American Idol Mentor Minute

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American Idol: Mentor Minute with Scott Borchetta
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Scott Borchetta

Measure Scott Borchetta on his record label achievements alone - more than 400 million albums sold, 157 songs shepherded to # 1 - and there's no question he's reached uncommon heights as a record company founder.

The head of Nashville's Big Machine Label Group is so much more, though.

In 2015, Borchetta joins AMERICAN IDOL as a mentor for their 14th season. He will guide the contestants with his expertise throughout the competition and will ultimately work with the winner beyond the show. "There's only one reason I'm doing this: AMERICAN IDOL has proven again and again that it can launch superstars. I believe that working with these young artists the same way we work with and develop new artists at the Big Machine Label Group will help the next American Idol be as prepared as possible to continue the tradition of creating new superstars, " stated Borchetta.

And yes, Borchetta has served as international phenomenon Taylor Swift's mentor and friend, helping shape her career and those of some of Country music's biggest stars. Along the way, they've updated the genre creatively and financially, prompting Universal Music Chairman Lucian Grainge to tell the Financial Times that Borchetta has "transformed Big Machine into a global music powerhouse." But don't forget he's also an entrepreneur, philanthropist, visionary, gambler, rule-breaker, race car driver and passable bass player, becoming the model for the thoroughly modern CEO in a 30-year career filled with more than a high number of successful hunches.

Called "a Maverick" and "The King of Music Row" by Fast Company and a regular "power player" on the Billboard Power 100, Borchetta oversees an independent label group that carries all the hallmarks of a major with five imprints, a string of # 1s and a calculated mix of legacy acts like Reba and Tim McGraw and established talent like The Band Perry, Justin Moore and Thomas Rhett to go along with superstars Taylor Swift and Florida Georgia Line. That roster sought out Borchetta for his commitment to their success.

"One night we were driving down Music Row after being in the studio, and the Big Machine lights were the only ones still on," Kimberly Perry of The Band Perry told Fast Company, which named Borchetta one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business in 2013. "That work ethic is huge, because we like to think of ourselves as a blue-collar, hardworking country band."

The label group - Big Machine Records (2005), The Valory Music Co. (2007) as well as Republic Nashville (2009), Dot Records (2014), and Nash Icon Records (2014) - boasts four of Country music's top five most downloaded Country songs in the digital age. The hits - "Love Story" and "You Belong With Me (Taylor Swift)," "If I Die Young" (The Band Perry) and "Cruise "(Florida Georgia Line) - spurred creative changes in Country music, and established Big Machine and Borchetta as major players on the financial side. "Big Machine is big business,"Forbes declared in a profile, estimating an annual income in the high eight figures at a time when Nashville's major labels are contracting and consolidating.

Formerly Senior Vice President of Promotion and Development for MCA Nashville, Mercury Nashville and DreamWorks Nashville, Borchetta has been instrumental in the careers of multiple artists over the years, including George Strait, Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Trisha Yearwood,and Toby Keith.

Borchetta's biggest success came with his first Big Machine signee, Taylor Swift. She's the first woman to have three albums debut with more than 1 million first-week copies sold and 2014's 1989 is the year's best-selling new album. The 25-year-old superstar, signed by Borchetta at 15, has taken Country music to new levels of popularity both in the U.S. and abroad and successfully made the transformation from Country to Pop superstar, regularly selling out stadiums in the U.S. and around the world. Big Machine has worked to place other stars in the international spotlight, earning Borchetta the Country Music Associations's Jo Walker-Meador Award for advocating and supporting Country music's marketing development in territories outside the U.S.

Using a combination of promotional savvy and an unusual willingness to interact with fans in person and through social media, Borchetta has helped a diverse group of artists achieve important moments in their careers. Tim McGraw, was reinvigorated by his move to Big Machine and in 2014 reached his 27th #1 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart, which is the most of any artist in the chart's 25-year history, as well as his 36th career chart-topper overall across both radio charts. And good-time duo Florida Georgia Line has reached a number of milestones, including longest-running #1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart and best-selling digital Country single in history with "Cruise."

Under Borchetta's leadership, BMLG artists have won Grammy Awards, American Music Awards, Country Music Association Awards, Academy of Country Music Awards and more.

All of these successes have given Borchetta unusual freedom in a genre often criticized for its lack of innovation.

"We're very fortunate in that we have the ability to do whatever we want to do," Borchetta told Rolling Stone, one of a number of influential media voices to profile the California native, including 60 MINUTES, NPR, New York Times, Financial Times, Variety, Wall Street Journal and The Hollywood Reporter.

Borchetta now freely crosses boundaries record labels used to consider inviolate. In fact, don't think of Big Machine as a "record label." Borchetta prefers "entertainment and content company," and has pushed the label group beyond music toward complete cultural saturation.

"What's on the edge?" Borchetta asked in a Fast Company profile. "That's where I think I do my best work - if I push my whole team to the edge."

He strengthened relationships with two of Country radio's largest voices, first signing a revolutionary first-ever terrestrial broadcast performance rights & royalties deal for BMLG artists with iHeart Media (formerly Clear Channel Media.) and another Additionally, with Cumulus Media to form the joint venture label and NASH Icon radio format. The first agreement was a white whale of sorts among record labels that have long sought a share of airplay royalties for artists.

Big Machine also has royalty agreements with Entercom Communications, Greater Media, Cox Media Group and Beasley Broadcast Group. NASH Icon Records, the joint venture with Cumulus, creates a potentially lucrative home for the previous hits and new recordings of legacy artists of the last 30 years, who remain popular even as younger voices take over the bulk of radio airplay.

The label group also has collaborated with ABC on the music for television drama NASHVILLE and helped develop a docu-series following THE VOICE winner Cassadee Pope's journey throughout her debut record. To continue innovating the genre, Borchetta signed a cross-genre publishing deal with pop tunesmith Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald's Prescription Songs.

In 2012, Borchetta launched the "Outnumber Hunger" campaign with General Mills and Feeding America. He scored a "Wheaties moment" for his artists, putting some of BMLG's stars on the front of more than 90 million boxes of cereal and other products (and counting). To date, more than 35 million meals have been provided to those in need through the program.

And then there's Borchetta's favorite cross-promotion effort - auto racing. The lifelong race car driver has partnered with NASCAR as a title sponsor of the music and racing weekend, "The Brickyard 400 Powered by," in addition to sponsoring two Indy 500 winning drivers, Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti, and integrating music entertainment into various other events for the sport. In 2014, Big Machine Racing sponsored two time Formula 1 Champion, Lewis Hamilton.

Borchetta gets a lot of the same things out of sitting behind the wheel of very fast cars and shaping the future of his company, his artists and music.

"There are a lot of parallels, there really are," he told Forbes. "As far as the talent, as far as strategy … part of it is, 'Get me that lane nobody else is racing in and we'll find a way to win it.'"

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