For the past 16 years the Country Radio Seminar has been held at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Nashville. This year the event is being held (Feb. 8 – Feb. 10) at the Omni Hotel, which is connected to the Country Radio Hall of Fame. It’s a change that took a lot of planning and plenty of hard work after being settled in one location for so long. Radio Ink‘s special Country Radio Seminar issue will be released on February 8. The issue will once again crown the 30 Best Program Directors in Country Radio. And, it will feature an interview with the President of the Board of Directors at CRS, Emmis’ Charlie Morgan (pictured here). Morgan gives us all the details on the new look for CRS 2016, some insight into the content and how the organization continues to grow, every year, even as the radio economy has been flat. Here’s an excerpt from that interview.
RI: The economy hasn’t really been booming the last several years, yet you guys seem to be able to beat that. How are you able to do that?
Morgan: I have to give a lot of credit to (Executive Director) Bill Mayne’s unbridled enthusiasm and energy after six years of leadership. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the period you’re talking about, 2010 and forward, where maybe we could generously describe things as flat or somewhat short on growth, that this organization has, in fact, seen significant growth in both attendees and sponsors and activity. I would say even just the general energy about the event. In a space where a lot of what I will call these old conventions sort of struggle to be relevant today, this place has not. My first answer is Bill. My second answer is I think there’s something about this format’s collegiality that is special. The fact that we, when deciding if we should stay in Nashville—the answer was absolutely. It’s the epicenter of the creative force in our industry and the way that all of the artists, and all the labels, literally block out this week and commit their support, not just their financial support, which is obviously generous and invaluable, but even more than that, their enthusiastic support of bringing the next year’s creative vision and delivering it on a sliver platter in entertaining ways to the radio side. That makes this really unique. I’m very grateful for the labels who are, in fact, for great reason, competitive with each other, seem to set that aside and cooperate to really support this. As I describe this to others, you go to lots of conventions and there’s lots of great panels, and you get something, you’re inspired, or you learn something and you make a note of something you want to do…. and we have all of that in spades. But then, our event starts over again at the end of the workday with this huge rush of creative energy, with live music in multiple venues with the biggest stars in our format. I just think there’s an attraction to that, that no other format has.
RI: Why are you excited about the content this year?
Morgan: The process of getting to it is always fascinating to me. I served on the agenda committee twenty years ago, and as a board member have seen their work. They come together in June and throw all kinds of things on the wall. At the end of that meeting, two days later, they start narrowing down the cream that rises to the top. Seeing how that process works, it’s very organic and sometimes themes present themselves. This year, the theme I’m excited to see how it will play out is this outsider’s view of the format. There’s a panel called “Radio as the Insurgent.” What if we were them? That sort of mushroomed up from this feeling from radio in general, not just country, but radio in general, takes this sort of “Well, you’re the old established media and all of the new insurgent technologies capture the fascination of the general public and the newspaper writers, etc.” What if we looked at ourselves from the outside? They brought in people for that task. There’s also a panel with format leaders from other formats to take a look at the things that make country special and things that make country puzzling to the outsiders. This year, what I’m excited about is we said let’s look at ourselves from the outside and see what we look like to others and what we might learn by taking an outsider’s view.
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