Cost, connectivity and communication are driving some to depart one of music's most prestigious neighborhoods.

NASHVILLE -- The house at the corner of 16th Avenue South and Tremont Street has served Mary Hilliard Harrington well for six years. From that post in the Music Row neighborhood, she has watched as her company, The Green Room PR, a music industry-focused public relations firm, has tripled in size and come to count Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean and Dierks Bentley as clients.
But the little house has become restrictive as The Green Room has grown. So Harrington is trading in the quaint office space next month for a contrasting view of exposed brick, high ceilings and an open floor plan.
The move means giving up the firm's address in a neighborhood long favored by the music industry for a mailbox in the emerging SoBro neighborhood. Fifteen years ago, such a decision would have seemed to fly in the face of logic. Today, though, Harrington is on trend.
"I'm not concerned about moving off the Row at all," Harrington said. "I think a lot of the music business is spreading out."
From SoBro to Berry Hill and suburban Franklin, the physical presence of the Nashville music industry is shifting.
And while it is hardly time to write an obituary for Music Row — it still is at the heart of the music business -- the place no longer holds the cachet it once did as the aspirational neighborhood of music-related businesses in Nashville.
Back Row story
Music Row was birthed in the 1950s. The stretch's origin is traced to the opening of the Quonset Hut, a recording studio created by country music station WSM's band leader and music director Owen Bradley in 1958. Other studios soon followed, as did music publishers and record labels. A clustering of sorts began to take shape. In just a few years, and helped along by the success of such artists as Bob Dylan and Elvis who recorded there, the Music Row studios made Nashville a recording mecca.
Still, for a place that has served as home base for many of the leading decision makers in the music world, the landscape is unassuming. With the exception of a few companies such as BMI, which occupies a massive building on Music Square East, studios and management and public relations firms on the Row often are located in houses. If not for the signs out front, they easily could be mistaken for residences.
"A lot of folks view Music Row as somewhat of a campus environment," said Lisa Harless, senior vice president of the entertainment and sports division at Regions Bank. "For folks on the Row, it's not uncommon to walk from a board meeting at ASCAP to Regions to do your banking to a meeting with a business manager."
The reasons for the decentralization of that campus are as varied as the businesses themselves, which included major labels such as Universal Music Group, which left Music Square East for downtown five years ago to cut costs and improve communication among its employees, who had been split between two buildings on Music Row.
For Harrington at The Green Room, moving was functional.
"I wanted the kind of environment where we could all see each other and bounce ideas off of each other," she said. "I really wanted a more creative-feeling environment for (employees) and my clients and anyone coming in for meetings. What we do here is creative, and I really wanted our space to reflect that."
Cliff O'Sullivan, general manager and senior vice president of Sugar Hill Records, said cyber connectivity makes being in close physical proximity to other music businesses less of a necessity.
"We're all on email 20 hours a day anyway," said O'Sullivan, who considered moving Sugar Hill to Music Row but has chosen to go to suburban Franklin instead. "We're a community in a much different way."
Changing neighborhood

While it's a relatively new occurrence that established music businesses are choosing to leave or not to locate on Music Row, the ebb and flow of music-related businesses in the neighborhood has been steady.
Real estate broker Ira Blonder said Music Row has been a "volatile environment" for two decades. The whims of the music industry — with businesses such as independent record labels created, bought, merged and closed with regularity — contribute to the area's changing dynamic.
"The volatility is representative of the volatility of the industry," Blonder said. "It's consistent with what's happened in the last 20 years."
Ten years ago, Bart Herbison counted more than 100 for-sale signs on Music Row. The executive director of Nashville Songwriters Association International tied the disruption to illegal music downloading early in the last decade that put many companies out of business and sent others searching for cheaper real estate as profits dwindled. It was a turning point for the neighborhood, he said.
"The big difference on Music Row (now) is that there are dentists' offices, condominiums, lawyers' offices — nothing related to the music industry," said Herbison, whose office is on Roy Acuff Place in the Music Row area. "Virtually every building on these streets was related to the music business, and that's not the case anymore."
The decentralization of Music Row has attracted the attention of Nashville city government, which is studying the neighborhood to discover if there is a "workable business model" that can recapture the music industry concentration on the stretch.
"My understanding is that one of the things that helped distinguish Nashville was the fact that the music industry was relatively concentrated in the Music Row area. You had everything there and there was a certain synergism," Metro Planning Director Rick Bernhardt said. "As Music Row evolved, I think we lost some of that synergy."
New age Music Row
Other areas, meanwhile, have emerged as music business hubs. One is Berry Hill, which is anchored by John and Martina McBride's Blackbird Studio.
Gary Belz, who owned Oceanway Studios on Music Row in the early and mid-'90s and now owns House of Blues Studios in Berry Hill, likens the cluster of businesses to a new-age Music Row.
"There are so many publishing houses and studios," Belz said. "It's a nice neighborhood to walk. There are restaurants, so you can run into musicians, producers."
But as Belz plants himself in Berry Hill, others like Jed Hilly are moving from that area and even farther from Music Row. After eight years in Berry Hill, the executive director of the nonprofit Americana Music Association is setting up shop in larger quarters in Franklin.
"We are moving to Franklin for the same reason we moved from Music Row to Berry Hill," Hilly said. "Music Row is a great location, but for what I'm paying in Franklin, I couldn't get that on Music Row."
O'Sullivan's Sugar Hill will join the Americana Music Association in Franklin.
"I certainly explored the idea of going on Music Row, but it occurred to me that people don't really care where your office is. Not everybody is on Music Row anymore," O'Sullivan said. "There might be people that will say it's not a good idea to be there, but to me, Franklin is Nashville. It's just another ZIP code."