Radio Panel Attributes Success To 'Difficult Times' at Billboard Country Summit
Radio Panel Attributes Success To 'Difficult Times' at Billboard Country Summit
Radio Panel (from left): Skip Bishop, Senior VP/Promotion, Sony Music Nashville; Jon Anthony, Program Director, WSIX Nashville; Jan Jeffries, Senior Vice President, Cumulus Broadcasting, Inc.; Julie Talbott, President, Premiere Radio Networks; Steve Blatter, Senior VP of Music Programming, Sirius XM Satellite Radio; Ken Tucker, Managing Editor, Country Weekly; (Photo: Beth Gwinn)

Difficult times, in some regards, might be good news for country radio.

The format is generally faring better in Arbitron ratings since the introduction of PPM measurement technology, and that might be because of the nature of the music, Cumulus Broadcasting senior VP Jan Jeffries told Billboard Country Music Summit attendees June 7 during the final panel of the two-day conference in Nashville.

Suggesting a sluggish economy and ongoing consideration of terrorist threats continues to weigh on the minds of Americans, Jeffries said that country is benefiting from songs that give listeners a sense of community.

"As human beings, when things get uncertain, we go to family, we go to church, we go to things that are real, that are safety," Jeffries said. "Country radio is that. And thank God for the country music artists and the writers, because they reflect that. It may not be about what is going on in the world today, but it's songs about life and it's songs about enrichment. It's all the things that are real."

The relationship between radio and Music Row is different than in any other format, agreed several panelists with histories in numerous formats, including Sony Music Nashville senior VP/promotion Skip Bishop and Sirius XM Satellite Radio senior VP of music programming Steve Blatter.

In the midst of all the feel-good vibe, however, WSIX Nashville PD Jon Anthony, cautioned that programmers can't afford to be over-confident in a "hyperactive" media environment that has radio competing for time with video games, the Internet, mobile technologies and high-definition television. The best radio strategy, he maintained, is having a specific brand.

"Pick a thing to stand for," Anthony said, "and be it."

Moderated by Country Weekly managing editor Ken Tucker, the panel was the final session before a closing cocktail reception that included a four-song performance from Kellie Pickler. Also milling about in the audience: fellow Sony artists Jake Owen, Josh Thompson and the Lunabelles.