Dec 17, 2021 - Things to Do

Nashville's pop music evangelist

A portrait of music executive and pop aficianado Wes Davenport
Music executive and pop aficionado Wes Davenport. Photo: Nolan Knight/courtesy of Wes Davenport

Wes Davenport was excited to attend a 2015 concert by highly buzzed-about pop artist Betty Who.

  • His anticipation turned to astonishment when the venue was only half full.

Davenport decided to do something about it. In the last six years, he's become one of the leading evangelists for Nashville's growing pop music scene.

  • Davenport started a monthly newsletter called Pøpsquad, curates the Spotify playlist No Country for New Nashville and brings artists and professionals together for parties and concerts.
  • As the name suggests, the playlist highlights non-country artists from Nashville and touring musicians performing at local venues.

Why it matters: These side projects have helped break the narrative that Nashville is only a country music town.

  • Davenport's also connected Nashville to artists and industry executives in other cities, especially in Los Angeles.
  • "In 2015, a common criticism was that some of the pop music here sounded a year or two behind L.A.'s sounds," Davenport tells Axios. "That's no longer the case as Nashville artists rise to the top of playlists and music publications."

What he's saying: "Nashville has an amazing spectrum of pop music being created here," Davenport says. "The quantity of people making pop music continues to increase."

  • "I make these things a hobby and not a business, which preserves the joy of contributing to my community."

Details: Davenport, by day the director of culture marketing for Universal Music Group, calls his newsletter and playlist "hyperlocal and fairly niche." He says the growth of Pøpsquad has been steady, with about 1,000 current subscribers.

  • No Country for New Nashville, updated weekly for the last six years, has almost 2,000 likes on Spotify.
  • The top artists highlighted by the No Country for New Nashville playlist boast millions of monthly listeners in 2021.
  • Sasha Alex Sloan (10.3 million monthly listeners), Lennon Stella (8 million), Bren Joy (2.2 million), and Charlotte Sands (1.3 million) were the most-streamed artists this year, Davenport says.
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