Nashvilles SOLID Combines Networking and Community Service to Connect Future Music Industry Leaders

Chuck Dauphin | January 13, 2018

Nashville continues to enjoy the reputation as one of the most vibrant and commercially viable music industry cities in the world -- and helping to lead that charge in the 21st century is a group of youthful music industry professionals who have epitomized everything that is great about the business for two decades.

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For over twenty years now, SOLID (Society of Leaders in Development) has become known for what is described as a mixture of business networking and community service. According to the group's 2017 president, Basak Kizilisik, the organization takes a lot of pride in what it has been able to give back and accomplish.

"SOLID has accomplished so much in 20 years. I'm so proud of the support we've provided to countless local and national charity partners and also the opportunities we've been able to give the talented and ambitious future leaders of our industry," says Kizilisik, who works for Morris Higham Management. "We become so focused on making a difference that we sometimes forget to take a moment to celebrate what we've been able to achieve. That's what 2017 is all about. There are so many executives, CEOs, presidents, award winners and leaders in Nashville that began their careers as SOLID members. I'm so thankful to those folks that have waved the SOLID flag through the years. This organization is proof of what can happen when great people come together to do great things."

Some of those great things that SOLID can point to include raising over $270,000 for charity through a variety of events, such as their yearly Crawfish Boil and an annual Music Row Madness bowling event that benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters. In June of each year, the organization puts on the Nashville Music Market -- held each year during the CMA Music Festival -- which allows fans the opportunity to purchase music, merchandise and industry-exclusive items from their favorite artists. There are also various outreach programs at area universities and opportunities for industry professionals to discuss issues that affect their livelihoods. Needless to say, the networking possibilities that SOLID offers are plentiful and crucial to career development.

"My years being an active member of SOLID and serving on the board were an absolute career boost," says The Collective's Craig Dunn. "I know for a fact that there are many people I wouldn't have as colleagues and friends today were it not for my time in SOLID. There's something special about the music business in Nashville that sets it apart from New York, LA, and the other music hubs in the country. There's a camaraderie and willingness to cooperate and share contacts and ideas, even when you might technically be in competition with someone.  Building and fostering those relationships is one of the core tenets of SOLID and one of the many reasons why I've encouraged countless others to join throughout the years and will continue to do so."

Among the notable alumni from SOLID include such industry heavy-hitters as KP Entertainment's Kerri Edwards, Sony's John Zarling, G Major Management's Virginia Davis and veteran publicist Ebie McFarland -- who represents such acts as CMA Entertainer of the Year winners Kenny Chesney and George Strait. McFarland tells Billboard that SOLID has been invaluable to her in her career trajectory, as the business is often a contact sport.

"In the music industry, the predominate driver for business is our relationships," she says. "Organizations like SOLID that afford its members such incredible resources -- and do so during formative years -- are incredibly valuable. As a business owner, our firm has grown in large part to the support system I established while I was a junior publicist working my way up the rungs as a member of SOLID and there's not a week that goes by that I don't communicate with, rely on or consult with a colleague I met through SOLID. In growing through experiences together, our bond is stronger than one client or one project and because of that infrastructure and common drive its members have, I've been fortunate in my career to witness some pretty incredible personal and professional success stories."

Last November SOLID held a 20th anniversary celebration, where they paused to celebrate three of their members. Cris Lacy (VP of A&R at Warner) was recognized with the Distinguished Alum Award, Justin Levenson (Lev's House Entertainment) took home the Inspire Award, while SESAC'S Jayson Wyatt was honored with the with a Spirit of SOLID Award.

With a new year comes a new board, and many of Nashville's rising business stars are represented for 2018, ranging from The Recording Academy's Nathan Pyle to Nashville Music Media's Elise Anderson and Avery King to Peer Music's Heather Cook. This year's president, Johnny Cloherty, says that the aim of SOLID remains unchanged from what it was when the organization began years ago.

"We're coming off of a lot of momentum from our 20th year, which has really inspired our new board to propel forward and launch our next 20 years," he says. "SOLID has given back so much to the industry and our non-profit partners over the years, and to us as members. We're looking forward to continuing to build on a rich history, providing even more to alumni, members, future members and the community."

For more information about SOLID, visit www.solidnashville.org.

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About the author: Chuck Dauphin Country News Editor and The 615 columnist for Billboard.com