Americana Music Association
Since 1999, the Americana Music Association has helped American roots music assume an elevated and secure place in the artistic and commercial life of the nation. What began as an informal gathering of dedicated colleagues has grown into a movement endorsed by major media and iconic artists. The Recording Academy added the category of “Best Americana Album” in 2009, and Merriam-Webster included the musical term into the dictionary in 2011.
The AMA has not only been a refuge for artistry in a time of tumult for popular music, but as well, a resource for hundreds of upcoming artists, songwriters, musicians, and producers. Today, Americana is one of the best selling music genres according to Billboard’s Top 20 album charts - with artists like Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers, The Civil Wars, The Lumineers and more, becoming the mainstream and not the exception.
In the late 1990’s, a group of about 30 volunteers from radio, record labels and media met informally at the South by Southwest music industry conference in Austin, Texas, to discuss collective action that could help the Americana community, including the possibility of a trade association. A facilitated retreat in October 1999 galvanized the idea, and the Americana Music Association was born.
Early the following year, the Association hosted its first annual Americana Night at South by Southwest, and then in September 2000, the AMA held its first convention at the Hilton Suites in downtown Nashville, featuring showcase performances by Sam Bush, Rhonda Vincent, Rodney Crowell, and Jim Lauderdale.
The Americana Honors and Awards were added to the convention in year three, and the evening proved moving and historic. Americana icons Emmylou Harris, Billy Joe Shaver, and T Bone Burnett were given lifetime achievement awards for performing, songwriting, and executive achievement, respectively. After much behind-the-scenes planning, the audience was treated to a surprise performance by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash with members of the Cash family. Johnny accepted the AMA’s first-ever “Spirit of Americana” Free Speech Award with a stunning recitation of his song-poem “Ragged Old Flag,” and then, despite his failing health, he and June led their family band through a set of songs that reached back through time. It turned out to be the last public performance the Cash’s would ever give together.
Over time, the fall event attracted larger groups of fans and industry conferees. In response, the organization formally changed the name of its event to the Americana Music Festival and Conference, welcoming not just those in the business, but anyone with a passion for music. By 2008, the event had expanded to four days, moved its Awards Show to the historic Ryman Auditorium, and attracted nearly 1,000 industry professionals, plus a cumulative total of over 12,000 visitors for the nighttime showcases.
Each year’s emotionally charged musical performances have been as varied as Americana itself: Levon Helm’s Ramble at the Ryman; John Fogerty in a packed Mercy Lounge; Grace Potter and the Waybacks channeling the Grateful Dead at the Cannery Ballroom; then newcomers, The Avett Brothers at the Station Inn with an audience of 150. The Civil Wars performed a breathtaking rendition of “Barton Hollow” at the Gibson Showroom which streamed live on Music City Roots where the world took notice. An unannounced duet by Robert Plant and Buddy Miller drove noted acerbic music industry blogger Bob Lefsetz to gush, “Their passion was palpable. My only desire was to get closer. My only hope was that the music would never end.”
Indeed, the annual fall festival and conference has attracted some of the most important figures in the history of Americana Roots Music, including Mavis Staples, Gregg Allman, Judy Collins, John Prine, Joan Baez, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Solomon Burke and Lyle Lovett.
International medias have taken notice as well, including Paste journalist Geoffrey Himes to declare the Americana Honors, “the best awards show in the world,” and noted author Ann Patchett, writing for the New York Times, proclaimed the Americana movement as “the coolest music scene today.”
Fueled by musical legends Bonnie Raitt, Booker T. Jones and Richard Thompson, the next generation of stars including Alabama Shakes, Punch Brothers and John Fullbright, along with music industry heavyweights, the 2012 Americana Music Festival and Conference saw over 15,000 fans, 300 artists and more than 1,200 music industry professionals, experiencing the unparalleled five day celebration of American Roots inspired music.
The Association’s capstone event, the Americana Music Honors & Awards aired live nationally on September 12 via AXS TV, broadcast via SiriusXM, WSM radio, and streamed by NPR.org. Musical segments of the Americana Honors & Awards show will appear on PBS nationwide during a special presentation: "ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival 2012" beginning November 10 in the Austin City Limits time slot. Additional international radio broadcasts via BBC2 and Voice of America began airing September 23.
Jed Hilly BIO
With over 20 years of diverse entertainment experience, Jed Hilly’s career has included extensive involvement in marketing, international product development, business re-engineering and working with some of the most critically acclaimed artists of all time.
Jed began his career at Sony Music Entertainment Distribution in 1991 and during his tenure developed several vital projects within key divisions of the Music Company; sales and distribution, international marketing, Sony Music Publishing and Electronics. After starting in the mailroom as a part time inventory clerk, he was quickly promoted and in 1992, Jed coordinated elements of the grass roots artist development campaign for the then unknown band, Pearl Jam. Following this success, he worked with MTV to create the first “Buzz Clip” network/label marketing campaign which helped Oasis’ “Wonderwall” break through on the music charts leading to the band’s first multi-platinum success in the U.S.
In 1994, he oversaw the implementation of the music industry’s first B2B website, changing the distribution methods that artwork and other assets critical to marketing CD’s were disseminated. From 1994-1997 he oversaw all retail marketing initiatives for all Sony artists including Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, Gloria Estefan and Maria Carey, just to name a few. By 1997, Jed was Sony’s key executive responsible for Creed’s international marketing campaign and worldwide explosion. Soonafter, he became a member of the corporate executive team and was asked to develop new business strategies for Sony’s Digital Asset Management Initiative. Serving as Vice President and Global Manager of Business-to-Business Applications, Jed conceived of and directed the development and deployment of Sony Music’s Media and Music Exchange (MMX) and worldwide Multilanguage B2B websites which not only improved and updated the conglomerates inter-company creative business flow, but also resulted in multi-million dollar cost savings for annual budgets and is still in use today.
Following the 911 disaster, Jed relocated his family to Nashville, Tennessee where he met Barbara Orbison, wife of the Late Great Roy Orbison. As Vice President and label head of Orbison Records, he steered numerous initiatives to remind the public of the legendary artist. Jed coordinated museum exhibits and helped to produce the American Music Master Series at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; oversaw the campaign to encourage the US Postal Service to issue a commemorative stamp to honor Roy Orbison; and initiated numerous other projects and re-releases of the Orbison catalog that resulted in tripling sales over previous years.
In the spring of 2007, Jed accepted the position as Executive Director of the Americana Music Association, to foster growth of the musical genre. In this capacity Hilly’s efforts have been instrumental in the Recording Academy’s decision (2010) to add the Americana Category to its list of Grammy Awards and in 2011, his efforts led to Merriam-Webster to add the word, Americana, as a musical term, to its prestigious Collegiate Dictionary.
He has steered the Association to increased attendance totals at their annual Americana Music Festival and Conference and significantly, raised the profile of the genre with Rolling Stone magazine printing the Americana Music Airplay Chart, the inclusion of the genre in on line distribution portals and providing the platform for major feature stories about the genre and the organization in Billboard, the New York Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other periodicals worldwide. Hilly is the Executive Producer of the annual Americana Honors & Awards show at the Historic Ryman Auditorium, which is broadcast around the world on PBS and AXS TV along with BBC2 Radio, XM/Sirius Satellite Radio, WSM, Voice of America and NPR.org. In recent years the organization has been bolstered with ever-growing support and attendance of artists like Bonnie Raitt, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris and Levon Helm (with whom Hilly produced the GRAMMY and EMMY Award winning PBS special Levon Helm: Ramble at the Ryman). The recent success and inclusion into the Americana umbrella of new and emerging artists like the Avett Brothers, the Civil Wars, Mumford & Sons, and the Lumineers has broadened the scope of the Americana audience to the next generation of music loving fans.
Jed Hilly has served on the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) merchandising committees; the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame American Music Masters Advisory board, the Nashville Mayors Music Council and is an active member of NARM, the Recording Academy (NARAS) and the Country Music Hall of Fame.