10 Questions with ... Leslie Fram
February 19, 2012
1) Hi Leslie and welcome to Music City! Tell us about your position at CMT and give us a quick 'snapshot' job description of your position as Senior Vice President, Music Strategy
Thanks, I am honored to live and be working in Music City! As SVP of Music Strategy at CMT, I lead the music strategy team, overseeing integration within our brand across all platforms. Our focus is to create and integrate engaging content that adds context to videos, highlight our biggest stars and launch new careers.
2) What are you excited about at the network for 2012?
Presently, CMT has two nights of original programming including "Sweet Home Alabama," and two of the highest-rated shows in the history of the network with "Bayou Billionaires" and "My Big Redneck Vacation." The implications and rewards of adding hit shows to any network are invaluable to the brand.
3) You have worked with CMT President Brian Philips back in radio correct? Where did you two work and what was it like?
Yes-for 10 years in Atlanta at 99X, one of the biggest tastemaker, alternative stations in the country during the 90s and 2000s. Brian was the Program Director (later Operations Manager) and one of my biggest mentors. Brian is a true visionary and during those years we programmed by relying on gut instinct and truly understanding the market and our listeners. It was about localization, from building a morning show to inventing station concerts/events that became legendary and creating our own musical sound that didn't follow a national chart. We invited our listeners to be part of the process way before social networking became the norm.
4) You have done some amazing things in the Rock world, have you always had an appreciation for Country music?
Absolutely! In Atlanta, I was lucky enough to interview and see Johnny Cash and had been a huge fan. In New York, I was on the morning show with MTV's Matt Pinfield and we would interview big country artists like Brad Paisley and Miranda Lambert. I listen to everything from rock to pop and country. In the country world before CMT, I listened to Dierks Bentley, Miranda, Pistol Annies, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Dwight Yoakam and many Americana and Texas artists. Seeing Lyle Lovett and His Large Band every year at Chastain Park Amphitheatre was a tradition.
5) Congratulations for being the first woman to win the TJ Martell Award in recognition of outstanding performance in the music industry. That had to be quite an honor.
It was a huge honor, but I was a nervous wreck that day. I sat on a stage and some of my closet friends 'roasted' me (Brian Philips, Ron Poore, Matt Pollack, Randy Lane, Nan Fisher) and then I had to get up and make a speech in front of a heavy industry crowd. I never got nervous as a morning show host introducing a band in front of thousands of people, but giving a speech in front of your peers is a very different story. It's an amazing organization, and that will go down as one of the most memorable nights of my career.
6) Why did you get into this industry initially, and how did you land that coveted first job?
I was a shy kid from Alabama whose biggest form of entertainment was listening to the radio in my room and calling DJ's to request songs. When you're a shy kid, being behind a microphone is a great way to start and break-out of your shyness! I caught the radio bug in high school at a local radio station in my hometown of Fairhope, Alabama (where, coincidentally, CMT films "Sweet Home Alabama"). I got a job there through the drama department at school running the board on Sunday mornings for a religious program. That's what we call 'paying your dues, kid'! After high school, I moved to Mobile to attend the University of South Alabama and immediately got a job doing overnights at Top 40 WABB. Once again, 'paying my dues' to eventually become the PD and midday personality.
7) Who have your mentors been in both work and life, and why?
In work, we start with Bernie Dittman, who was the owner and operator of WABB in Mobile, Alabama. From Bernie I learned about work ethic, passion for your art, creating magic with no money and how not to take 'no' for an answer. I am sad he is no longer with us to get his perspective on everything. Randy Lane was another early mentor in both programming and on-air. He is the best morning show and media coach in the country. His coaching skills taught me about being 'real' on the radio and how to get the very best out of talent. Brian Philips is a true visionary who has leadership abilities that enable everyone to uncover and reach their full potential. The power to empower is an amazing trait in a great leader. I've been very lucky in my career to work for him twice. In life, I credit my husband Lanny West who had been my biggest cheerleader and for 20 years woke up at 4 a.m. and made me coffee and breakfast before doing the morning show! I also credit my parents Joe and Adele Fram, who I lost several years ago, for always encouraging me to follow my passion and dreams.
8) What do you see as the greatest challenges facing our industry right now?
Instead of challenges, I view these as opportunities. If we are competing for eyes and ears, it is our responsibility as broadcasters to continue to understand and listen to our audience. It doesn't matter whether I like a particular song or video. What matters is fulfilling that daily promise to the audience. What you are programming should be a marketing statement, every time a listener turns on your radio station or a viewer watches CMT.
9) In your position will you be creating synergy between CMT's web and social media presence with the TV Network?
Communication between all departments happens every morning in our Daily Stand-Up meeting. We blend the messaging on music and shows on social and CMT.com.
10) Does the average CMT viewer come to the network for music or your other programming or both?
Both. We built our reputation on music, both on television and online. We're also getting great traction with new original shows that are gaining a loyal following of their own.
1. What's your favorite spot to eat in Music City so far?
Burger Up in 12 South because it's delicious and I can walk there!
2. What music are you listening to right now that you're loving?
Listening to the new Dierks Bentley, Kathleen Edwards and the new Waylon Jennings tribute, The Music Inside.
3. What are your favorite TV 'guilty pleasures.'
"Bayou Billionaires," "Sweet Home Alabama," "American Pickers" and "House Hunters International." Thanks for having me on the 10 Q's All Access-before I leave I would love to recognize the Music Strategy Team! Stephen Linn (Senior Director of Music Programming & Promotion), Jennifer Danielson (Senior Manager), Jennifer Morrison (Manager Music & Social Media Promotions), Stacey Cato (Manager Music Strategy), Brian Bayley (Manager Marketing), Jordan Stephens (Executive Administrative Assistant).