In Honor Of Rusty, These Three Shine
January 30, 2015
As Country Radio Seminar (CRS) 2015 fast approaches, we're all prepping for a whirlwind three days of education, music discovery and -- admit it --a hella good time.
This year's seminar will mark my (gulp) 31st CRS, so take it from a grizzled veteran of this extravaganza:
Trust me, you don't want to be "that guy," or the person lamenting at future seminars, "I remember MY first CRS." Which, translated means, "I don't remember ANYTHING about my first CRS."
In all seriousness, you'll actually want to remember EVERYTHING about CRS, the most unique, rewarding industry event in existence. There is no better opportunity to learn about the format's radio, record and affiliated industries, or to make lasting contacts who can make a difference in both your professional and personal life.
So take that recommendation from a grizzled vet, too.
While I'm making suggestions, when you get to CRS and start connecting with friends you rarely see, do me a favor and make it a point -- a mission -- to seek out three specific people you don't yet know, but should.
Colton Bradford, Andi Brooks and Annie Brooks.
Bradford handles evenings at WKSJ/Mobile, AL, while doubling as the morning show 'Stunt boy."
Andi Brooks multi-tasks as WFMB/Springfield, IL's morning show co-host, Dir./Promotions, Web & Social Media.
Annie Brooks (No relation to Andi) serves as KWJJ/Portland's Dir./Marketing and Promotion.
These are the Rusty Walker Scholarship recipients for 2015, each of whom will be attending CRS for the first time ever. They were chosen from numerous candidates who applied for this honor; thanks to a consortium of select labels, superstar artists and broadcast marketing companies, all their expenses for CRS 2015 will be covered, so they can realize the amazing CRS experience many of us have witnessed over the years.
Since the creation of CRS, which is staged each year by Country Radio Broadcasters, Inc., the organization's motto has been "Growth through Sharing." And CRB's mission statement includes this passage: "We bring Country Radio broadcasters from around the nation together to enhance skills, facilitate business, and promote the growth of the industry."
Perhaps no one embodied those two belief systems more so than the man who inspired this scholarship program, Rusty Walker. An iconic programmer and consultant, a valued CRS Board member and esteemed Country Radio Hall of Fame member, Walker's sudden passing in 2012 shocked and saddened the entire Country community, leaving a huge void. Among his innumerable contributions to the industry, Walker mentored many of the brightest minds and strongest leaders in our format today. To honor Walker's belief in cultivating rising stars, CRS created a scholarship program in his name, enabling young members of our business who may not otherwise have the chance, to attend CRS. The three honorees in 2015 are exactly the kind of individuals the Scholarship committee believe Rusty Walker himself would have gravitated toward.
So, find those name badges and say hello. Introduce them to everyone you know. And then, have everyone you know do the same. Because, remember YOUR first CRS when you didn't know a soul?
Colton, Andi and Annie are all young, ambitious and already successful, but like all of us, could always use more contacts at this point in their careers.
I'll get the ball rolling here by introducing them -- to you. Hey, it's a crazy three days and your paths may not cross. As any of us who have been to this event more than once are aware, there are two kinds of people you know who attend CRS: the ones you see EVERY day, several times a day without fail and others you NEVER, ever see, all week.
I've included their e-mail addresses and it would be really cool if some of you reached out to one or all of these CRS newbies in advance, to set up a stop 'n chat when CRS comes to Nashville February 25th-27th.
Say hello to:
Colton Bradford, WKSJ/Mobile: ColtonBradford@iHeartMedia.com
"Growing up on the Gulf Coast, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to have a career in radio. Ever since I was a kid, I've really paid attention to how radio personalities do their jobs. And my goal, ultimately, within doing this radio thing and being a Millennial, is to make radio cool and fun for my generation, because we have a lot of options. Radio is where all the options originally started. So I use it and try to create different content that will appeal to my generation and what they want to hear, and what they might not get from someone else.
"Oh my goodness, [WKSJ PD] Bill Black is absolutely my mentor. I don't know how much time you have, but I could go on and on and on about Bill and our entire crew here at the station. I met Bill when I was 16, when I told him that I was going to work for him; I had reached out to every station in town and he was the only programmer who actually gave me a call back. So, I've been hanging with these guys, and I love, love, love 'KSJ, \ Bill Black, and our entire crew.
"I have heard all kinds of crazy stories about what happens at CRS, but I will be very honest, I am beyond excited just to be around people who have done this their entire lives, so I can get advice and meet people who can point me in the right direction about what I need to be doing or what I may not need to be doing. I'm excited to be in a room full of people who have done nothing but this their entire lives, so that's basically what I hope to get out of CRS.
"This sounds so crazy, but on my 21st birthday, I sat down and wrote out a 20-year plan of what I'd like to be doing over the next two decades. And I know that #1, I will always be in radio, no matter what. And #2, I want to stay in the Country format. My end goal -- my ultimate end goal -- is to land a job in Country radio syndication. That's what I want. I want to play in the major leagues with Bobby Bones, Cody Alan and all those guys. I don't know if it'll happen, but we will see!"
Annie Brooks, KWJJ/Portland: firstname.lastname@example.org
"I honestly fell in to radio … and it kind of just turned out to be a wonderful surprise. I started in event planning in college, which got me my internship here and it turned out to be this totally unique world. I really didn't know what radio was other than what came out of my stereo. The people work who here are so passionate about it. It's a very powerful medium. So, I didn't always dream of radio but I have learned so much; I think it's one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me.
"As for mentors, are you kidding me? [KWJJ PD] Mike Moore, of course! He has taught me so much about myself. I don't even know where to begin. Not only has he taken chances on me and given me opportunities that a 26-year-old can only dream of, but he's shown me how to be a mentor myself. How to carry yourself into situations, prioritizing, figuring out what really matters versus what doesn't, and picking your battles. It's just in little things, day-to-day; I look up to him so much, and hope that I can only be one day even half as awesome as he is. I'd be fine with that.
"Definitely networking at CRS is a big goal for me. The mentoring breakfast -- I think Mike did that last year. Learning from people who have been in this for a long time. I think it will be nice to go and hear from people who have been in Country radio -- and only Country radio. I'm really excited about the New Faces Show; I've heard that's always really awesome. There's a seminar about the future of radio and where it's going, discussing that it's not going where people assume it is and it's not dying but actually growing.
"I'm not sure that programming or being a PD would be for me, long term. I'm learning that my real passion is the artists and helping people with the incredible dreams that they come through with. They come and they perform, and then you get to know them as people. They go on to create these amazing careers for themselves, and they are in fact helping other people out there. Whether it is in radio, or if I end up going to a label and working with the artists, that is where I really am most passionate."
Andi Brooks, WFMB/Springfield: email@example.com
"I started in television at Illinois State University. I had to work in front of the camera and I was so uncomfortable. I said, 'Let me give radio a try!' I knew I wanted to be in entertainment in some way, shape or form and I love it. I started at B104 in Bloomington, IL. And then I worked my way up to a morning show and have been doing it ever since. That was 2008 and I've just been working my way up.
"My first PD Dan Westhoff [WBWN/Bloomington] is my #1 mentor in radio. He's just someone I know I can trust. He'll tell me the honest truth, give good constructive criticism and tell me how I can work better and be better. I just love the fact that we keep in touch. Also, my uncle, Steve Labenz, who used to work full-time in Grand Rapids radio (he still does some part-time on-air). I lived with him and my aunt when I did my first internship at WBCT/Grand Rapids. He really got me into this; he used to always tell me growing up that I had such a great personality; that I needed to be in radio or TV! He is such a great supporter.
"I'm not kidding, I was so shocked when they called me that I actually asked if they were joking! I'm really excited; I've obviously never been to CRS and I'm really looking forward to this experience. I love to meet new people and see what they're doing in their market and how they get their brands out there.
"When I first started in radio, my goal was -- and always has been -- to be in a big market on a morning Country radio station. That has always been my goal. And I always -- even to this day, when I have an evaluation, that's what I say. That I want to be on a #1-rated morning show in a huge market."