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HillbilliesVille plants roots in Lebanon

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HillbilliesVille presents live sets by country artists that arent commercial enough or wealthy enough to get exposure on radio through record labels, he said about the performances that will be produced from the Town Hall building at Fiddlers Grove.

He aims to produce 200 shows a year. The two-hour programs, which he co-hosts with country singer Juelane Porter, will each feature about four singers, most relatively unknown. Besides music, there will be sit-down-around-the-table interviews.

When you watch a HillbilliesVille live stream, the only better experience would be having the artist live in your living room. The fan can chat with the artist live while they are online. A fan might make a Skype call into our studio and become part of the live stream chat with the artist, just like talk radio, only in video, Kiepe said.

HillsbilliesVille is a resident artisan in Fiddlers Grove just like the blacksmiths association and the antique automobile club and the weavers and those sort of things, said Hale Moss, who serves on the board of the Fiddlers Grove Association. This is just a different type of artisan, but we think it is worth a try, and the story of Fiddlers Grove is now on the Worldwide Web by his streaming process.

Its an interesting concept and one which we are stepping out there to try. We think it can bring some benefits to Wilson County tourism down the road and will promote traditional country music as well, Moss said.

HillsbilliesVille founder Kiepe, 50, grew up a passionate fan of country music on a dairy farm near Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia. His online community already boasts 30,000 members from such countries as the U.S., the UK, India, Canada and Australia.

He owned a small media company in Australia that included a newspaper, magazine and a radio show titled Gday-Gday, which offered conversation about life in rural Australia. One of the important topics was country music.

I was a very frustrated country music fan because I knew there was all this music available, but we could never get it. It wasnt played on the radio and access was impossible. And then when the Internet came along, I believed this was gonna be the answer, he recalled.

When offered the opportunity to purchase 50 AM radio licenses from the Australian government, licenses which had the potential to be turn into digital licenses, Kiepe was inspired and sketched a business model that revolved around the Internet. The core of his plan was to help unknown talent connect with country music fans globally.

After two years of studying how the country music business worked in Music City, he concluded that talent had little to do with whether gifted singers got record deals or were making a living in the industry. He decided in early 2010 that Nashville wasnt the right place from which to operate.

I didnt like the country music business in Nashville and the direction it was heading, and we noticed definitely there was a high level of talent that was not getting to the fans, Kiepe said. I knew from a technological point of view how we were able to connect country music artists that were extremely talented with fans that were desperate to find them. There are literally millions of people in the world who love country music, and Im not talking about pop country. . . Real country music connects on a emotional level that pop country music has not come close to.

Then he discovered Lebanon.

It is progressive from my perception but still very much a country town. I could relate to a small country town whether in the U.S.A. or Australia. I felt right at home the minute I drove on Main Street, said Kiepe, who moved to Lebanon a year ago. I could see everything about this region was right. It has an entrepreneurial history, and there are real country people who live here with country values, and that was important after spending a couple of years in Nashville, which is a city driven by medicine, education and tourism.

He also found the fairgrounds and Fiddlers Grove, where people had as much passion and sense of tradition as he did.

Right after the county fair last year, we took steps to do our final trial at Fiddlers Grove and completed 30 live events out of the General Store in October and November, and that was extremely successful, he said.

Since January he has focused on steps to commence fulltime operations of the HillbilliesVille brand out of Fiddlers Grove, which includes the installation of multi-camera, digital filming and live streaming video. Kiepe said the hardware is in development, and trial testing should be done the week of March 19. If all goes well, HillbilliesVille should be up and running by the middle of April. That means multiple, live events will be streamed weekly from Fiddlers Grove.

The venue will have seating for 40. A fee will be charged, and those in the audience may appear in the program.

The business model is all about getting the artists and the fans together and give the artist an opportunity to be able to create a living rather than have to rely on a guy on Broadway (in Nashville) among other places. HillbilliesVille today is all about creating the one-stop location for any fan or artist to connect," he said.

Were building a business based on new talent. That doesnt mean we are excluding established artists, but our focus is to bring new artists to the market.

Traditional country singers on board include Ken Mellons, Michael Twitty, Clinton Gregory, Evi Tausen, T. Jae Christian, Roy August, Jennifer Brantley and Amy Benton.

We invite any established musician or performer of country music to make HillbilliesVille part of their life. Besides the streamed shows, there is the opportunity for an artist to become a professional part of HillbilliesVille, and for a small monthly fee of $45 we will help them with their career but thats no financial inhibitor, he said.

Our focus is helping them facilitate their own business. This year we are launching live reality channels for individual artists. We will provide all the infrastructure and operations, and the artist will provide content for their live channel, and we will share the revenue.

As for those who want to view the shows and hear the music online, membership cost $59 a year.

HillbilliesVille is owned by Global Village Entertainment; a Tennessee-based company, and I am majority shareholder in the company, Kiepe said. We take being in Lebanon a very serious thing. We want to do all we can so the local community will embrace our vision.

Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at

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