Rising country star Jordan Davis has sold the majority share of his publishing catalog to Anthem Entertainment, extending his relationship with the Toronto-based company.
While it’s relatively rare for artists at such early stages of their careers to make such a move, Davis is using the funds to invest in his future.
“One of the big things for us was creating a little bit of flexibility to be able to make some long-term decisions a little less with budget in mind,” says Red Light’s Zach Sutton, Davis’ manager. In February, Davis is undertaking his first European headlining tour, including stops in Stockholm, Amsterdam and London. While Sutton says the concerts are already nearly sold out, “they’re not the most lucrative dates and having some resources from this sale allows us to think a bit more strategically on building long term, not just on ‘If we dedicate the first quarter to Europe, we’re really going to miss out on this type of money here in the States.’”
The excitement around Davis also factored into the timing. Davis has been a remarkably reliable hitmaker since his first release, “Singles You Up,” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart in 2017. Since then, every official radio release has gone top 5, with three other songs, 2019’s “Slow Dance in the Parking Lot, 2021’s “Buy Dirt” (featuring Luke Bryan) and 2022’s “What My World Spins Around” reaching the summit. “Buy Dirt,” which Davis co-wrote with his brother Jacob and another pair of brothers, Josh and Matt Jenkins, won the CMA Award for song of the year last year. This year’s “Next Thing You Know,” which peaked at No. 2 on the Country Airplay tally, is up for the same award at the 2023 CMA Awards next month. In addition to writing his own material, Davis has had songs cut by Jake Owen and Old Dominion. His total streams have surpassed 6 billion, Sutton says.
“Jordan’s heat at the moment, the marketplace, the new team involved [at Anthem], all pointed towards this is a good time to take a couple of chips off the table but keep [Jordan] in the game and keep building this asset at the same time,” Sutton continues.
The new team includes Jason Klein and Sal Fazzari, who were named permanent CEO and CFO, respectively, earlier this month after serving in those roles as interims since the departure of former CEO Helen Murphy in February. Both had been with Anthem in other capacities. Gilles Godard, who has been with the company since 2006, is president of Anthem’s Nashville-based music publishing operation.
“Jordan’s particularly important to us. We obviously see him as an exceptional talent as a writer and a performer, but what’s really special about Jordan is we’ve been there since the very beginning,” Klein says, referring to Godard signing Davis in 2015 as a nascent writer. “As an independent publisher, [who] has been his partner throughout his creative process, it was very important to us, now that he’s at this point in his career, that we’d be able to hold on and continue to super-serve him as a publisher. He’s got a world of options open to him at this point and to stay with the home team, it says a lot about his belief in what we’re doing in Nashville and the great team that we have.”
“The team at Anthem has evolved into a great creative platform for me,” Davis said in a statement. “Their belief in me as an artist and a songwriter — it’s made such a difference along the way — from when I first moved to Nashville as a songwriter to now.”
In addition to acquiring an interest in Davis’s catalog, the Anthem deal extends the company’s existing co-publishing agreement with Davis going forward. “We are proud to say that Jordan started his publishing career here at Anthem eight years ago, hard work does pay off, and now here’s to the next eight years making more musical history with Jordan Davis,” Godard added.
Nashville attorneys Derek Crownover, John Rolfe and Colleen Kelley of Loeb and Loeb represented Davis in the transaction.
As Fazzari notes, Anthem has purchased portions of other country publishing catalogs, including Jody Williams Music, Better Angels, RED Creative Group and Red Vinyl, which includes Chris Janson’s catalog. “Nashville has always been a focal point for us not only creatively, but for catalogs because we all love the music and the town. The songs that we get are pretty timeless. We’ve been able to amass a pretty sizeable catalog.”
Anthem has also bought portions of individual songs in Nashville, including co-writer Jesse Rice’s share of the Florida Georgia Line 2012 smash, “Cruise.” (Its publishing deals extend far beyond country, including a long-term partnership with Timbaland, whose catalog Anthem acquired in 2012. Anthem has continued to invest in new Timbaland ventures.)
While the Davis deal is the first substantial catalog purchase Klein and Fazzari have completed since taking the reins, “We’ve got a lot that we’re looking at,” Klein says. “We’ve got a pretty robust pipeline of opportunity that we’re exploring. We expect to be pretty busy in the months ahead.”
Fazzari adds that Anthem’s lane is exploring deals that complement existing publishing partners and help diversify into other areas, but “we’re not going to be going after large or big-ticket catalogs that usually come with an auction process. We like to spend a lot of time investing in relationships within our network and that brings deal flow to us.”