Axios Nashville

Picture of the Nashville skyline.
December 17, 2021

It's Friday, you're here and we feel pretty good despite the weather.

Situational awareness: Nashville health officials reported the city's first confirmed case of the Omicron variant.

Today's newsletter is 932 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Nashville's pop music evangelist

Portrait of Wes Davenport sitting with his hands under his chin.
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.

2. New college trend emerges

logo for the tennessee board of regents, with the T in TBR incorporating the state of Tennessee.
Image courtesy of the Tennessee Board of Regents

Tennessee community colleges are looking to stave off pandemic-era enrollment struggles with compressed, half-semester courses.

  • Officials at the Tennessee Board of Regents, which oversees the state's 13 community colleges, think the classes could have blunted some of the decline this fall.

Why it matters: Accelerated courses are in a pilot phase and trickling out across the community colleges. They could preview a broader trend of squeezing two rounds of courses into one semester.

  • "It dramatically increases the flexibility for our students," TBR executive vice chancellor Russ Deaton tells Axios.

By the numbers: Early data suggested community college enrollment fell by nearly 10% this fall, Deaton says.

  • But once leaders factored in a round of accelerated courses that started in October, the drop turned out to be closer to 6-7%.

What they're saying: Deaton says TBR will be studying student interest and success over the next year to guide expansion decisions.

  • "It's a good long-term strategy that we hope to learn a lot more about."

Yes, but: Deaton says folding a full semester's worth of work into seven weeks wouldn't be a good fit for every student or course.

What's next: A spokesperson for Nashville State Community College tells Axios the college plans to begin expanding its accelerated course offerings next fall.

3. The Setlist

Illustration of a chicken wearing sunglasses with fire reflected in the lenses.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

President Biden selected Tennessee State University president Glenda Glover to serve on a federal panel that considers policies surrounding historically Black colleges and universities. (The Tennessean)

An effort to bring tourists to Tennessee with state-funded airline vouchers drew less than a quarter of anticipated bookings. (Main Street Nashville)

The Tennessee Supreme Court tapped a new leader for the Administrative Office of the Courts. (Associated Press)

4. Ethics complaint dismissed

Metro Board of Ethical Conduct members
Metro Board of Ethical Conduct members on Thursday discuss a complaint against Planning Commission member Pearl Sims. Photo: Nate Rau/Axios

The Metro Board of Ethical Conduct on Thursday voted unanimously to dismiss the ethics complaint filed earlier this year against Planning Commission member Pearl Sims.

  • The complaint was filed by residents who claimed Sims had a bias against a proposed mixed-use development the commission ultimately recommended for approval.
  • Before the decision, Sims had already agreed to remove herself from future Edgehill community planning work and not to vote on those measures.

Why it matters: The complaint, which was amended in recent weeks following a sweeping records request of Sims' emails, was analyzed by the Metro Legal Department. The analysis concluded no violation took place.

  • "I do think the complaint and the amended complaint raised a fair question of whether there were strongly held beliefs that crossed the line into advocacy, or attempting to affect the outcome," board chairperson Diane Dilanni said during the meeting. "The case law talks about, 'Zealous public service is not conflict-of-interest in and of itself.' I think we have zealous public service here."

What they're saying: "From the beginning we've maintained that this complaint should have never been brought," Sims said in a statement through her attorney Jay Harbison. "We are pleased that the board made the right decision in this case."

  • Addressing the board after its decision, Elizabeth Moss, one of the residents who filed the complaint, said, "Coming to this resolution with her recusal is what we wanted. So what you have done here is appropriate."

5. Southwest expanding Nashville routes

Image courtesy of Nashville International Airport
Picture courtesy of Nashville International Airport.

Southwest Airlines is boosting its Nashville travel schedule to record highs next year.

  • The airline will have 138 daily departures out of Nashville International by summer 2022, according to a statement from the airport.

The details: Southwest is adding additional flights to existing routes and will be launching a new route from Nashville to Portland, Maine in June.

Between the lines: BNA has been in the midst of a growth spurt, with more than $1 billion going toward construction, and the airport authority approved plans to move forward with another round of expansion last month.

🏈 Nate is watching this tremendous NFL Films mini-documentary about how Nashville's Kurdish community has embraced the Titans.

🎵 Adam encourages you to send in your favorite Christmas songs for next week's playlist.