10 Questions with ... JoJamie Hahr
February 21, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Until her rise to BBR Music Group VP/Marketing in December, JoJamie Hahr served as VP/Promotion for BBR Management, assisting in additional promotion and marketing responsibilities across the entire BBR Music Group roster. Prior to that, Hahr served as the National Director of Field Promotion for The Valory Music Co. (TVMC) after being promoted from Dir./Southeast Promotion & Marketing. Prior to joining TVMC, Hahr served two years as the Dir./Southeast Promotion for Broken Bow Records, and Promotion Coordinator/ Secondary Promotion at MCA Nashville. Hahr's radio stints include Dir./Promotion for WSIX-Nashville as well as Event Coordinator for WWKA/Orlando.
1. JoJamie, thanks for taking the time for 10 Questions. Congrats on your recent promotion to VP/Marketing at BBR Music Group - Let's start by getting a sense of what your responsibilities are in your new role, as opposed to your previous management position.
When I was in the management position, I basically had my hand in everything here and there sharing my input. I was very focused on radio still, covering for regionals and VPs and/or traveling with new regionals, and making those radio calls every week. I targeted who to talk to and spread my time across all of the labels. In the marketing position, the main focus is as a keeper of all departments. We've got two albums coming out; Granger Smith REMINGTON on March 4th and Randy Houser FIRED UP on March 11th, so my main focus is keeping the album timeline focused and organized. I’m focusing on advertising and digital advertising…I'm talking to [BBR Music Group EVP] Jon Loba about the street weeks and what they entail...I'm talking to publicity about what TV we have lined up, and then trying to fit in other things within that timeline that make sense to help promote both albums. Right now that's my main focus. Something that also happens every week is our marketing meeting where we go through each of our active artists, and focus on each current project. So, I think as a grand answer, this job right now is definitely a keeper of all departments, communicating on the major album projects, and managing projects for all other current artists within the label group. I would also like to grow the position into focusing on branding and sponsorships and more travel - not only in New York, but LA and Chicago, so that I can work with different brands and other partners. Meeting with Shazam, Pandora, Spotify and iTunes is very helpful, because I'm really passionate about building those relationships. I think face time is the best way to do that, much like I did at radio.
2. You mentioned radio, and this kind of takes you back to how your career began, because you did come from radio, and you're role as a Promotions/Marketing Director.
My degree in college was Advertising/Public Relations. I feel like I'm actually going back to some of the stuff that I learned in college at UCF and while I was working at [Cox Media Country WWKA/Orlando] K92 simultaneously. It's' definitely full circle, and like Jon Loba always says, 'You are never out of promotion!' So I'll always have my hand in radio; it's a passion of mine and I feel like I can speak radio. I'm still the girl that listens to all of my local stations. If there's dead air, I flip out, because once you're a radio person you're always a radio person. ? But this position is giving me the opportunity to learn a completely different side of the business, which is a very important side. It will help me be much more well-rounded in the future.
3. You transitioned from a VP/Promotion role at BBR Management-which was kind of a hybrid position since you still worked in promotion, but also dabbled in areas of management - I would guess working with all four labels at BBR was good prep for now overseeing marketing for every label in the group - right?
For sure. And you know, Mary Forest-who was in this job before me-really embraced me in that position and included me in those weekly marketing meetings. Jon has always been very inclusive, and when he brought me over that's what he really wanted me to do. He wanted me to have my hand in all four labels. In addition, I also feel like I had a big part in opening Wheelhouse, our fourth imprint. All of that allowed me to have those relationships with the artists and the managers. Now they're comfortable dealing with me...sometimes on a several-times-a-day basis. All of these things definitely set me up to be in this job, as far as internal and artist relations.
4. You mentioned Jon Loba saying, "You're never out of promotion." That has kind of been your DNA for a long time, so how tempting will it be to put your promotion hat back on and jump into that once in a while? That's an instinct as you just said, like if there's dead air or if there's an opportunity as a promotion person, your muscle memory just trains you to get in there and make somebody play your record or pay attention to your artists.
That will always come naturally to me. I've just trained my brain to work on a larger scale, instead of those day-to-day music calls and digging into spins and playlists, even though I still get excited to go to Mediabase and look at that stuff. As an example, I was looking at our battle for the Granger #1 with "Backroad Song" last week and I was getting excited. Almost immediately Jon told me, 'Hey, you need to get your brain to flip and think of this in a marketing sense.' Marketing is so much about the consumer and the fan. I'm really passionate about fans because I'm a fan myself, and always have been. Before I was thinking of how I could market a song to a program director. Now I'm thinking, how can I market a song to Jason [Aldean]'s biggest Twitter follower or someone who's heavily play listing him on Spotify? I think about how can we, as a marketing team, build a story for the promotion team so I can go back to [Red Bow VP/Promotion] Renee Leymon and say, 'Hey we're doing this really cool contest with [artist[ Brooke Eden, and we're seeing this many hits!’ The promotion team can bring that to radio and build a story. I'm able to relate back to promotion without necessarily having that desire or urge to call DJ Stout in Charlotte and be like 'Hey, why aren't you spinning Randy [Houser] in heavy?' I don't necessarily have that desire, but I do feel like I can tie it back to it as needed.
5. It's not polite to ask a lady her age - so we won't-but suffice it to say you're still pretty young, and have packed a lot of industry experiences in those years - radio, a regional position at two labels (Broken Bow, Valory Music Co., back to Broken Bow) and now two VP roles at BBR - it would appear that you've set some high goals for yourself. Do you have a current five year plan in mind?
One story I've always kept in my head: When I worked at K92 in Orlando and gave m two weeks' notice to the PD at the time, I said, 'Hey, I'm going to WSIX, I'm going to be the Promotion Director...thanks for everything!' It was tough to leave, but they were so happy for me. And I’ll never forget, he said, 'Great, I'm so excited for you. So what are you going to do next?" I remember telling him, 'Well, I'm going to go to my apartment, pack up my stuff, and drive to Nashville.' And he said, 'No, what are you going to do AFTER you're the Promotion Director at WSIX?’ I was 22 years old, and that has stuck with me my entire career. I have always thought about what am I going to do afterwards, and it sounds a little cheesy to say this, but I love BBR Music Group so much, and in turn love Jon Loba. He is like my family and my mentor, and I honestly hope during the next five years that I'm working even closer with Jon and with the upper management executives here. When I came to BBR, I really felt like we could be the #1 label group in town because I believed we have the heart, the people, and the artists-we just need to build a little bit more. We're continuously growing, adding people and artists. I came here because I felt like in my five year plan or even my ten year plan, that I wanted to be an integral part of making this the best label in town. I feel like that can happen. So - five year plan, I hope I'm still here. I feel like in this marketing role I have a lot to learn. It took me 10 years to feel like I really knew my craft when it came to radio, so I foresee taking that time to learn and build the relationships on the marketing side as well.
6. This position has another label -a fourth label (Wheelhouse)-since it was created a couple years ago. How will you juggle four labels and multiple artists all requiring desperately needed exposure in a very noisy and crowded marketplace? -Is your head spinning?
Spinning! We have 17 or 18 artists now. On the Wheelhouse side, we just got Granger a #1 with "Backroad Song" and we're also launching an album. That's a huge priority for us. At the same time, Trace Adkins has a brand new single and hasn't been in the marketplace for quite a while. I think it's all about timing. Jon and [BBR Music Group SVP/Promotion] Carson James are really good about trying to keep our release schedule pretty fluent, so I feel like we're pretty good on every imprint that we're not cannibalizing each other. As for Wheelhouse, we came right out of the box with Granger when we opened. He already had a little bit of airplay on "Backroad Song" and we knew we were going to have an album coming, so he came first and Trace was really patient with us. Then we came right out of the gate at the first of the year with Trace, and he's having some nice success; I'm sure we'll be talking about an album for him later this year. He also has two movies he's doing right now! Then we're going to have Runaway June on Wheelhouse, which is a new female trio we will be launching soon. Every artist on each imprint are on different levels, and that helps us keep things organized and prioritized. That's a really hard thing, I think, for every label and for every group to manage. It’s something that I have to manage every day, as far as having four managers calling me, deciding which one I'm going to call back first and what am I going to handle that day, in that moment to give each artist fair time.
7. We see so many young artists having success building a fan base via social media these days. Can this effort be just as critical as airplay nowadays, or will airplay always be the first priority?
I love this question because I feel like I have a lot of experience with it. When I was at The Valory Music Co., I worked with Brantley Gilbert and at my sister label, I worked with Florida Georgia Line. I think those are both great examples. Both of those artists - and Granger now - have built that fan base and have great careers. Brantley and FGL could have continued to sell out 1500-seat venues for the rest of their careers, put out music, have fans buy it...but you add Country radio to that mix, and you give them however many #1s, and that changes everything. They go from being able to sell out those 1500-seat theaters to now being on tours and selling out arenas. Country radio to me is absolutely the key to pushing that artist to that next level. When I was on the BBR Management side, Jon had me doing some of the publishing meetings and the A&R type stuff sorting through things for he and [BBR Music Group Owner]Benny Brown. I told new artists that came through and wanted a deal to not be so worried about getting a record deal...to go work! Go get on the road, go build a fan base, and bring us back a story. Labels are looking for that story, then capitalizing on that and adding Country radio. I think without Country radio you're only going to get to a certain level.
8. Granger Smith is one of those artist whose social media and YouTube savvy have helped build a huge grassroots following - but not every artist is intuitively skilled in that area. At CRS somebody asked Tim McGraw in the Q&A session about social media, and even he admitted not being a fan; that's a generational thing. How much of your time is spent helping form that presence for artists whom social media has not been a part of their life for a long time? You know, maybe Trace Adkins isn't a social media geek? Or maybe another one isn't? Does that fall under your purview?
It does and we do have a digital team. [VP/Digital Media] Lynnette Garbonola leads that team, and we have a girl who handles socials and then we have another girl who does a lot on our distribution side with our New York office as far as uploading digital material, etc. In my role, that comes up 24 hours a day. It's so key with every single one of our artists. Like I said, we literally do a social media call with Trace Adkins' team every other Thursday, and it's just, 'Hey how can we maximize on his socials?' I do think for someone like Tim McGraw or Trace Adkins, that's just not something that comes as naturally to them. I will never forget someone coming into MCA when I was a Promotion Coordinator and telling me about Myspace and I was, 'what's that?' But now social media has become an integral role in who I am and my job. I'm so focused on fans, and constantly reaching out them. It might not come as naturally to some of our older artists or even younger ones. Jason Aldean found his niche on Instagram. He loves Instagram. So now he'll post stuff that we don't even know about, and that's great, because it's very authentic. Then there are other artists that just need a little bit of a helping hand. But with Granger, he's someone that we don't have to oversee at all. This world is something we talk about all day, every day. It’s always a part of the conversation.
9. Here's one we've been asking everyone for a while now, and I think it's still a relevant question, because I don't think we're there yet. What is it going to take for a new female artist to break through? Now we've had some ground gain in that area with Kelsea Ballerini and Cam and now Maren Morris, and you of course have Lindsay Ell and Brooke Eden on the way. We're making progress, but how do we keep that momentum going in 2016, getting females on the radio?
I think we're in the process of that. Watching Cam and Kelsea on New Faces the other night, I was thought, man they're just awesome! They, along with artists like Maren are literally paving that way. I feel like now a radio guy thinks it’s okay to grab a Lindsay record or a Brooke Eden record, whereas before...for whatever unknown unspoken reason...it wasn't. There was more of a timidity surrounding female acts. Before, there weren’t a lot of females on the radio, so everyone was following suit. I've said this in my whole promotion radio career. I feel like there are a few really great leaders, and then there are a lot of markets that follow. And now that these artists are getting exposure and Kelsea is about to - I hope - have another number one, we can let some other new girls in. I feel a definite shift...and as long as Kelsea, Cam and hopefully Lindsay and Brooke continue to be successful, it will let even more females into the fold. The second part to this is that they have to have great music. None of it matters if the songs aren't great. That’s true with any artist, female or male. It has to be a great song to cut through.
10. Last question, this is tough because it's sort of like if you had kids, it would be like asking you to pick a couple favorites, but can you give us two artists in the BBR galaxy of stars we should be looking out for in 2016?
Man, that's so hard. I can preface it by saying; it really depends on where we are with the artist. I haven't seen the entire depth of a guy named Adam Craig, and what he's going to be able to do. He’s an incredible singer/songwriter we just signed, but we don't even have him assigned to an imprint yet...it’s that early. We’ve been working with Jordan Rager now for almost two years getting him ready, and he has a duet with Jason Aldean that already has 50 adds on the board for this coming week. He's somebody that I feel like everyone's going to be paying a lot of attention to, especially with the Jason tie in. And obviously, Granger. To me, Granger shows all of the signs of possibly being our next superstar. He has brought so much value to the table for us as a label group. I think Dustin Lynch is in line to make that jump too. We need all levels of artists. I've learned that throughout my career. There’s a huge focus on our Randy Houser album as well, and artists like Parmalee who are getting ready to have a new project. Parmalee has been a slow and steady build, but you know, that's how Kenny Chesney built his career.