There is precedent for major artists shifting mid-career. Tim McGraw's split from Curb Records to join Big Machine Label Group is at the forefront, but artists like Alan Jackson (Sony Nashville to Capitol), Garth Brooks (Capitol to multiple others) and Rascal Flatts (Lyric Street to Big Machine) also come to mind. Sometimes, the transition is smooth. Other times, there's a long legal battle. There's nothing to indicate that kind of drama here, but there are a few hints that Underwood's course of doing business may change.
New music, new old music, new touring plans and new collaborators are all part of this list of things potentially on the horizon. Our speculation is based on familiar patterns, or — as is the case with No. 2 — our own dreams and whimsy.
New Music in 2017
It's hard to imagine Underwood and her new record label partners at Universal Music Group (UMG) sitting out the rest of the year. There's tremendous excitement and considerable money around this new record deal, and everyone is eager to pick the fruits of their hard work. A new single by summer and album by CMA day is a safe bet.
An International Focus
A press release announcing Carrie Underwood's new record label deal with UMG Nashville stressed the "worldwide" nature of the deal. She's at a point where she can expand globally without losing fans in North America. Shania Twain (a UMG artist) made the same leap 15 years ago, making mistakes and finding success in ways that should pave the way for 34-year-old Underwood today.
Greatest Hits Album(s)
When a label group like Sony Nashville loses a superstar like Carrie Underwood, there's opportunity to repackage hits and album cuts in new ways for fans. Traditionally they own the rights to these songs — there could even be never-before-heard tracks that didn't make an album for whatever reason. Expect Underwood's time with Sony to have a long tail and possibly include a live album.
New Duet Opportunities
Often releasing a single that includes an artist from another record label is a pain, and thus the best songs on an album stay there. "The Fighter," Underwood's duet with Keith Urban, was an exception. She also released "Heartbeat," a song that featured UMG's Sam Hunt. There are some great vocalists at her new record label. How badly would you love to hear an Underwood/Stapleton ballad? The road there is much smoother now.
Underwood has hosted the CMA Awards with label partner Brad Paisley for nine years, making it a nice win for them, America and Sony Music Nashville. Now that she's playing for a different team, it's fair to wonder if the arrangement will continue. Nothing has been said officially, making this final point pure speculation. But it's speculation with cause.