Scott Borchetta: Country music maverick or anti-Christ?

From left, musicians Jennifer Nettles, Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood, Naomi Judd, and Wynonna Judd perform onstage during ACM Presents: "Girls' Night Out: Superstar Women of Country" concert held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev.

Some articles label Scott Borchetta, the music executive who founded Big Machine Records, a "music industry maverick" who has "taken some of the biggest creative risks in country music." Others have dubbed him the "country music anti-Christ," responsible for orchestrating the "biggest perversion of the term 'country' the genre has ever seen" (a.k.a. the pop-powerhouse Taylor Swift).

"I'm just the current one in a long line of being considered trying to kill country music," says Borchetta. "But if you go back and read up, Patsy Cline was taking guff. 'Her albums are so poppy-sounding! This cannot be!' Our entire goal is to make something that moves you ... if you don't want to call it country, I don't care. That doesn't matter to me."

Some say Borchetta has turned country music on its head. And not just in the artists he's discovered and signed (including Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw and Rascall Flatts), but in the deals he's negotiated -- deals that he hopes will be potential blueprints for monetizing music in the digital age.

Under a recent deal between Big Machine and Clear Channel, BM performers get paid royalties each time their song are played on the radio. The web royalties, however, are capped -- Clear Channel doesn't pay through the nose for plays and the artists get plenty of web exposure.

"Radio is still the number one place for discovery," says Borchetta. "It's just not the only place. We want to be everywhere."

Including digital streaming services like Spotify, Rdio and Rhapsody.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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