(L-R): Kellie Pickler, Sony Music Nashville Chairman/CEO Gary Overton, Sara Evans and Headline Country's Storme Warren take in the Sony/BMG Cruise at CRS day two. (Photo: Alan Poizner)
Country Radio Seminar attendees had a lot of choices for music on Thursday, from Alan Jackson at the Capitol Nashville luncheon to the Sony/BMG General Jackson cruise in the evening. In between attendees checked out seminars, showcases and exchanged ideas in the numerous areas set aside for interacting and networking with those attending the event.
A seminar on PPM: What We Know and What's Changing, was led by Jan Miller, Director of Programing Services at Arbitron. PPM (Portable People Meter) was also addressed in the Dear Diary panel, where Troy Eckehoff gave advice in the form of his top 10 strategies. He cautioned that radio needs to sound local even if they are using outside sources. Steve Geofferies, OM at Clear Channel in Charlotte, also offered a top 10 list. Among his strategies - let listeners know when they can expect specific programming.
Matraca Berg, Natalie Hemby, Lori McKenna and Ashley Monroe performed during the always popular WCRS, sponsored by BMI and "Country Aircheck." Between the quartet of female writers, they have had hit songs recorded by Miranda Lambert, Kenny Chesney, Trisha Yearwood, Reba McEntire, Lee Ann Womack and the Eli Young Band.
This year's seminar has its share of folks who are encouraging country artists and radio to continue to support various causes. Among those who had a presence were St. Jude Children's Hospital and World Vision. While many country artists support St. Jude, it was the first time for World Vision to have a presence at CRS.
Charles Dorris and Mike Seberson of World Vision outside their booth at CRS. (Photo: Vernell Hackett)
"Our primary reason for being here is to have a brand awareness with the artists and with the country music community," explained Charles Dorris, a consultant for World Vision through his agency, Charles Dorris and Associates.
"We would like for the country artists to use their voice to inform their fans how they can help feed the poor around the world. We have had an excellent response from about 50 artists, who have come by to visit and do PSA's for us."
This is not Dorris' first time at CRS, and he observed that more and more media are making their presence known as more doors open for them. "The growth has been in large part because there are more opportunities today. Online media is hungry for artists to be on their programming. This allows the new artists to get more attention as there are more outlets that need content. It is important for artists to be here. I think if you are ignoring CRS, you are ignoring your future."
Alan Jackson was the feature performer at the Capitol Nashville luncheon. Appropriately, the label provided a spread of fried chicken and southern vegetables in keeping with Alan's numerous songs about southern cooking. "I should have sang some of songs about food," Jackson joked.
Alan Jackson performs and speaks with "Country Aircheck's" Lon Helton at the Capitol Nashville luncheon. (Photo: Bev Moser/CRS)
The singer and "Country Aircheck's" Lon Helton took diners on a verbal and musical journey of his career. Jackson recalled working the Sunday brunch at Opryland Hotel for $25. "And that was singing for four hours," he recalled.
The singer also recalled visiting radio for the first time. "I was scared to death," he admitted. "No one knew who I was."
With his new label affiliation, label head Mike Dungan - who will have his own new label affiliation soon, in news that Billboard.biz broke exclusively yesterday - told Jackson he thought he should do a radio tour but the singer was hesitant.
"I wasn't excited about getting out there," he admitted to Helton. "But Mike said it's been a lot of years since you were out there and I think you should go shake a few hands and let them know you're the same guy."
Once he was on the radio tour, Jackson says he got to see first hand that people are all the same no matter where you go and the preconceived ideas he had about radio were changed. "We were at this one station and one of the women said 'Can we hurry up and take this picture because I have to pick up my child at soccer practice.' I thought, 'That's just like us.' Everyone we met was respectful and showed me they still enjoyed my music and that made me feel good."
Jackson closed the Capitol Nashville luncheon with "Thank God for the Radio" to a rousing round of applause.
Pictured (L-R): Top Row: Tyler Farr, Jake Owen, Middle Row: Kellie Pickler. Bradley Gaskin, Kristen Kelly. Bottom Row: Kix Brooks, Gary Overton (Sony Music Nashville Chairman & CEO) and Carrie Underwood. (Photo: Alan Poizner)
The 26th annual Sony/BMG cruise along the Cumberland left dockside around 7 p.m. Although the weather forecast warned of inclement weather, the skies did not pour down hail and rain as had been predicted. Inside and onstage, hosts Storme Warren, Sara Evans and Kellie Pickler worked to keep the music flowing despite some technical difficulties throughout the evening. Jake Owen opened the show with a great performance, followed by newcomer Tyler Farr and Josh Thompson. Pickler and Evans sprinkled performances throughout the evening from a satellite stage in the audience. Another new artist, Kristen Kelly, performed before duo Love and Theft took to the stage. They brought along guitar great Josh Leo, who wowed the audience with his expertise.
Casey James, a former "American Idol" contest who came in third on season nine, performed two original tunes. "Last year I thanked all of you but I didn't really understand what I was thanking you for," James told the audience. "Tonight I am thanking you again, for all you have done for me this past year."
Kix Brooks hit the stage with his usual enthusiasm and gave the audience a taste of things to come from his first solo album on Sony/BMG.
"Thank you for letting me talk on radio," Brooks deadpanned, adding, "Now I hope you will also let me sing on radio." He went on to say it was an adjustment to work "without that skinny guy" and reassured that "we're still great friends."
Carrie Underwood closed the show, performing several of her tunes and introducing her new single, "Good Girl." "I wanted to play it for you first," she said before launching into the new tune. She called Brooks, Kelly, Evans and Owen back to perform the finale, a rousing version of "Good Lovin'."
Kix Brooks, Carrie Underwood, Kristen Kelly, Sara Evans and Jake Owen perform on the Sony/BMG boat cruise. (Photo: Alan Poizner)
Several labels chose to go a different route other than late-night showcases or hospitality rooms. Black River Mobile hosted a cigar bar while Toby Keith's Showdog/Universal Records invited people onto their bus parked outside the convention center.
BRE Live showcased Sarah Darling, Due West, Glen Templeton while Chelsea Bain and Jon Pardi showcased at some of the local honky tonks on lower Broadway near the CRS event. Bob Kingsley's Acoustic Alley featured songwriters Jeffrey Steele, Tom Douglas, Dallas Davidson, Rhett Akins and Ben Hayslip.
(L-R): Sarah Darling; Brad Hull, Due West; Tim Gates, Due West; Matt Lopez, Due West; and Glen Templeton at the Black River Entertainment event (Photo: Dan Harr)
The party scene at the Black River Entertainment event. (Photo: Dan Harr)