Managers Urge Country Radio to Do More to Help Break New Artists at Billboard Country Summit
Managers Urge Country Radio to Do More to Help Break New Artists at Billboard Country Summit

roundtable (L-R): Moderator/Country Weekly managing editor Ken Tucker, T.K. Kimbrell of TKO Artist Management, Clarence Spalding of Spalding Entertainment, and Will Ward of ROAR Management on stage at the Manager's Roundtable. (Photo: Michael Seto)

If artist managers could moderate Tuesday's keynote with John Hogan, CEO and chairman of Clear Channel Radio and Entertainment, they would ask how radio stations can do more in less time for their artists. Radio is king in country music and Clear Channel the biggest gatekeeper. Managers who need to build new artists have to go through radio -- no matter how long it takes.

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"When you have a record taking sometimes 35 to 50 weeks to get up the charts, you really slow down the process," said Ken Levitan of Vector Management said Monday morning at the "The Manager Roundtable" panel at the Billboard Country Summit. Levitan acknowledged the efforts Clear Channel is making at developing artists -- he singled out the company's Internet radio product, iHeartRadio -- but says artists need more spins quicker. "It hurts breaking new acts. It hurts a lot of things."

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Clarence Spalding of Spalding Entertainment said he wants program directors to become more invested in artists rather than songs. Program managers will be on board for the first single, he said, but support for the artist will wither when the second single underwhelms them. "I think in order for us to grow superstars, these big radio stations have to cut us a little slack," Spalding said. "They need to go and listen to the entire album."

tko Ken Tucker and T.K. Kimbrell share a laugh during the Manager's Roundtable. (Photo: Michael Seto)

Years ago, Spalding would hold the album back from radio for a while because if we gave them the full album they might come and not pick the single that had been picked by the artist's team. "It used to piss me off because everybody's an A&R guy. Now you don't hear from anybody because they haven't even listened to the single you sent them. They are so busy. They have taken on not only the PR [program director] but in a lot of cases they are almost the assistant sale manager."

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T.K. Kimbrell of TKO Artist Management echoed concerns that radio is increasingly difficult for breaking new artists and sustaining momentum when a song takes dozens of weeks to climb up the charts. Established artists don't' face the same problems, Kimbrell added. "Big artists and big, hit songs tend to take care of themselves at radio."