NFL Draft: One Discovered Taylor Swift, One Drafted Derrick Henry — Nashville Execs Talk Talent | Nashville Public Radio

NFL Draft: One Discovered Taylor Swift, One Drafted Derrick Henry — Nashville Execs Talk Talent

Apr 24, 2019

Every day in Nashville, music executives try to figure out how much money, time and effort to invest in amateurs. This week, as the NFL Draft comes to Nashville, that projection plight is mirrored in the world of sports.

The man in charge of bringing in players for the Tennessee Titans and the music mogul who discovered Taylor Swift say there's a lot of crossover in talent scouting between the two industries. Listen to the interview with Titans GM Jon Robinson and the founder of Big Machine Records Scott Borchetta above, or read interview highlights below.

Tennessee Titans's general manager, Jon Robinson, and Big Machine Records founder Scott Borchetta talk talent scouting at the Tennessee Titans offices.
Credit Jason Moon Wilkins / WPLN

In a way everybody, thinks they can do your job, right? Because NFL fans have mock draft; they watch shows like American Idol. They're sitting at home. They're judges. But what's something within your job that's not televised?

Jon Robinson: "I think for us and for our football team, it's about getting to know as best as possible the players as people. And it's easy to see the really good players. But you don't know the underlying person. Is he doing charity work? Is he very involved in the community? Is he a good teammate or is a guy a problem in the locker room who they have to find a way to manage and you've got to worry about getting that phone call, you know, at 1, 2, 3 in the morning."

Something else that definitely affects both of you is data. Scott I know that a lot has been made of that [in music], even going back to MySpace — people even then started saying, "Well, this person has so many thousand followers."

Scott Borchetta: "Ironically, when I opened the label in 2005 and signed Taylor, she showed me MySpace. I had heard about it, but I wasn't using it, and the industry wasn't using it. And I said, 'Okay, so you've posted some of your songs on here.' And she said, 'Yeah, I posted so my friends can hear them. And this is how we're communicating.' And then we used it as a marketing tool. So … one of the first things I look at when I get a new artist pitch to me is what's happening on their socials."

Robinson: "Yeah, well, the players don't get any bonus points for followers in my book. Can they block, catch, run, tackle, score touchdowns, make interception, sacks — whatever it is? But you're right — that's become a big boom in our industry, you know, where we have player tracking mechanisms in our organization where we monitor workloads throughout the course of practice."

Borchetta: "A lot of what I do, when I sign an artist goes with gut. All the data can be there, whatever, but there is something that hits me like, 'OK, I want this artist in our building.' "

Robinson: "Probably much like you, Scott, when you when you hear artists, and you just kind of have feeling — I'll open up my notebook, and I'll write down 30 or 40 guys that I really want, and I'll do everything I can to try to get as many of those 30 or 40 guys on our team. And it is instinct. They can be the biggest, they can be the fastest, they can jump the highest. But at the end of the day, it's about playing football."

Do you feel like that is your talent — that was something that you discovered early in your career that you said, "I do have an eye and an ear for this?"

Robinson: "I would say probably the first time I thought I was halfway decent at evaluating, I was a 23-year-old linebacker coach at Nicholls State [University, in Louisiana], and the head coach said, 'Hey, go to Houston.' … I ended up at Langham Creek High School, and I said, 'Coach, do you have any players left?' He said, 'Well, we have a defensive back who didn't have an offer.' So I watch probably 10 minutes of film and I saw him move, and he stuck his foot in the ground and a transition back — that one play, and I was like, 'That's it.' Long story short we ended up signing him … and [he] had a great career. You just kind of see it, and you just know it."

Borchetta: "When I had moved from Southern California here to Nashville. … that was where I really start to understand that my career probably wasn't as a musician. It was on the other side of the desk, because I could speak the language and I knew what a hit was. And it's not something where you check six boxes and you have one. It's like, 'Wow, that moves me. And I think millions of people are going to be moved by that and get that as well.'"