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Birthplace of Country Music, Inc.

Total Qualifying Score: 6
County (ARC Region): Yes
State (ARC Region): Yes
Q3. IRS Status: Nonprofit – 2
Q4. Parent Entity: No – 1
Q5. 2 or More Full-Time Employees : Yes (as of 12/31/2019)
Q7. Budget Level: Above $1.5 million up to $3 million – 2 (Last Fiscal Year Actual Income)
Q8. Restricted Reserves: No – 1
Q9. CARES Act Funding: Yes – 0
Q13. Participation by Executive: Yes


Birthplace of Country Music, Inc.
Bristol, Sullivan County, Tennessee 37620

County (ARC Region) Sullivan
State (ARC Region) Tennessee


Q1. Mission:

The Birthplace of Country Music is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that seeks to perpetuate, promote, and celebrate Bristol’s rich musical heritage; to educate and engage audiences worldwide regarding the history, impact and legacy of the 1927 Bristol Sessions from which we derive our name; and to create recognition, opportunities, and economic benefit for our local and regional communities.

Q2. How organization aligns with ARC’s Plan & Goals:

Birthplace of Country Music, Inc. aligns with each of the five goals included in the Appalachian Regional Commission strategic plan:

Invest in entrepreneurial and business development strategies that strengthen Appalachia’s economy
The Birthplace of Country Music Museum facility was the first building on its block to be redeveloped. Along the same block, an existing historic building which once served Bristol as the Executive Plaza office complex has been renovated to operate as a new boutique hotel, with an investment of $18 million. Across the street from the museum, the Cumberland Building has recently been renovated to feature a restaurant space on the ground floor and loft apartments on the second floor. There are 2 additional hotels, one under construction and the other, another major redevelopment project, which have chosen to locate in downtown Bristol as a direct result of the efforts of the Birthplace of Country Music organizations. BCM’s annual music festival, Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion has been a significant economic driver for Bristol for nearly twenty years. Many businesses in our downtown sight the festival and museum as reasons for choosing to locate in Bristol.

Increase the education, knowledge, skills, and health of residents to work and succeed in Appalachia
Education is a vital component of BCM. The relationships built with school districts and with teachers throughout the entire region have allowed BCM to become a significant resource. Most recently, BCM has focused its efforts on providing educational materials to our partnering teachers. This gives teachers much needed, ready-made materials to send to their students; offering them an alternative learning experience regarding music, technology and the region’s cultural history. The Bristol area includes numerous Title 1 schools in both rural and urban areas, and these underserved areas are important in our program planning.

Invest in critical infrastructure, especially broadband; transportation, including the Appalachian Development Highway System; and water/wastewater systems
The Museum is located in the Arts & Entertainment district along a key corridor the City has targeted for redevelopment. In fact, the City has improved pedestrian and motorist access to the area through an improved streetscape and wayfinding system as well as updates to the public parking lot serving this block. Additional improvements to parking and sidewalk infrastructure are currently underway in order to accommodate the increase in traffic. The infrastructure plan the city has developed will increase the ability to attract visitors and businesses to downtown Bristol and beyond.

Strengthen Appalachia’s community and economic development potential by leveraging the Region’s natural and cultural heritage assets.
Bristol is extremely fortunate to be the birthplace of country music – a legacy resulting from the 1927 Bristol Sessions. In the words of musician and music historian Ketch Secor, it is “a legacy that will never die”. This legacy should be nurtured, taught, promoted, perpetuated, parlayed and leveraged to the advantage of Bristol. BCM is the entity that is doing that for Bristol. Through BCM, Bristol has a state-of-the-art museum, a nationally and globally known music festival, a 24/7 public radio station, and a very robust marketing and tourism promotion effort. BCM is promoting Bristol and working hard to parlay Bristol’s legacy into economic development, education, visibility, and community pride

Build the capacity and skills of current and next-generation leaders and organizations to innovate, collaborate, and advance community and economic development.
BCM staff members are strongly encouraged to participate in community leadership activities. This includes engaging in professional development opportunities; establishing partnerships with other organizations, businesses and community groups; and serving on boards of directors throughout the region. A few examples of leadership activities undertaken by BCM staff members include serving on the Executive Board of the Crooked Road, the Believe in Bristol Board of Directors, the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, and the Bristol Convention of Visitors Bureau. BCM also offers opportunities for employees to partake in the leadership program of the Bristol Chamber, “Lead Bristol” as well as the Leadership Kingsport and Leadership Johnson City programs.

Q3. IRS Filing Status: 501(c)(3)   

Q4. Unit or Chapter of Larger Organization: No

Q5. Employees:

Full-Time/Part-Time Employees: 12/7 (as of 9/1/2020)

Full-Time/Part-Time Employees: 12/7 (as of 12/31/2019)

Current Year Income/Expenses: $3,109,000/$2,962,500

Q6. Fiscal Year: July-June

Q7. Budget Level

Last Fiscal Year Income/Expenses (Actual): $2,495,633 / $2,558,022

Current Year Income/Expenses (Projected): $3,109,000 / $2,962,500

Balance Sheet

Q8. Restricted Reserves (Amount): No ($)

Q9. CARES Act Funding (Amount): Yes ($168,089)
Received From: Small Business Administration Payroll Protection Program; Virginia Humanities; Tennessee Arts Commission; Humanities Tennessee; Bristol, TN CDBG   Date Received: May 2020 to August 2020
For What Purpose(s): Payroll expenses; Museum Utilities; General Operating Support; Administrative Office Rent; COVID-19 Response Supplies

Q10. Negative Impacts from COVID-19:

Like countless arts and cultural nonprofits, BCM is facing many challenges caused by the pandemic.  On March 15th, the museum closed to the public.  Under normal circumstances, Spring is a time when the museum sees its most visitors as tourism to Bristol ramps up after the colder winter months.  This would have been especially true for Spring 2020.  In late 2019, the 1927 Bristol Sessions, the part of American history showcased and celebrated by the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, was featured in the eight-part PBS documentary Country Music.  Visitorship to the museum and tourism to Bristol in general had seen a dramatic boost; an expected result for any locality featured in a Ken Burns film.  Closing the museum has caused significant revenue loss, which is ongoing despite reopening the facility under new safety guidelines in June.  Tours and school field trips have been cancelled for the foreseeable future and museum attendance is down.

On July 6th, BCM announced the cancellation of the 2020 Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion. Not only a marquee arts and cultural event, the festival’s economic benefit to the region is extraordinary. The event also serves as a major fundraiser for BCM each year. The negative economic impact of cancelling the festival on the entire community is substantial. 

Events produced by BCM, whether at the museum or in other areas of the region are typically a steady revenue stream and an integral part of the organization’s outreach.  All of BCM’s originally scheduled events have been cancelled or moved to virtual platforms.  Cash reserves are being expended and the possibility of having to reduce staff hours and pay or lay-offs is a growing concern.  Budgets are being analyzed and will ultimately be reduced, causing BCM to rethink certain aspects of its content delivery and introduce entirely new strategies. 

Q11. Top Three Concerns:
Continuing to lose revenue with no sign of improvement until the pandemic subsides.
Having to eliminate staff positions and lose employees that are extremely valuable to the organization.
The long term impact of COVID-19 on the public’s perception and willingness to attend future festival events like Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion.

How Participation in Program Will Address Concerns:

Continuous improvement is a fundamental principle outlined in the Birthplace of Country Music, Inc. business plan. During these uncertain times, the ability to adapt has allowed BCM to continue its mission and remain relevant by implementing new strategies. However, there is still much to be gained by leaning on the experiences of similar organizations and the expertise of professionals that are also on the front lines of managing the fallout from this public health crisis.

BCM has accomplished many financial goals during its short history. For example, the staff and board of directors were able to raise the funding necessary to build the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and open the doors debt free with the majority of funds coming from outside of the community. The annual music festival, Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, has grown into a 1.5 million dollar event with annual net revenues ranging from $100,000 to $200,000 for the organization each year. The challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic have created a need to establish new long-term and attainable financial goals, which is why the preferred course Long-Term Financial Management is selected below.

Utilizing resources both within the community and outside of the area to assist with the professional development of its staff has always been a key strategy for BCM in its pursuit of continuous improvement. The opportunity to apply for this incredible program is one that our organization would be remiss to pass up. Participating in a course related to financial management will not only increase staff knowledge and enhance their abilities, but will inevitably lead to the planning and development of new and sustainable financial and programming strategies for the organization as it navigates the post-pandemic economic climate.


Q12. Applying as a Proposed Cohort? No

Q13. Executive Director or CEO Will Participate in the Program? Yes

Q14. Top Two Choices for Cohort Instruction:

Course #1 Choice: 1-Long-term Financial Management

Course #2 Choice: 2-Short-term Financial Management

Q15. Desired Course Schedule for Cohort Instruction:

#1 Desired Course Schedule: 1-Fall 2020: 11-Week Course (Nov. 9, 2020 -Jan. 24, 2021)

#2 Desired Course Schedule: 2-Fall 2020: 6-Week Course (Nov. 9, 2020 – Dec. 18, 2020)


Name: Brett Davis, Director of Development

Application Approved by Organization Director or CEO? Yes, Approved by Executive Director/CEO

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