Tom Baldrica is an experienced country music business executive who's seen the industry from a lot of angles. He started in radio before jumping to the label side to become the Southeast Region Promotion Manager for BNA Records. In 1997, he was promoted to VP of National Promotion at BNA as the Kenny Chesney era gained steam. In 2006, Tom was moved up again to become VP of marketing for Sony Music Nashville, which includes the Arista Nashville, BNA Records, Columbia Records and RCA Records imprints. Then, in December of last year, Baldrica was named president of Average Joe's Entertainment in Nashville, with a roster that includes Colt Ford, Corey Smith, Montgomery Gentry, Josh Gracin, Matt Stillwell, Lauren Briant, Sunny Ledfurd, Ira Dean, JB and the Moonshine Band, and Rachel Farley.
At the Billboard Country Music Summit June 6-7 in Nashville, on a panel called "Making and Selling Recorded Music: Telling Time or Building a Watch? The New Record Label Business Models Under a Microscope," Baldrica will be joined by Bug Music VP John Allen; Warner Music Nashville President John Esposito; Jay Frank, senior VP of music strategy at CMT; and Michael Powers, partner in the Bigger Picture Group. At last year's panel, things got heated at times, and this year's is expected to be equally spicy. Billboard senior analyst Glenn Peoples will moderate. Baldrica is known for shooting straight from the hip, as this "Better Know a Panelist" installment shows ...
Billboard.biz: What's the last new music you heard that got you excited?
Tom Baldrica: Colt Ford, Corey Smith, Rehab.
BB: Name one of the most memorable live shows you've ever seen.
TB: When Kenny Chesney first headlined his own tour. The first show was in West Palm Beach, Fla., in January, 2002.
BB: At this moment in time, what most worries and encourages you about the country music business?
TB: The wide diversity of great music being made by new and developing artists encourages me. It is authentic and it is relatable, it is being discovered in a multitude of ways, and is keeping the format fresh and relevant. Worries? The continuing shrinkage of music departments [and] floor space in the major box retailers, which continues the path to extinction of the physical disc, which continues to affect our core business profitability.
BB: Is the relationship and level of cooperation between the various entities you work with-promoters, labels, radio, sponsors, management, ticketing companies, whomever-better or worse than five years ago?
TB: Better. Everybody understands if we don't cooperate we will be in deeper sh-- than we already are.
BB: What recent deal, yours or otherwise, impresses you most for its creativity and success?
TB: The launch plan and execution of Taylor Swift's "Speak Now" album http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/content_display/industry/news/e3i5094e406e415c280ce0f5588547553db was brilliant.
BB: What is the most hopeful or positive development you've seen for the music business recently?
TB: That the younger demo is still loving music and still searching for the musical thrill. As an industry, we have to make sure we continue to expose it in the ways that they want to discover it.
BB: Does the country embrace digital music delivery and/or e-commerce in earnest, and if not what will it take to make that happen?
TB: We are embracing it, and more so every day. We have to -- if not, say goodnight.
The Billboard Country Music Summit  -- featuring Q&As with Carrie Underwood and Kenny Chesney and two days of programming that encompasses virtually all aspects of the country music business -- takes place June 6 and 7 in Nashville. Head here to register and get information .