“Last Call With Carson Daly” host Carson Daly and the show’s music booker, Davis Powers, joined Billboard senior editor Ann Donahue today at the THR/Billboard Film and TV Music Conference in Los Angeles to talk about the late-night program’s new musical format. Now in its 10th season, “Last Call With Carson Daly” now focuses primarily on music, with live performances in L.A. venues, interviews and more. Daly and Powers discussed their approach with the new musical format and how it gives up-and-coming artists a new platform for exposure on television.

Programming the Show
Early in the discussion, Daly talked about how he and Davis work together to program the music for the show. “Davis probably has the toughest job, because he has to come into my head and figure out what I’m into musically and culturally,” Daly said. Davis added, “When he and I talk about what we’re going to put on, first of all, he wants to know if I’m passionate about it. We start as music fans. He’s constantly listening to music, as we are. So we find a common ground.”

A&R at the Network Level
Daly stressed he wants the late-night show to feature artists at various stages in their careers, from well established bands to up-and-comers. “Most late-night shows are in competition to get the biggest acts, so they all cancel each other out,” the host said. “Since there are so many shows … there are so many places for bands, and they’re all fighting for the A-listers. From my point of view, it’s a lot of fun to nurture acts. I find more pure enjoyment, personally and professionally, to find these bands that are looking for help and need help to get out there. I’ll tell an artist that I have on the show in any capacity … ‘Hey, use the tape and send it to Conan. Try to use it to get a real late-night show booking.’ There is so much content and so much music that I like the fact that we’re almost a boutique late-night show that can be that jumping off. It’s real A&R and we do it at a network level.”

Developing Relationships
The new format of “Late Night With Carson Daly” has given the host the freedom to develop stronger relationships with many artists, including Green Day. “They wanted to do ‘Jesus of Suburbia,’ which is a track off their last record, that’s over nine minutes long,” Daly said. “Back in New York, [many years ago] Letterman wouldn’t let them do it; they wanted them to cut the song down. They came to us and we’re like, ‘Fuck yeah you can do it. You’re Green Day. We’ll cancel people to have you on.’ And they did it. They appreciated the fact that we cared about the integrity of their music. That led to a booking and relationship where they ended up on my New Year’s Eve show last year.”

Daly, Davis Powers. PHOTO: ARNOLD TURNER

Budget Constraints, Creative Pacts
Part of the new musical format for the show is filming bands playing live in Los Angeles venues. “The greatest marketing tool an artist has is the live show,” Powers said. “So when we’re pitching artists or coming to venues about capturing what is happening, it starts to spark a conversation that leads to understanding that this is really a show that’s trying to do the right thing. Daly added that the show’s budget constraints have forced its staff to think outside of the box when it comes to filming bands in the live space. “We’re real stealth. We’re in the show and nobody even knows we’re there. We’re in the pit, black T-shirts. We’re running Pro Tools. We’re running five or six cameras with the actual audio coming from the board that we can tweak to make sure it sounds good,” Daly said. “So what you’re seeing is that show, Cold War Kids, at the Wiltern, or Jimmy Eat World at the El Rey. When you’re watching it on TV, hopefully you feel like you’re at the show.”

Daly: 'I'm Not Sure [NBC] Knows We're Still Here'
When asked by Billboard’s Donahue if there are ever battles with NBC over the show’s choices in music, Daly answered jokingly, “I’m not sure if they know we’re still there. We’re off the lot now, too, so I think they’re convinced I went back to MTV.” Joking aside, “they’ve been great,” the host said. “We don’t fight with them ever, really, about it. They know, especially now in this doc-talk format, we’re really focusing on music more than we ever have. They’ve seen the results of that and have been very supportive. They’ve never said, ‘Hey, don’t book that band.’”

--Reporting by Mitchell Peters

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