With Country Radio Seminar 2023 less than a month away, it’s not too early to start making your plans for that week. The CRS 2023 app should be ready for download this week. This week, CRB, Inc. Executive Director RJ Curtis, and Agenda Committee Chair Joey Tack and Vice Chair Brent Michaels offer recommendations for making the most of your CRS experience, whether you’re a first-time attendee or a veteran who’s been making the first-quarter trek to Nashville since the 1970s.
Tack, who co-hosts the morning show at Cumulus Media WIVK Knoxville, TN (107.7), and Michaels, the PD for Buck Owens Broadcasting KUZZ Bakersfield, CA (550 AM/107.9 FM), have led the agenda committee for three years now. As the seminar has evolve, Tack tells Inside Radio sister publication Country Insider, “it was very important to us to diversify the faces and voices and make sure the content we are presenting is relevant and important for attendees.” Their goals continue to include “panelists and moderators that often you've never seen on stage with unique perspectives, opinions and knowledge, speaking on topics that are new and fresh to CRS.”
So what’s new this year? For one thing, the Streaming Summit, introduced in 2021, has become the Digital Music Summit.
“We felt Streaming Summit might have been a bit narrow with the name ‘streaming’ — like, that’s all we could do,” Curtis says. A broader focus allowed agenda committee members — particularly Warner Music Nashville’s Tim Foisset, Amazon Music’s Emily Cohen Belote and SiriusXM/Pandora’s Beville Dunkereley — to expand the topics. “They’re talking about Web3, NFTs and stuff that’s cutting-edge for our crowd right now,” Curtis says. “I think it’s going to serve us better and enable us to grow that unique track on the first day of CRS.”
Also new for 2023: the Power Hour, a series of TED Talk-like presentations that grew out of John Shomby’s 2022 one-man session on radio’s evolving role in the development of artists’ careers.
iHeartMedia “KJ97” KAJA San Antonio, TX PD/personality Alek Halverson will speak on “how a younger generation of broadcasters can capture the joy of radio.” CMA Senior Director of Industry Relations and Inclusion Mia McNeal will present a talk called “Beyond the Box: A Conversation on Expansive Inclusion.” Jacobs Media President Fred Jacobs’ FRED Talk is called “The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be.”
“One of them could throw a grenade in the room, and one of them could have people walk out of the room understanding the world better,” Curtis says. “Then with Fred, he’s been preaching the idea that the on-air personality and non-music content should, can and must be emphasized for radio to remain competitive.”
The Power Hour sessions are part of a recent trend toward shorter-form presentations at CRS. “It's important to us to be able to maximize the limited amount of time by presenting multiple options that cater to everybody,” Tack says. Where panels commonly ran close to an hour in the past, many this year are scheduled for 30 minutes. Planners also tried not to schedule more than two sessions at a time — with key panels like NuVoodoo’s research presentation getting a timeslot to themselves.
What’s old is new again on Tuesday night with Lainey Wilson’s Bell Bottom Music Celebration, a throwback to Blair Garner’s After Midnite discos of the past. Garner returns to host the event, which will feature much of the BBR Music Group roster, as well as other artists, performing favorite songs they grew up on.
This year’s research presentation is particularly ambitious. “We are providing attendees with a full, 700-song music test and auditorium test” conducted by NuVoodoo, Curtis says. “We will make it available to anyone who is a registered CRS attendee. There'll be some some perceptual questions involved in that, too, but it'll lean heavily into the music side.”
While lineups for some label-sponsored events have yet to be announced, this year promises conversations with two of the format’s top superstars, Kenny Chesney and Garth Brooks. “No matter how many times you've been to CRS, it's always great to hear what Garth Brooks has to say,” agenda committee vice chair Brent Michaels says.
For first-timers, though, Tack believes networking can be as important as any panel. “My best recommendation is go to the lunches, go to the breakfasts, sit at a table with somebody you don't know, meet them, and then do it again, over and over,” he says.
For CRS veterans, Curtis recommends “Okay, Boomer! A Conversation with Gen-Z.” “This is a conversation that might be helpful in the workplace,” he says. “These different kinds of cultural things, with generations working together, they don’t always mesh well. We’re trying to help them understand that.”
First-timers and longtimers alike may find value in “Radio and Records: Redefining the Relationship.” “I’ve got a great group of panelists — two radio and two label people and a moderator,” says Broken Bow Records VP, Promotion Shelley Hargis Gaines, the agenda committee member who led planning for the session. “There are so many things to talk about, not only dealing with music discovery but also the charts.”
For those who get overwhelmed by the options of CRS, not to mention the long hours, the seminar will offer on-site health screenings this year. The Broadcasters Foundation of American and Music Health Alliance, two organizations that can provide assistance for members of the radio industry in times of crisis, will be on site, as well.
“Our business is stressed out,” Curtis says. “There’s a lot of pressure on people because of the downsizing and the day-to-day pressure of what we do.”
“There is a lot of FOMO at CRS,” says Curtis, who recommends that attendees familiarize themselves with the seminar schedule and map out the panels and presentations that most excite them. “That will be your CRS experience, and it will be terrific,” he says. Then make your peace early with the idea of missing something good. Do not, under any circumstances, try to do it all. You’ll kill yourself.”