Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Title: Changing Nashville's tune.(country musician Reba McEntire; includes related article on Trisha Yearwood)(Cover Story) Author: Suzanna Andrews Source:Working Woman, August 1995 v20 n8 p32(7).

Article:

 BACK WHEN REBA McENTIRE Was STILL WORKING SOUTHERN HONKY-TONKS AND
COUNTY fairs and desperately longing for stardom, someone told her that Elvis
Presley used to command $50,000 a concert. She was stunned. "I will never
forget that," she says as she sits in her dressing room at the Pyramid arena
in Memphis. i thought, Lord, do you think I'll ever make it to that
point?"'
	There is a triumphant edge to the singer's smile when she recalls the
moment.And no wonder: In two hours she will perform a sold-out concert for
14,500 screaming fans. The event will gross $340,300-right there in the King's
hometown. Even after deducting for the singular special effects (14
costume changes, a taxicab driven on stage and a cable car that rises above the
audience) and the massive equipment (497 lights, 64 speakers and
several state-of-the-art video screens), McEntire will still net an estimated
150,000.

Eat your heart out, Elvis.

	These days and nights, Reba McEntire reigns as country music's
undisputed queen. In May, the Academy of Country Music voted her the I995
Entertainer of the Year over such male stalwarts as Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson. She grosses more from her concerts than any other country star, male or
female.
	Last year, according to the industry publication Amusement Business,
McEntire's concert revenues of $18.7 million made her the only country
performer among the top 10 touring acts in the U.S.--and, with Barbra
Streisand, she is one of only two women in that stellar circle. She has
also sold 22 million albums, more than any other female country artist in
history.
	At 40, McEntire is worth more than $20 million and owns a
corporation--named Starstruck Entertainment, in honor of her girlhood ambitions--that has diversified into everything from construction to leasing and chartering
jets to raising racehorses.
	Forget big hair and heartbreak. Country women have thoroughly
transformed themselves in the 27 years since Tammy Wynette sang "Stand By Your Man" and meant it. Dolly Parton, whose personal fortune is now estimated at more
than $100 million, was the first Nashville artist to turn big
business-woman, building an empire that includes a theme park, a movie-production
company and a music-publishing firm. Now there's a score more of savvy,
strong-minded women chewing up both the charts and the balance sheets, from Trisha Yearwood, Wynonna Judd and Kathy Mattea to Patty Loveless, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Pam Tillis. They are entrepreneurs as well as entertainers, co-producing their albums, coordinating their tours and setting up companies to control the rights to their songs.
	THESE WOMEN HAVE BEEN ESPECIALLY QUICK TO take advantage of the new
reality of country music. Once a business backwater, it is now a
multibillion-dollar industry with a host of revenue-producing opportunities. Videos and corporate endorsements have come to Nashville, along with an expanding audience that has become younger and more sophisticated. "Most male artists are still pretty traditional--the women are pushing the envelope," says Tony Brown, head of artists and repertoire at MCA, McEntire's record label.
	Nobody has pushed harder or more effectively than McEntire. "Reba made
it easier for somebody like me to get respect as a businesswoman and not
only as a pretty little miss," says Trisha Yearwood, 31, who has a degree in
business and is regarded as one of the most assertive younger stars (see Trisha
Yearwood's Rising Star). Reba is the ultimate businesswoman." McEntire
makes no apologies for her ambition. "I'm gonna sound like a greedy, driven,
possessed woman," she says in her undiluted Oklahoma drawl, "but that's
pretty much what you have to be to get ahead. It is still hard for a female to
break into this business--we have to work five times harder. You have to
think up better things, and you have to go put on a show that costs your butt
for the first half of the year until you get it paid for. Women still face a
lot of obstacles, and I have done everything in the world to break through."
	What McEntire has done is change. the image of country women,
consolidate her own music business, diversify her assets and stay close to her
customers. She was one of the first modern country stars to sing about women for whom marriage and children were not enough. Her best-known hit, "Is There
Life Out There," has become an anthem for McEntire fans. Co-written by Rick
Giles and Susan Longacre, one of Nashville's rising female songwriters, it
celebrates a wife and mother who yearns for a more interesting life. She's done what she should, should she do what she dares? is the refrain, and McEntire acts
out the finale onstage--with the woman getting her college degree. Other
concert highlights declare independence even more dramatically. During the song
"Does He Love You?" Reba's wronged wife blows up her two-timing husband's
speedboat (and the husband) via a huge video image. And in "I Won't Stand in
Line" she tells off her philandering boyfriend--and plants her cowboy boot on the
chest of a male dancer lying onstage.
	McEntire's music mirrors her career. In the early '80s, she was touring
in a 20-year-old Silver Eagle bus that often broke down. One night, when her
first husband and manager, Charlie Battles, had booked her into a 17,000-seat
auditorium, only 1,700 People showed up. "I was so embarrassed, so
humiliated," she says. She was also angry enough to begin to pull away
from Battles--and to resolve that she would someday have complete control of
her business. She signed on as the opening act for hit-makers like Conway
Twitty and the Statler Brothers. That raised her visibility and her
confidence. So did encouragement from Narvel Blackstock (now her husband), whom she met when he joined her band in 1980. "Everybody else was just like, 'It's over for you. You've done all you can, you've peaked,'" says McEntire. "It really
infuriated me."
	Never again, McEntire vowed, would she suffer under the misdirection of
some male manager. In 1987 she divorced Battles "I'd have given every penny
I had to get out of it," she once said about the $580,000 settlement she gave
him) and fired her entourage. She created Starstruck the following year,
with Blackstock implementing her vision. Every expansive step Starstruck
took was inspired by McEntire's experience. When she wanted to build her farm
and headquarters, she decided it made sense to get into construction; after
the crash of a chartered plane killed her road manager and seven members of
her band in 1991, she bought her own jet (Starstruck currently operates a
five-plane leasing service to boost revenue and defray costs). But the
management of McEntire's career, which produces the majority of
Starstruck's revenue, comes first; virtuality no aspect is handled by outsiders.
While most other artists, for example, rely on independent booking agents to
schedule the venues they play, paying out some 10% to 20% of their concert gross,
McEntire's concerts are booked in-house. She's even set up a publishing
division to ensure long-term royalties after her own performing days
are over.
	IN THE TOUGH NEW WORLD OF COUNTRY, ARTISTS who don't control their
musical product have little chance of long-term success. Those who do can reap
huge rewards. The record companies still prefer men (only 22% of all artists
signed to Nashville labels are women), but things are improving. Speeding the
progress is a host of women who have risen to the executive ranks of
record labels and music-publishing companies. "Basically, the theme of country
songs used to be Don't the girls all get prettier at closing time,'" says
Diane Petty, president and owner of RealGirlFriends Music, a publishing firm.
We had a lot of women singing songs by men. Men ran the publishing companies,
and the producers were all male. They were the ones who chose the songs."
	Today, kicentire not only chooses the songs but employs 17 songwriters.
Starstruck already owns an artist management agency that handles other
country performers including Linda Davis and Rhett Akins. Eventually McEntire
and Blackstock want other stars to record in their studios, with Reba
possibly taking on the producer's role. Moving Starstruck in this direction was
difficult, she concedes. "That was Narvel's idea," she says, "and I
really was offended at first. I wanted individual attention, and I wanted people
to work on my case all the time. But I had to think of it in a business way. My
career is not going to last forever. I had to let the business grow."
	McEntire works closely with Blackstock, whom she married in Lake Tahoe
in 1989 during a break between two shows. With offices across the hall from
each other at Starstruck's headquarters, the two share most responsibilities--her
corporate title is president; his, executive vice president. Blackstock
is constantly scouting new deals: sponsorships, like her
multimillion-dollar contract with Frito-Lay to promote corn chips; and movies, like her fourmade-for-TV ventures. Everything must be approved by McEntire--it was years before she'd let Blackstock sign Starstruck checks--and it's all
carefully synchronized. Last year, for example, McEntire's autobiography, Reba:
My Story, and her album Read My Mind were released within days of each
other, in a blaze of publicity.
	On the road or in the studio for much of every year, McEntire says that
she doesn't have the time or the patience to oversee the minutiae of
running her business. Blackstock handles Starstruck's day-to-day operations. When
McEntire is in Nashville, she spends about three days a week at headquarters; on
the road, she keeps tabs by requiring memos from her staff and by peppering
her people with a constant stream of questions and ideas. "I don't like
going to the office every day and hearing the gripes," says McEntire. "I like
having Narvel come home and tell me, `So-and-so had a great idea.' But when
Narvel comes home and tells me about someone bellyachin', I say `Fire em.' And
he says, 'Oh no, you can't do that."'
	Wherever she is, McEntire is usually working. "Reba just drives
herself, drives herself to wear out," says Shelia Shipley-Biddy, who, as senior
vice president and general manager at Decca Records, is the first woman to
run a Nashville record label. Nothing slows McEntire down: She continued
performing until eight weeks before son Shelby was born in 1990, and was back in
the recording studio three weeks later to complete an album (he and his
nanny now travel with her.


                                                                       
      
                                -- End --