When the Country Radio Seminar returns to town Feb. 22-24, keynote speaker Bob Pittman will set a powerful tone on Wednesday morning that will get even more intense all the way through to the closing New Faces Show on Friday night.
Pittman, who has previously run media giants MTV and AOL, is now CEO of the biggest radio company, Clear Channel Media. For the Country Radio Seminar (CRS), a timely and must-hear keynote speech has become an annual highlight.
“The whole focus on the keynote speakers is to try to get someone that is topical and who brings a unique perspective,” said Bill Mayne, executive director of the Country Radio Broadcasters, the organization which puts on CRS. “Last year, we had Ken Lowe, who pretty much invented cable TV at Scripps. And with the work Bob Pittman did with MTV and AOL, and now his role at Clear Channel, it’s important for our radio people to hear the perspective of these leaders.”
As Country Aircheck notes, Pittman started out in radio at age 15 before moving into television and tech industries. Since joining Clear Channel, he has met with several Music Row labels.
“Radio has a 70-year history, maybe longer,” he tells Country Aircheck, “of working very symbiotically with the music industry. We do something they don’t do, and they do something we don’t do. Our lifeblood is great artists and great music, but we’re not set up to do that. The record companies are, so we want to stay attuned to them.”
CRS provides something else that is crucial for broadcast and programming talent in 2012. Hundreds of these folks are out of work or between gigs, and CRS gives them a chance to meet and greet potential employers and hopefully score new jobs.
“I give this testimony often,” says Mayne, a veteran both of radio and of Music Row labels. “My career would not have taken the path it did had it not been for the opportunities afforded me at CRS. I developed a relationship with Jim Ed Norman at CRS when he was running Warner Brothers Nashville. I ended up going to work with him and being at Warner’s for 15 years.”
Pittman’s keynote address is just the beginning of a very exciting and hectic three days at CRS. The festivities actually kick off on Tuesday night, at the Country Radio Hall of Fame Dinner and Ceremony. Each day during CRS, a major label hosts a luncheon for the radio folks from across the country and around the world, starting with Universal Nashville on Wednesday, Capitol on Thursday, and WB Nashville on Friday.
Mornings and afternoons are chock-full of panel discussions that often get heated, to say the least. Some of the panels this year include, “Artist Visits: How To Create A Win-Win;” “Social Media 201: Execute, Leverage And Monetize;” and “Turbo Charging Your High Octane Air Talent.”
The evenings are also loaded, with after-hours parties, shows and receptions, including the famous Sony Music Nashville riverboat cruise, dinner and concert on the Cumberland River. The riverboat makes a round trip voyage between downtown and the Gaylord Opryland Resort.
Friday night’s climax of CRS is always the New Faces Show, which this year includes the duo Thompson Square, Hunter Hayes, David Nail, Sunny Sweeney, and the Eli Young Band. The New Faces Show has launched countless huge country careers, including that of Tim McGraw, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, and many more.
“New Faces is always exciting,” Mayne says. “That show historically has provided so many magical moments for me. I’ve been to, at last count, something like 30 Country Radio Seminars. I’ll always remember Tim McGraw singing, ‘I’ll Take The Girl.’ So many special moments and careers have been launched by the show.”
Another highlight each year is the remarkable PR and media relations work done by Jeff Walker’s AristoMedia.
Pittman and Mayne both know that one of the reasons CRS has always been such a tremendous draw for radio is that the Country Radio Broadcasters have paid close attention to what the Program Directors and Music Directors are looking for, and responded to those needs.
“Now, the way we do the New Faces Show,” Mayne says, “is that the artists playing the show were voted on by radio. To qualify, they had to have success at radio the previous year.”
And as country radio programmers, artists, labels, and management have known for decades, one way to insure “success at radio” for the coming year is to go to the Country Radio Seminar. It’s been that way for over 40 years now, and when the 2012 CRS kicks off on Feb. 22, another chapter in that long and distinguished history will begin to be written.
By Phil Sweetland | firstname.lastname@example.org