Greek mythology] that only the poet of the truest heart could ride. I think we've created something here that can ride Pegasus to the end of the music industry."