Julie Talbott is president, content and affiliate relations, for Premiere Radio Networks, a position she has held sine 2009. Talbott leads the operation of Premiere's 90 radio programs and services, and more than 5,000 radio affiliations, which reach an audience of more than 190 million listeners weekly. As such, Talbott has a unique influence on the critical touch point between artists and radio listeners, which in country music is the linchpin that drives all aspects of the artist's career.
The evolving radio marketplace, and the vitality of country radio specifically, will be examined at the Billboard Country Music Summit June 6-7 in Nashville. Joining Talbott and moderator Ken Tucker, managing editor of Country Weekly, will be Jon Anthony, PD at Nashville's WSIX; Skip Bishop, senior VP, promotion, Sony Music Nashville; Steve Blatter, senior VP of programming, Sirius XM Satellite Radio; and Jan Jeffies, senior VP, Cumulus Broadcasting, who will discuss everything form artist royalty legislation to alternate content delivery systems, and everything in between. Talbott consented to this Q&A as part of our Better Know A Panelist series leading up to the Summit.
Billboard: What's the last new music you heard that got you excited?
Julie Talbott: That's a tough question, because I love to hear the new releases each week, and I feel like there is so much great music available. If I have to make a choice, I guess the last time I can remember really getting excited about new music was when I heard The Band Perry for the first time. I loved their music right away.
Name one of the most memorable live shows you've ever seen.
Every year at the CMA Music Festival, I'm blown away at the range of talent that performs throughout the June weekend. From the afternoon shows through the evening performances, the amount of talent and their ability to totally connect with the crowds are amazing.
At this moment in time, what most worries and encourages you about the country music business?
There's concern about the changing business model of record labels, which results in less money for artist development. In addition, there's pressure from corporate parent companies to increase margins and revenue, which sometimes inhibits our ability to focus on long-term growth or try more creative initiatives.
On the flip side, I'm encouraged by the new opportunities created by technology, as well as the new crop of talent on the horizon. Many of today's country artists have embraced and are utilizing the variety of new resources to reach audiences - digital technology, social media and corporate-sponsored partnerships.
It's also exciting to see crossover acts, which continue to help expand the brand and audience for country music.
Is the relationship and level of cooperation between the various entities you may work with-promoters, radio promotion, labels, sponsors, management, agents, ticketing companies-better or worse than five years ago?
The relationship and level of cooperation is better than five years ago, yet there are many untapped opportunities for us to work together more closely. For example, there are a number of ways syndicated radio can work with promoters to help announce tours and push ticket sales. Premiere is currently developing new initiatives that leverage and access our relationships with advertisers to bring more value to labels and managers -- from in-store point of purchase materials to endorsements and even tour sponsorships!
While we are sometimes limited by the dynamics of playlists and the needs of our various affiliates, I'm confident there is more we can do together to help labels and managers with artist development, launching new acts and taking them to the next level. I am not exactly sure what that model looks like, but I think it deserves a lot more discussion.
What's the biggest complaint you hear from artist camps?
The biggest complaint heard from the labels is about playlists. Labels want the charts to move more quickly, unless they are at the top, in which case, they would like them to freeze! This is not a new complaint. It has many variables and it's not easy to address, particularly now with PPM, which is changing the rules a bit.
What is the most hopeful/positive development you've seen for the music business recently?
All of the issues and economic pressures have forced everyone to think differently and more creatively to find solutions. We've also had to redefine how we use radio to reach our listeners and promote artists and their music. While no one purports to have all the answers, I think we're making strides in using digital and testing new ideas.
Are cloud-based music delivery alternatives a serious threat to terrestrial country radio?
I don't see any delivery alternative as a threat -only an opportunity. I think terrestrial radio will continue to use the evolving alternate delivery systems as a complement to our content and overall product. Cloud-based alternatives give us opportunities to repurpose content, as well as produce new content - it's not just a place for music. For example, a typical artist interview lasts much longer than we have time to devote to on terrestrial radio, given what PPM research is telling us. loud-based alternatives are a great place to allow some of this content to live.
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.