Dylan Marlowe and Conner Smith with Nashville Insider’s Jennifer Vickery-Smith

BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) presented its 2023 BMI Country Awards this evening, honoring the unparalleled career of BMI Icon Award recipient Matraca Berg as well as the Country SongwriterSong and Publisher of the Year. The 71st annual event also celebrated the top songwriters and music publishers behind this past year’s 50 most-performed songs in Country music. BMI’s President & CEO, Mike O’Neill, hosted the evening alongside Nashville’s VP, Creative, Clay Bradley.

As this year’s BMI Icon, Berg joins an elite group of songwriters who have had an indelible influence on music makers overs generations including Toby Keith, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, Dean Dillon, Hank Williams, Jr. and Stevie Nicks. During the evening, Berg’s chart-topping hits were on display as Lainey Wilson performed her own rendition of Deana Carter’s CMA Award-winning classic “Strawberry Wine,” while Ashley McBryde took to the stage for a gritty performance of Trisha Yearwood’s 1992 hit “Wrong Side of Memphis.” Kenny Chesney and Grace Potter closed out the tribute as they reunited for a powerhouse duet of their 3x Platinum award-winning single, “You and Tequila.”

Luke Combs and Morgan Wallen tied for the coveted BMI Songwriter of the Year award, as each songwriter co-wrote four of BMI’s most-performed songs in Country music. Combs co-wrote his three consecutive No. One singles “Doin’ This,” “Going, Going, Gone,” “The Kind of Love We Make” and Zac Brown Band’s “Out in the Middle.” Wallen serves as a co-writer on Keith Urban’s “Brown Eyes Baby,” Corey Kent’s No. One hit “Wild as Her,” as well as his record-breaking songs “Thought You Should Know” and “You Proof.” To commemorate the milestone, the two swapped songs as Combs performed “Thought You Should Know” and Wallen performed “Going, Going, Gone.”

Wallen’s “You Proof” was named 2023 BMI Country Song of the Year, published by Big Loud Mountain, Bo Wallace Publishing, Ern Dog Music, Songs of Universal, Inc., Sony/ATV Songs LLC and Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. BMI’s most-performed Country song of the year was written by Wallen, Ernest Keith Smith and Charlie Handsome and became the first radio single in Country music history to spend 10 weeks at the top spot on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart.

The Publisher of the Year accolade went to Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp., which published 25 of the 50 most-performed songs of the year, including megahits like Tyler Hubbard’s “5 Foot 9,” Maren Morris’ “Circles Around This Town,” Thomas Rhett’s “Slow Down Summer,” Zach Bryan’s “Something In The Orange” and Bailey Zimmerman’s “Rock and a Hard Place.”

During the ceremony, BMI also saluted the songwriters and publishers of the 50 most-performed country songs of the previous year including “Flower Shops” written by Ernest, Ben Burgess and Mark Holman, “Gold” written by Ross Copperman and Luke Dick, “Heart Like A Truck” written by Trannie Anderson and Dallas Wilson and “Last Night Lonely” written by Jimi Bell and Dylan Marlowe.

A special thank you to BMI’s longtime partners Crown Royal and George Dickel as well as its new partner WP Global Private Equity Partners for supporting the 2023 BMI Country Awards.