Fairfax sells out of its country music franchises

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After recently announcing plans to expand its events activities, Fairfax Media has sold off one of its biggest and best-known franchises - involvement in Australia's country music scene.

Fairfax publishes the glossy monthly Country Music Capital News - now in its forty-second year - and has been heavily involved in the annual Tamworth Country Music Festival.

Notable among events is the annual Star Maker talent quest, but the activities of the publisher's daily newspaper, the Northern Daily Leader and the monthly known affectionately as 'Cap News' are also closely intertwined. Fairfax publishes the annual festival guide - this year a 280-page reference to gigs, artists and other activities - and data from this is also published in its free weekly and online.

Now the progressive involvement of the local Tamworth Regional Council, which now organises the festival itself under the leadership of former Leader managing editor John Sommerlad - now director of Destination Tamworth - has seen Fairfax's Australian Regional Media sell all the country music assets it (and predecessor Rural Press) have managed over the last 20 years.

Magazine editor Cheryl Byrnes says the sale is a "strategic move" to enhance the marketing of the festival. Tamworth council is buying the festival-related publications, websites, events and trademarks, including Capital News, the official guide, Toyota-sponsored Star Maker contest, Coca-Cola Country events, Festival FM radio and their associated URLs and Facebook pages.

Former Country Music Association of Australia director Kate Nugent is group manager of Fairfax Rural Events.

Capital News began as an eight-page magazine in 1975, evolving as a tabloid newspaper available at newsagents in 1981, and then in 2001 to today's glossy magazine, printed at Fairfax's hybrid print centre in North Richmond, NSW.

While the upside for the Tamworth-centred country music industry is emphasised, there's no statement on why Fairfax is shedding a relationship which has sold thousands of magazine copies and pages of advertising.

The deal is expected to be completed by July.

Pictured: 2017 Star Maker winner Rachael Fahim collects her prize - a package which includes a CD, shows and a year' use of a Rav4 - from Toyota's Wayne Gabriel at an open-air final in Tamworth

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