New Statistics About Country Music Fans Revealed at Billboard Country Summit
New Statistics About Country Music Fans Revealed at Billboard Country Summit

The goal of the Billboard Country Music Summit, taking place Monday and Tuesday and produced in association with the Country Music Association, is simple: to bring together key stakeholders in the country music industry to discuss the most important issues and opportunities for the genre.

The programming for the summit, which takes place Monday and Tuesday at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel, will cover it all: radio, touring, publishing, labels, digital, international, sponsorships and more. If it affects an artist's career, it'll come up at the summit. Billboard editorial director Bill Werde and CMA board chairman Steve Moore will open the event with welcoming remarks and a look at the state of country music in 2011.

Adding major star power to the event will be featured Q&As on Monday from Carrie Underwood and on Tuesday from Kenny Chesney.

Among other artists participating are Jason Aldean, who will participate in a panel on Monday to discuss key decisions in his career (see below), and Kellie Pickler, who will perform at a closing reception on Tuesday.

There will also be a pair of CMA Global Artists parties, where a total of 18 acts will perform, and a special closing cocktail reception featuring a performance from Kellie Pickler.

Below is a look at the panels that will take place during the conference - head here to register and get information.

Virtually all aspects of an artist's career flow through the manager's office. As the roles of other players in an act's career diminish, particularly with the downsizing of the record labels, today's managers are the true power brokers and must wear many hats, often with their own staff to handle radio promotion, digital, sponsorships, PR, tour operations, publishing and legal personnel.

The managers have a take on every issue that'll be discussed at the summit, and some of the most influential managers in country music will weigh in on what's sure to be an enlightening keynote session.

Hosted by MSN Music correspondent Phyllis Stark, the manager's panel will include McGhee Entertainment president Doc McGhee (Kiss, Darius Rucker), Erv Woolsey Co. CEO Erv Woolsey (George Strait), Vector Management co-president Ken Levitan (Trace Adkins, Dierks Bentley, Kid Rock), ROAR Management partner Bernie Cahill (Zac Brown Band), B.A.D. Management president Virginia Davis (Jewel, Steel Magnolia) and TKO Artist Management president T.K. Kimbrell (Toby Keith).

Country touring outperformed the business at large in 2010, and the genre has been remarkably successful in developing new headlining talent. But with more contemporary country headliners on the road than ever, is there a point where this success leads to market saturation? And if so, what can be done to keep live country music strong?

To discuss the latest trends in country music touring, talent buyers representing millions spent annually on the genre will weigh in on this most critical fan connection in music. As an added bonus, country legend Charlie Daniels will provide the perspective that comes from more than 40 years of touring.

Moderated by Ray Waddell, Billboard executive director of content and programming for touring and live entertainment, the panel will include, in addition to Daniels, Neste Event Marketing president Gil Cunningham, NS2 CEO Darin Lashinsky, TMG/AEG Live president/CEO Louis Messina, Live Nation president of country music Brian O'Connell and Red Mountain Entertainment president Gary Weinberger.

As far back as the 1940s, songwriting and publishing were the core of Nashville's country music business. Today, the future belongs to the songwriters who know how to work smart, invest wisely and stay focused on opportunities that the new digital marketplace offers.

The title of this panel says it all: "Songwriters: Win Lose or Draw? Content Creation in the New Digital Marketplace (What You Have to Know & How to Get There)."

The panel will be moderated by Billboard Country Update editor Tom Roland and will include songwriter/artists Rhett Akins and Dallas Davidson, Adams & Reese entertainment lawyer Linda Edell Howard, Nashville Songwriters Assn. International executive director Barton Herbison, SunTrust Bank managing director Andrew P. Kintz and EMI Music Publishing Nashville executive VP/GM Ben Vaughn.

Akins and Davidson are two-thirds of the Peach Pickers, one of the hottest writing teams on Music Row responsible for such hits as Joe Nichols' "Gimme That Girl," Blake Shelton's "All About Tonight" and Josh Turner's "All Over Me."

Country artists have aligned themselves with brands for decades, and today's acts are involved in some of the most sophisticated branding and sponsorship deals in music. For the panel titled "Corporate America: They Really Like Us," executives on all ends of such deals will discuss what makes a branding partnership work, how an artist can get in on the action and which deals should be avoided.

Moderated by CMA VP of strategic partnerships Sheri Warnke, the panel will include MAC Presents president Marcie Allen, Country Financial VP of marketing Keith Brennan, Gloriana band member Tom Gossin, Creative Artists Agency sponsorship agent Laura Hutfless, Clorox director of sponsorships Drew McGowan and Samsung regional marketing manager Stacey Portnoy.

"Country music is mainstream," Warnke says. "Nearly 95 million Americans identify themselves as country music fans. That's 42% of the U.S. population-substantial for any brand. And country music fans represent an impressionable and lucrative target audience. [We'll] discover how our fans and America's brands can build meaningful partnerships."

Keynote Artist Development Case Study: Jason Aldean Since bursting onto the scene with 2005's "Hicktown", Jason Aldean has created a new paradigm for country music artist development. Rather than an overnight flash in the pan, Aldean has enjoyed a steady, if non-stop, upward career trajectory. Aldean's fourth album for Nashville independent label Broken Bow in "My Kinda Party" is his third disc to go platinum, and his fastest seller to date on its way to double platinum this year.

Jason Aldean's career is hitting on every cylinder, including radio hits, album sales and touring where, as a headliner, he has moved up to the arena level on his Live Nation-produced run. Success like this doesn't just happen, but results when talent is leveraged with smart career choices. The Artist Development Case Study will explore the moves that have led to Aldean's success and discuss what's next. Moderated by Billboard's Ray Waddell, the session will include Aldean, Buddy Lee Attractions president Kevin Neal, Spalding Entertainment managers Clarence Spalding and Chris Parr and Broken Bow Records senior VP of operations Rick Shedd.

Any perception that the country music audience isn't digitally savvy is flat wrong. But like the rest of the music industry, country artists are still trying to pin down how best to monetize the digital world. The discussion titled "Songs in the Stream: Social Commerce and the Future of Online Retail" will look for answers.

New companies designed to better connect artists with fans are cropping up every day. Some are more effective than others. On this panel, industry pioneers representing a wide range of independent and mainstream artists will discuss the future of online retail.

The panel will include the most innovative and successful players in the e-commerce/social networking space: Strategic Blend co-founder Michael Sloane, Nimbit founder Patrick Faucher, Bandbox co-founder Brian Peterson, Topspin Media VP of artist and label relations Andrew Mains, RootMusic CEO J Sider, Moontoast chief technology officer Marcus Whitney and ReverbNation co-founder/CEO Mike Doernberg.

"The past 12 months have seen an explosion of tools built to sell music and merch directly through status updates and similar social streams," Gonzales says. "I'm looking forward to grilling the leaders in the space as to how effective this approach really is and where it goes next. And who doesn't like to see a little friendly competition play out onstage?"

Beyond the Web, the summit will also take a global view when it comes to career-building. This year, international strategies will be the focus of "Country Without Borders: International Opportunities in Country Music." Traditionally, most country artists have been slow to embrace international touring and record promotion, but the ones that do often find opportunities overseas to boost record sales and touring revenue.

At the same time, country acts from international markets still flock to Nashville to give a mainstream country career a shot. This panel will explore both sides of the equation, examining how artists' careers can expand globally. Moderated by AristoMedia Group CEO Jeff Walker, the discussion will include Australian artist Tommy Emmanuel, RGK Entertainment Group president Ron Kitchener, artist Joe Nichols, Rob Potts Entertainment Edge CEO Rob Potts, Judy Seale International/Stars for Stripes president/CEO Judy Seale and Big Machine Label Group international director of marketing Brad Turcotte, whose label just sent Taylor Swift on a tour of Europe and Asia.

When it comes to the business of record labels, the title describes where the panel is headed: It's called "Making and Selling Recorded Music: Telling Time or Building a Watch? The New Record Label Business Models Under a Microscope."

At last year's summit, artists and label chiefs discussed how to move beyond all the hand-wringing being done about the state of country music. This session promises to be fast-paced, lively and controversial, as label power brokers and key innovators lay it out with candor, humor and, most important, the cold, hard truth.

"Like the rest of the country and world, Nashville is home to companies with a new take on the old record-label model," says Billboard senior analyst Glenn Peoples, who will moderate the session. "Whether or not they succeed gets to the heart of the new music business."

The panel will include Warner Music Nashville president John Esposito, CMT senior VP of music strategy Jay Frank, Average Joe's Entertainment president Tom Baldrica, Bigger Picture Group partner Michael Powers and Bug Music VP John Allen.

The summit will revisit the publishing world from a different angle with "Publishing: Red and Black Ink; Return on Investment & Entrepreneurship in a Business of Pennies-The New Roadmap." The discussion will explore how today's investment strategies, royalty and regulatory structure, and changing consumer tastes and trends all pose daunting challenges for music publishers.

Moderated by Music Row Publications publisher David Ross, the panel will include BMI VP of writer/publisher relations for Nashville Jody Williams, Universal Music Publishing Group Nashville president Pat Higdon, ClearBox Rights founder/president John Barker, Sea Gayle Music partner Chris Dubois, Curb Records VP of A&R Doug Johnson and Big Yellow Dog Music co-owner/VP of creative Carla Wallace.

"Our music publishing session will illuminate the ongoing challenges and opportunities this vibrant and resourceful sector of the country music business grapples with in the digital age," Billboard senior chart manager Wade Jessen says. "We'll hear from front-line professionals in all corners of the music publishing arena, including songwriting, A&R, copyright administration, performing rights and creative directors."

In a changing market, country radio appears to be surviving and thriving, while the outlook for some other formats isn't quite as rosy. Some of the brightest minds in the business will discuss the state of radio in all formats during "Country Radio Dead or Alive: Why and How Country Radio Thrives While Other Formats Fight for Their Lives." Country radio's top strategists will offer insight into Arbitron's Portable People Meter ratings, programming, management and revenue challenges. They'll discuss everything from artist royalty legislation to alternate content delivery systems.

"As anyone who's spent five minutes in Nashville knows, country radio is still king when it comes to connecting artists and their music with fans," says moderator Ken Tucker, managing editor of Country Weekly. "Both radio and record labels recognize the fact that as tenuous as the relationship sometimes is, they need each other to survive."

The radio panel will include Sirius XM senior VP of music programming Steve Blatter, Clear Channel Radio senior VP of programming/director of community engagement Clay Hunnicutt, Cumulus Broadcasting senior VP Jan Jeffries, Sony Music Nashville senior VP of promotion Skip Bishop and Premiere Radio Networks president Julie Talbott.

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.