On The Money: Tim Dubois of ASCAP

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Tim Dubois is looking out onto Buddy Killen Circle, from his office on Nashville’s Music Row. “I’ve been here for thirty-three years, and in the last three years, I’ve seen more change than in the first thirty,” he beams from across the conference room table.

Surely it’s not the first time DuBois has uttered that quotable line. It’s no doubt been echoed through the halls of the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management, where DuBois has been a professor of late. A hit songwriter, producer, artist manager, and former head of both Arista Nashville and Universal Records South – there’s not much Tim DuBois hasn’t tackled in those thirty-three years.

Most recently, though, DuBois has rejoined forces with ASCAP, the venerable, 96-year-old performing rights institution, to head up the Nashville Regional Office as Vice-President and Managing Executive, though he’s had affiliations with the company for years.

ASCAP has been making a few changes to the Nashville office, in addition to adding DuBois. They’re not really going around high-fiving about it, but the company has basically laid off a lot of the old guard, people who have been part of the country music and singer-songwriter scenes that have thrived in Nashville over the last few decades in places like the Bluebird Café.

It’s not that ASCAP isn’t still committed to the genres that have defined Nashville for thirty years, but with DuBois at the helm, they’re seeing the possibility for more. “This new direction is just kind of a re-investment into this songwriter community, and recognizing the fact that Nashville is so much more than country and Christian music. We have a great, growing rock scene,” says DuBois. “Nashville is the creative center of the universe if you’re a songwriter.”

If you’re tapped into the new music business architecture in Nashville, this is the type of lingo you’ve been hearing for awhile. It’s the party line for Next Big Nashville, the music festival and conference that is loosely modeled after South By Southwest, which will celebrate its fifth year this October. (American Songwriter, like many Nashville-based music businesses, is also a partner with NBN.) The Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau is on board for the “new Nashville” as well. Not surprisingly, DuBois has been instrumental in both organizations. The idea of Nashville becoming a creative center applies not just to music, but also to technology, film, TV and media.

“You’re having a real influx of people over, not just the last five years, but the last fifteen or twenty years, of people from L.A. and New York, who choose Nashville as a lifestyle,” says DuBois. “One of the reasons I agreed to come back [to ASCAP] is because I believe we’re at a critical point in time for the entire music industry, or the whole intellectual property industry, and we have to be on the forefront of advocating for copyright.”

That’s the Clinical Professor of Management and former Certified Public Accountant in DuBois talking. The other side of him – the creative songwriter and visionary manager – is excited about the new roles that ASCAP can play for artists.

“Part of what we want to do is be supportive of the artist development side of things,” he says. “The record companies just aren’t in a position to do it right now. We can help with publicity and things like that with our bands.”

People on the coasts are no doubt looking at Nashville in new ways, too, thanks to a little band called Kings Of Leon. (Incidentally, the Kings are on ASCAP’s roster.) The new ASCAP Nashville office is also a bet that there’s another big rock act ready to break out of Nashville.

“I think there’s more than one,” says DuBois with a wry smile. “We just signed a group called Non-Commissioned Officers – I love those guys. They’ve got a great future and there’s lots of other bands out there that we’re looking at.”

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