BIG BASH: Last year’s Big Bash featured Dierks Bentley, Kelsea Ballerini, Brooks & Dunn, Little Big Town and Zac Brown Band.
New Year’s Eve in Nashville is noteworthy.
“New Year’s Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash” is notable for the size of the 200,000-plus crowd, the star power and the impact on Music City of five-hours of live coverage on the CBS Television Network culminating with the famed, midnight music note drop. With a slew of superstars added to the lineup just yesterday, the event is to include performances from Morgan Wallen, Old Dominion, Bailey Zimmerman, Kane Brown, Carly Pearce, Thomas Rhett, Lainey Wilson, Lynyrd Skynyrd and more, with co-hosts Elle King and Rachel Smith.
It makes sense that a city known around the globe for its music scene would be dropping a huge music note instead of a shiny ball. The bright red, flagged note is 16 feet tall, weighs 400 pounds and is made of 13,000 LED pixels atop a 138-foot tower.
The music note isn’t the only uniquely Nashville component of the special. Nashville’s music community is front and center, according to executive producers Robert Deaton and Mary Hilliard Harrington, who produce the special in partnership with Music City Inc., the foundation of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp.
“What Mary and I looked at three years ago when we started was the landscape of New Year’s Eve and said, ‘Let’s not be all things to everybody. Let’s cater to the country music audience,’” explained Deaton, a veteran TV and film producer and director whose credits include executive producer of the Country Music Association Awards.
The pair focused on booking country artists at a time when the format was hitting new heights.
“It’s grown exponentially and so therefore we felt like we would create a destination for that fan,” Deaton said. “And it worked.”
“It’s the perfect New Year’s Eve party playlist,” added Harrington.
In 2022, there were nearly 50 performances throughout Nashville for an audience of 210,000. The music strategy is to play the biggest hits of the year with a mix of new songs, covers and artist collaborations, which includes peppering in up-and-coming country performers.
“Nashville’s Big Bash” is returning to CBS in a new multi-year deal (details were not released).
The special will air live on Sunday, Dec. 31 at 7:30 PM/ET on CBS Television Network, Paramount + (live and on demand for Paramount+ with Showtime subscribers, or on demand for Paramount+ Essential subscribers the day after the special airs). The special will be directed by Sandra Restrepo.
This marks the 15th year for the event and the seventh time the main stage and note drop will be held at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, which is free and open to the public. Additional performances and cut-aways will be held at various Nashville locations including Monday Night Brewing Co., Whiskey River, Brooklyn Bowl, Barstool Sports, The Stage, Bridge Building and even Times Square in New York City.
Comparisons to the ball drop in NYC are expected.
“If you watch the New Year’s Eve celebrations from Times Square, those people have been out there waiting since 8:00 a.m. to get their spot, they’re tired, they’re not having any fun. It looks like sort of a failed environment. They are freezing their butts off,” said Harrington, who is also an artist manager at Red Light Management with clients including Dierks Bentley and Elle King. “And then you flash to Nashville, and it’s a full-on party…It looks vibrant and alive.”
Deaton added that the special is only as strong as its contingency plans, especially with the unpredictability of weather. The first year, two of the three headliners had to cancel the day before the show because they contracted COVID and the show had to fill 11 performance slots at the last minute.
“It is organized chaos,” Deaton said, chuckling. “It is about making sure that you are prepared for the disasters.”
The most important detail to never overlook: “We can’t be in a commercial break when the note drops,” said Deaton.
During the broadcast, viewers will see the ball drop in Times Square and then watch the note drop an hour later in Nashville, which is in the Central Time Zone.
Nashville is perfectly positioned to host an event of this scale and stature. The city is home to several large annual TV events including the CMA Awards and CMA Music Fest, which are also executive produced by Deaton.
“Nashville’s Big Bash” has a production crew of more than 300 to build the 7,200 square foot stage and set up other elements of the concert, fireworks and note drop. The show will utilize 75 production trucks, 27 pieces of heavy equipment, 859 lighting fixtures, more than 10 million pixels of LED, 4 miles of fiber optic video cable, 2,000 cable ramps, 182 audio speakers and 205,000 square feet of flooring.
Sustainability is top of mind. Efforts include recycling cardboard, aluminum, plastic, solid grease and grease waste. Vendors are encouraged to use biodegradable plates and food containers and no single use condiment packets (the use of Styrofoam is prohibited). Water refill stations will reduce single use plastic water bottles.
In addition, Compost Nashville will collect organic waste at the crew catering tent and other backstage food service. Care Kitchen Outreach will collect unused prepared food to donate to local food kitchens and nonprofit organizations. The event supports students in unstable housing through the HERO (Homeless Education Resource Office) Family Fund with Metro Nashville Public Schools.
“We want to do right by our artists, the city and the fans,” Harrington explained. “When we work on this show, that’s at the forefront, the North Star of what we are trying to accomplish every year – and make everybody proud.”