CRS Preview Parts 5 And 6
February 3, 2016
“Growth Through Sharing.”
That’s been the motto of Country Radio Broadcasters (CRB) since the organization was founded, and when you net it down, it’s the essence of what Country Radio Seminar (CRS) is really all about. In that spirit of sharing, allow me to preview two more key panels for CRS 2016, which – like you need reminding – is only days away: Monday, February 8th through Wednesday, February 10th at the Omni Hotel in downtown Nashville.
“Put Me In Coach: The Best Talent Coaches Converge,” and “From The Outside Looking In: Other Formats Give Their Take On Country” are both set for Wednesday, February 10th. Each session features an impressive array of intellectual horsepower and industry luminaries, with the probable exception of the moderator, a job which was inexplicably assigned to me.
Nonetheless, I’ll walk you through expectations for each of these anyway, since I sat in on several calls for each, and took copious notes. First up at 9a (CT) on Wednesday the 10th is “Put Me In Coach: The Best Talent Coaches Converge,” designed to provide insight on recruiting, developing, and coaching talent for all market sizes and every generation of on-air personality.
We’ll approach this topic from the conventional and the unconventional, utilizing expertise from broadcast industry talent experts Steve Reynolds of The Reynolds Group, and iHeartMedia VP/Talent Development Dennis Clark – often referred to as “The Talent Whisperer” – plus football coaching legend Barry Switzer, who has absolutely no connection to radio. On the other hand – and I mean that literally – he has earned three College Football National Championship rings and a Super Bowl ring from his head coaching tenures with the University of Oklahoma and The Dallas Cowboys, respectively. Those four ginormous pieces of bling alone qualify Switzer to talk about motivating talent at a very high level, be it football, radio, ping pong, croquet – and hell, maybe even badminton – as far as I’m concerned.
As for a few tidbits to chew on before this conversation happens next week, the panelists agreed that great coaching begins with solid leadership and how it’s exhibited. That’s the secret sauce in getting talent in any business to perform at their maximum potential. And all of them – yes, even the football coach – believe coaching out of fear almost never works. Said Reynolds, “Some people coach out of fear because they don’t know anything or because it’s easy. That’s idiotic.”
Recognition of genuine talent was seen as critical, because as Clark shared with me, “You can’t train uninteresting people to be interesting.” And, there are parallels between radio and sports for how to develop talent, or how teach them their craft. Switzer shared an anecdote about the importance of knowing how to practice. “It’s a rote business, and that’s how you get better. I once had fullback who asked me, ‘Coach, how come we run this damned play a thousand times?’ I said, ‘Because 999 ain’t enough, son – that’s why we’re gonna run that sonofa bitch over and over.’”
I hope you’re getting a sense of how this conversation will unfold and why it should be a very interesting start to Wednesday (2/10) morning.
Enough About Us – What Do You Think About Us?
I have long believed the magic of CRS is our industry’s collective willingness to look ourselves in the mirror and maintain self-awareness. It’s a quality that has helped Country radio and the labels work well together for the industry’s greater good. Having said that, I’m also realistic enough to know we’re not perfect and constantly singing cumbaya, but hey – we’re making an effort over here, and that matters.
But Country has evolved into a serious and consistent competitor in the past five or so years in the mainstream arena, beyond its usual 25-54 happy place. According to Nielsen’s 2015 Year-End report on most popular radio formats, Country trails only Top 40 among 18-34s and 25-54s, and ranks #3 among persons 12-plus, behind Top 40 (#2) and News/Talk. Put another way – since 2011 or so, for Country radio, shit just got real!
Wisely, the CRS agenda committee has created a sub-tract of panels this year, asking outsiders to the format for their feedback. Last week we looked at “Radio As The Insurgent,” asking how radio would attack existing audio sources if it were a brand new medium. Two weeks ago, I previewed “The Tortoise And The Hare,” a look at chart speed differences between Country and Top 40 singles.
Today, a glimpse of “From the Outside Looking In: Other Formats Give Their Take On Country,” set for Wednesday, February 10th at 2:00pm (CT). I think it will be a strong companion piece to the “Tortoise And the Hare” discussion the day before – or, as I have internally sub-titled it: “Enough About Us – Let’s Talk About You. What Do YOU Think About Us?”
It’s an all-star panel, featuring Cumulus Hot AC WPLJ/New York PD Gillete, Cumulus Corporate PD Classic Rock/Rock and Rock WLUP/Chicago PD Troy Hansen, iHeartMedia SVP/Programming and Top 40 KIIS/Los Angeles PD John Ivey, and iHeartMedia SVP/Urban Programming and Urban KRRL/Los Angeles PD Doc Wynter.
Subjects we’ve talked about for this session will include Country’s invasion into the 18-34 demo – is it sustainable? Also, rotations – we think we’re spinning songs faster than ever; do they? One panelist wonders why Country PDs don’t force sounds they know the format needs for greater balance, citing the void in new female artists as an example. Is Country the new Rock? The new Top 40? Why is Country sort of okay with its artists crossing over, but seemingly close-minded to Pop music and artists giving Country a try?
That’s just the tip of the iceberg – these guys are so sharp, so I promise to just stay the hell out of their way. I look forward to seeing you at #CRS2016; I hope some of these panel previews have been helpful in planning your week.
Speaking of planning, CRS 2016 will be my 32nd, so I know a few things. I know comfortable shoes are a must; I know getting enough sleep is a difference-maker; I know drinking mostly free booze in moderation is the way to go (don’t be “that guy”); I know hand sanitizer is a good thing; I know picking your events and plotting YOUR week is a good idea, because if you try and do it ALL, you’ll kill yourself. Please don’t do that. See you next week!