Clare Dunn Exposes The Dark Side Of The Country Music Industry 

The singer/songwriter is speaking her truth on the “corruption” in the music industry.

By

Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

March 11, 2024

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Photo Courtesy Of Clare Dunn

From an outsider’s perspective, it may seem like artists in the music industry live a glamorous lifestyle filled with fame and fortune once they reach a certain point of success in their careers where they have a huge platform, thousands of loyal fans, and a whole team of people around them. However, one singer/songwriter named Clare Dunn is challenging that narrative by exposing what it’s really like to be involved in what she calls “the belly of the beast in country music in Nashville.” 

In a new video shared to TikTok, Dunn revealed that she’s held back from speaking on her experience in fear of what it might do to her reputation. However, she’s finally ready to speak her truth on the “corruption” in the music industry in hopes that it will bring some light to the matter and also potentially help other aspiring artists. 

Reflecting On The Early Days Of Her Career

Clare Dunn’s story begins back in the day when she was “very naïve” and full of excitement to take her music career to the next level. At the time, she had a booking agent who, for the sake of the story is named “Charles.” While on the hunt for an attorney who would represent her and assist in various legal issues, Charles recommended an entertainment attorney, whom she is calling “Bubba.” By adding Bubba to her team, Dunn says she felt even more excitement to see a small group growing around her who wanted to help turn her passion for music into a career. 

Photo Courtesy Of Clare Dunn
Photo Courtesy Of Clare Dunn

She went on to say that things suddenly came crashing down during a meeting with both Bubba and Charles that could have been detrimental to her had she not come in ready with the knowledge she gained from her time studying at Belmont University. 

Feeling Pressured To Sign A Bad Deal

“One day Bubba calls me up, the attorney, and says, ‘Hey, do you want to come in and have a meeting with me and Charles?’ I’m excited because Charles has always been hinting about wanting to manage me. And I was like, ‘Okay, Charles wants to manage me. He’s well-connected. This could be awesome for me.’ So I go in and it’s me, Charles and Bubba alone in a conference room at Bubba’s offices, and we’re chit-chatting and then Bubba slides a piece of paper across the table to me. Bubba launches into this whole oration of why I need to incentivize Charles, who’s already my booking agent, who’s already making his 10%, why I need to incentivize him to continue working with me.”

The Colorado native recalled feeling confused at that moment. Upon further inspection of the contract, she thought back to her entertainment law and publishing law classes in college and realized that what she was being presented with would not benefit her financially in the long run. 

@claredunnmusic idk why i called the attorney “bubba” lol but heres part 1 of my story. I know its long, just a lot of pieces and parts #claredunn #nashvillestory #colorado #oklahoma #texas #wyoming #montana ♬ Live in the Spirit – Josué Novais Piano Worship & Instrumental Worship and Prayer

“What I was taught is, based on the environment the way it was at the time, it was going to be unlikely for me to get signed to a major label without having to sign a 360 deal. A 360 is where a company or a single person, whoever you sign it with, they own a certain percentage of all your income revenue streams, whether they have anything to do with them or not. So for example, this would be like owning 20% of your merch or 30% of your touring or 40% of your revenue from your music. The percentages can vary, and it’s basically just a commissioning, if you will, of all income streams that you have. 

So, what I learned at Belmont is, it may be inevitable you have to sign a 360 deal with a major label, but for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t sign a 360 deal with anyone else before then. You can be seen in an undesirable way, and it was so competitive, and you can’t do anything to be any less desirable than what you already are. And you got to hold on to what little of your income you can keep because already, a lot of it is commissioned away, 10% to a booking agent, 15% to a manager, 5% to a business manager, and so on.”

Having The Courage To Walk Away

Dunn then took a moment to clarify that her concern stemmed from the fact that the attorney she hired to protect her was now speaking on behalf of her booking agent and insisting that she needed to enter into a “bad contract.” This instantly raised concerns for the songstress, so instead of succumbing to the pressure, she stood up for herself. 

“I remember very clearly raising my head when Bubba quit speaking and I just asked him, and it must have been God or something giving me the guts, but I said, ‘Bubba, he’s my booking agent, and he gets his owed 10%. He gets it. I have no problem with that. That’s what every booking agent in town gets. That’s what every artist pays, their booking agent. Why do I have to pay more in order for him to keep working with me as a booking agent?’ He wasn’t interested in managing me. He didn’t want to manage me, he just wanted to own me.’

“When I said that to Bubba, both of their eyes got biggest saucers and the energy in the room changed and it got very tense, and I got very scared even though I’d done the right thing,” she said honestly. “Long story short, the meeting was over shortly thereafter. I walked out of there very confused.”

What Was The Result Of Dunn’s Decision To Say “No”?

As a result, Dunn fired both Bubba and Charles. The “Wasn’t Looking” singer also revealed that she had a moment of clarity when she later found out that the pair had actually been longtime friends. Unfortunately, cutting ties with Charles in such a way turned out to do “irreversible damage” to her reputation. 

Photo Courtesy Of Clare Dunn
Photo Courtesy Of Clare Dunn

“When I told Charles no, I think in my opinion, that sparked something in him where he just said, ‘If I can’t have her, no one will.’”

Despite any damage this decision may have caused, Dunn ultimately feels confident in her actions, especially seeing the result of another young artist who did end up saying yes to the “corrupt deal” of this same booking agent. 

“I did find out later that this agent had also put another artist into this same type of corrupt deal. That artist went on to blow up and for how big this artist was, they should have had a massive career for a long time, but this artist’s career imploded because of financial strain from these horrible deals that this artist had signed. I knew this artist, I knew people that they worked with, and come to find out they had signed this same deal. It was all playing out at the time still when he was trying to get me to sign this deal.”

Gratitude For Those Who Have Listened And Offered Support

In a follow-up video, she thanked her fans for hearing her story and offering support amid an incredibly vulnerable and “scary” week. 

@claredunnmusic just wanted to say thanks yall. this past week has been a little scary at times – breaking open subjects ive wanted to tslk about for a long time but havent out of fear. thank you for all your support and hope yall have a great Sunday night And thank you for the love on my EP!! “Wasnt Looking” everywhere now. #claredunn #agriculture #cattleranchers #independentartist ♬ Out of the Blue – Clare Dunn

“This past week has been the first time I’ve really spoken out about a lot of things that I have wanted to speak out about for years and years. It’s been a scary week in a lot of ways, but I just want to say thank you guys for all your support. Taking on these topics is not always the easiest, whether it’s in agriculture or in the country, music industry, these are big, sweeping topics and I know that it’s hard to just sort of find an entry point anywhere, at least it has been for me,” she shard. “My goal here was to uplift y’all, and you have uplifted me in ways that I could never imagine.”

What Is Clare Dunn Doing Now?

Clare Dunn is currently an independent artist who has written with some of Nashville’s most esteemed songwriters and has opened for country stars including Keith Urban, Florida Georgia Line, Parmelee, Hank. Jr, Jamey Johnson and more.  

At the height of her recording career, Dunn signed with Universal Music Group’s MCA Nashville where she released her breakout single, “Tuxedo.”

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.