Finger Licking Good: The Sponsorship Round Table hosted by by Marcie Allen, President, Mac Presents and Stacey Portnoy, Regional Marketing Manager, Samsung (Photo: Beth Gwinn)
>The opening cocktail reception for the second annual Billboard Country Music Summit in association with CMA was slightly different from similar events, where industry VIPs and newcomers rub shoulders and exchange business cards.
Monday night's session, held at the Renaissance Hotel Ballroom in Nashville, offered Roundtable Discussions hosted by industry veterans who offered their opinions and expertise to peers and newcomers alike. Sponsorships was the most well-attended of the seven roundtables, with others being Touring, Labels/Recording/Publishing/Songwriter Digital, Media/Publicity, Legal, Business Management and A&R/BillboardPro.
Facilitators at each table kept the chatter going, calling on others at the table to tell their stories and ask their questions. Talk at the Touring area not surprisingly turned to Twitter and Facebook, as Brian Hill with Paradigm Talent and Darin Lashinsky of NS2 discussed how turning to those social networks can improve tickets sales for an artist.
"An artist or their label can do a lot to keep fans in the loop," Hill told the crowded table. "Baby acts and indie acts can use these networks as more ways to gain fans, and turn that into ticket sales when they come to their town."
Discussion also took on the kinds of acts that draw return ticket buyers. Hill assured those at the table that "an artist who will entertain an audience will always come back a second time, especially if they keep their show fresh."
Other points an artist and their agent need to keep in mind are knowing the area the artist will sell tickets, and once again, how to reach those fans to ensure that they know the artist is playing in their area.
Don Cusic, music professor at Belmont University, put forth the question of what would happen if a major label merged with a major booking agency, although such a concept might not always be legally feasible. "It would seem that it would work most successfully at a small label and agency level," said Lashinsky.
"I thought there was good information being exchanged," Cusic said after the event was over. "There was a mix of people: the ones who want to know how to get into the music business, and the people who can discuss what the latest issues and trends are. There is a very different mix of questions that you have to deal with when you have a mixed crowd like that."
Folks at the Business Management table were talking about touring, but from a little bit different perspective. Table hosts Julie Boos and Jamie Cheek with Flood, Bumstead, McCarthy & McCready, were discussing VIP ticket packages, the kind that have added value to them such as a bundles that include meet-and-greets and other extra items.
The beauty of these bundles is while the fans go away from the concert with special memories, the artist reaps the benefits from the ticket sales. These special packages work especially well in country music because country fans are often loyal followers of their favorite artists.
The Media/Publicity table was also full, with Cindy Heath of Monarch Publicity and "Country Weekly" editor Ken Tucker fielding questions. When asked about some changes that had been implemented since taking over as editor as far as the free downloads the publication once offered, Tucker explained that at the time the magazine was doing that, there seemed to be no guidelines for offering the freebies.
"There has to be credibility there; you can't just put everyone in the magazine or it means nothing to anyone," Tucker explained. "Now, when considering someone for a story or mention, we consider the charts because our readers listen to the radio. If they can't hear it on the radio they probably aren't interested. We do make exceptions, for instance if someone is having a huge breakout in one area where they are gathering fans and selling records. Then they are building a story, but there has to be something there to talk about."
Tucker also discussed covers for the magazine, listing the top sellers as George Strait, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill together, and Jason Aldean. He pointed out that most people who purchase a magazine do so on impulse, with Heath pointing out that music is often bought in the same manner.
"Miranda and Blake were our biggest sellers last year after they announced their engagement, and Tim and Gwyneth Paltrow were big when 'Country Strong' came out."
He went on to cite differences in two of the cover artists. "I love George Strait, but he doesn't do interviews so we have a hard time getting new quotes on him. Reba, on the other hand, is so good about talking to us when we do a cover or when we need information. Just recently, she spoke to me from her hotel room when her father was in the hospital. She is very cooperative."
Heath said she thought the new format for the reception worked well. "There was great dialogue, and it was interesting to hear from people who had been in the business for 15-20 years, and those who are new in it now and how we're all dealing with things. With that kind of open dialogue, the speakers learn as much from the audience as they do from us. I liked this format a lot."
Tim McFadden of R&J Records said he enjoyed the challenge of the questions that were asked at the tables he visited. "People who don't know the business tend to ask interesting questions that are hard to answer, and they make you think. Those of us who are in the business every day think we know it all. Then someone comes along with a question and we realize that we don't."
Tucker said he noted that all the tables were full, and that instead of moving around, attendees tended to pick a topic and stay there throughout the entire event. "Everyone seemed like they enjoyed it, and people at our table were engaged in discussion."