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If you left early during the "Country Road" touring panel on the first day of the Billboard Country Summit on Monday (June 7), you missed the most contentious statements of the day.

"I think the biggest problem in country music today are the labels," said Dave Snowden, CEO of California-based Triangle Talent. "I think that they have hurt our business. The lack of promotion, the lack of new ideas and innovative ideas. Some of it just does not make sense."

"I have to say I disagree," replied Greg Oswald, co-head, Country Music at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. "If you look at the artists that are going to make you the most money this year, you will see that all of them started and probably still have a record company attached to them. Whether you like them or not, they are the ones that start from ground zero and they're the ones that write the first one million-dollar check."

"I don't want them to go away," Snowden responded. "I want them to get their act together."

Billboard's Ray Waddell, the panel's moderator, then asked if that involved getting a piece of artist's touring revenue.

"No," said country artist Gary Allen. "I feel like they screwed up their end of the business and that's not our fault. I make money touring. They make money selling CDs."

"Amen," said somebody in the audience.

Before the discussion about the role of record labels, the touring conference had a chummy and contented feel. Although there was some concern that the next group of stars is not being properly groomed, all panelists described nothing but happiness about the state of country music touring.

"I think the country music business is as strong as it's even been," said Brian O'Connell, President, Live Nation Country Music. "Right now, in 2010, I couldn't be any happier with the way things are going." Allen agreed. "Since we've teamed up with Live Nation it's even getting better."

Snowden, who books talent for 19 state fairs, said ticket sales at major state fairs are up this year. But when Snowden looks down the road, he's concerned with what he considers a lack of mid-level headliners who will eventually turn into tomorrow's stars. "We need more headliners," he said. "It's very difficult out there with the labels - no support - and radio playing 40 singles."

Curt Motley, Agent/Nashville Office Head, Paradigm Agency, said all parties could work harder on developing mid-level headliners. "It's the guy who sells two or three thousand that's really the only guy that has a chance to sell ten thousand. The guy who sells a thousand doesn't have it."

Pricing was an important topic. The panelists felt country shows are priced very well - some went as far as to say they are perfectly priced. As a genre, some said, prices are low compared to other types of music. And while some artists may be driving premium pricing and special packages, overall the panelists feel country music offers a good value. Special deals and low prices for lawn seats have proved to be particularly popular.

"We know we're right," said Live Nation's O'Connell of the promoter's specials, "because they buy them all."

With country ticket sales as strong as they are, not even the problems of record labels could bring down the optimism in the room. "I guarantee you every format of music would trade places with us right now," said John Huie of Creative Artists Agency.