CRS For Dummies
February 13, 2014
Take it from one of the industry's biggest dummies (ahem), me: There are ways to maximize your Country Radio Seminar (CRS) experience - and there are ways NOT to.
By the way: In the unlikely event that you've suffered sudden onset amnesia or simply don't know, CRS is here NEXT WEEK (Wednesday, February 19th - Friday, 21st).
I'm a bit hesitant to admit this, knowing it will expose my ever-advancing age, but 2014 will be CRS #30 for me (insert snarky comment here). Nonetheless, with age comes (some) wisdom and I believe there are three key takeaways available to everyone attending this truly unique industry event:
- Return to work having learned something immediately actionable for your radio station.
- Meet someone new who becomes a meaningful contact for the remainder of your professional life.
- Hear new music that will shape the industry and the sound of your station for the next 12 months.
I made a mess of my first trip to CRS. My PD at the time, eventual lifelong friend/mentor and current CRS Exec. Dir. Bill Mayne, was kind enough to bring me along in 1985.
I was going through my boot-wearing phase then and bought a brand new pair for CRS. I wore them for the first time on the early morning flight from Los Angeles and well into that evening in Nashville, meaning I was on my feet for at least 14 consecutive hours in stiff, not-yet-broken-in, pointy, western footwear.
I didn't know anyone there BUT Bill Mayne (can you say, "awkward?"), so I tagged along and took advantage of a lot of free alcohol. Too much alcohol.
Oh, and I also stayed up late. Brilliant!
It set the tone for three days where I literally ached from head to toe, couldn't pay attention to any sessions and wasn't the social butterfly I would later become.
I wish I'd had a user's guide back then. That's precisely why I've reached out to a few experienced CRS-ers, asking them to pass on advice for making next week worth your time away from work - and justifiable to your employer.
The years-long motto for CRS has been, "Growth Through Sharing." In that spirit, here are some suggestions for making CRS 2014 a fantastic experience:
"First and foremost, STAY SOBER! If you don't, you'll miss something. Great kernels of knowledge happen everywhere and all the time during the seminar. In the first couple of years I attended I learned nearly as much in the halls and at the bar as I did in the sessions. Seriously, there is a lot of learning going on if you pay attention. Don't be afraid to ask questions. They are the fuel that lights great conversation. Remember there is no such thing as a stupid question. Hope that helps!"
President, Glasco Media
"Make attending the sessions a priority. Learn as much as you can. Soak it up.
Then, enjoy the terrific music performances. Some are truly special. And, if you leave CRS without making at least one new contact that benefits your career, it's your own fault. If you're new to CRS and you feel left out because everyone there seems to know each other, please don't be shy. Step up and introduce yourself. I love when people do that. People who do jobs like I do, we're looking for potential people to join our teams, so please, let's meet. See you in the meetings rooms and hallways!"
Journal Broadcast Group
"Come with an open mind. This industry is evolving rapidly and your ability to adapt and innovate is directly linked to your career longevity more today than ever before. Network, network, network! The contacts you make at CRS will at some point be important to you. With that said, CRS is an industry event with a lot of parties and fun events; don't let your behavior after-hours diminish your daytime efforts. If you are a seasoned CRS vet, make sure you make the CRS Rookies feel welcomed, take time to get to know someone you've never met. You never know, you might just meet your next morning show member, APD or PD."
"The advice I always give to newbies at CRS is to make sure you take in the diverse mix of ideas and music, both of which are better at CRS than at any other radio conference that I've been to (and I've been to A LOT). The exposure to ideas and information of course comes from the panels and presentations where CRS provides an amazing mix of info, research and mentoring as well as from the private networking that happens both day and night. And then musically, CRS (with the help of the labels and artists) provides unparalleled access to live performances by the top performers in the world, sometimes in big shows with full bands, but often in rare, intimate settings which I find to be incredible. Maybe the best tip: Mmap out your time in advance and try to stick to that!"
United Stations Radio Networks
"Take care of your body - get enough rest, drink plenty of water, eat smart and exercise.
Be present and connect with real live people. The world will survive without everyone being glued to their digital device."
Stoney Creek Records
"Over the years, I've learned not to go too hard on the first night. It will throw off your entire week, I promise. UMG's lunch at the Ryman is just such a cool event. Everyone comes out, sings one song; brand new, a hit, whatever they want. It's one of my favorite CRS events."
"Bring an extra cellphone battery. One of those handy-dandy portable chargers that is built right into your phone case would be ideal. You will be using your phone so much throughout the day to check e-mail, take photos/ video, check seminar times on the CRS app, calling and texting colleagues, updating social media accounts, checking the time, setting your alarm, etc., that your battery drains really fast. Even if you bring a charger, there will not always be an outlet available when you are constantly on the go from morning until midnight.
"Bring a lot of business cards. Even though you may already know a lot of colleagues in attendance, you will ALWAYS meet some new people at CRS. For first-timers and those just starting out in the biz, you will accomplish more networking in these four days alone, than you probably will do all year. Also, at the end of each day, take a photo of the business cards you've collected, so you have a digital file and don't have to worry about losing them as they shuffle around in lose piles on the dresser and side table of your hotel room, at the bottom of your purse, or in your luggage.
"Nashville weather is crazy and has been especially so this winter. While there is always a good chance that things could change, it looks like it is FINALLY going to warm up into the 60s for CRS! Towards the end of the conference, they are calling for some rain as well. While most of the seminars take place inside the Renaissance Hotel, a lot of the other events are off-site. Pack a jacket and comfortable shoes that you don't mind getting wet. You will be doing a lot of walking and standing during CRS week."
Assistant Nashville Editor
"Prioritize!! Figure out what you want to do before all the chaos ensues! A lot of events take place in the same time frame and if you don't have a plan together you might get pulled away from what you really want to do.
Take lots of pictures! It's rare to have a majority of the industry in one place, at one time. This is one of the biggest events in Country music and you'll want to have photographic evidence to look back on (I think!). Those three days are a whirlwind and you'll regret not capturing the memories!"
One last one from me: Try not to be "That Guy."
See you all next week ...