The Country Radio Seminar kicks off this week in Nashville. The event returns live after a virtual only event last year due to COVID. We spoke to RJ Curtis, Executive Director of the Country Radio Broadcasters, about what attendees can expect this year.
Ink: CRS starts this week. Tell us how different the show will be than in past years?
RJ Curtis: I hope attendees will notice and fully experience an agenda that is deeper and wider in scope, with radio as a core business focus, but an eye towards pivoting this to become an important designation for DSPs and the greater digital sector of our world. Moving forward. Wednesday (2/23) is a full day of streaming-centric topics with our Streaming Summit tract. The rest of the week offers a diverse selection of panels our entire industry can benefit from.
Radio Ink: Another spectacular lineup of big name artists this year over the course of the show. Talk about that and how CRS always pulls together the stars.
RJ Curtis: We’ve always been given great access to our biggest Stars and emerging artists, and that is never more important than a return year. I have to give a shout out to our label partners, WMN, UMG Nashville, and BMLG, plus Amazon for returning to a live CRS with a vengeance, and stepping up with blockbuster lineups for a level of live music events that many of our attendees have not been exposed to for two years – since CRS 2020.
Radio Ink: Anything new this year attendees can expect to see for the first time?
RJ Curtis: I mentioned the first-ever live Streaming Summit, which has evolved from last year’s inaugural edition via our Virtual Experience. In the past three live CRS events, we focused a lot on live interviews with our biggest artists – we return with Blake Shelton on Friday (2/25), but will also get attendees up close for our “week-long Heads Of State” series, featuring label and radio CEOs, sharing their perspective on where we’ve all been the past two years, the current state of our corner of the industry, and what they see ahead. I think it’s important to all of us to hear this information, and it should be fascinating.
Radio Ink: What would you like attendees to walk away with when they leave CRS 2022?
RJ Curtis: The typical goals of CRS – to give everyone a few nuggets of actionable education and information they can put to use the day they return to work on Monday, February 28. Our sessions are always designed with the end in mind, and they still are in 2022. Beyond that, I want CRS attendees to once again experience the culture of collaboration, and to remember: everyone at CRS makes a living in the Country music industry somehow or another – it’s our collective livelihood and now, more than ever, we need each other to grow the format and our respective businesses. We’ve been apart for two years now, and some of that time has been spent isolated from a group dynamic – especially one of this size and magnitude. Because of this, I am urging all attendees to exercise patience with one another, kindness toward all others, or, at the very least, respect and a polite demeanor for three days. As an industry, I think we need those things, too – if only for three days of CRS.
Radio Ink: You have instituted safety protocols for the show. Why did you believe it was important to do that this year.
RJ Curtis: Because our constituents told us that would create a more comfortable experience. We’ve asked a lot of COVID questions for two years now and there have been some constants: They want CRS to be a live, in person event, and they’ll feel better about coming if we take steps to create a safe environment. So these are the responsible, reasonable actions we need to take: utilizing the current industry standard for large gatherings: Proof of vax, or negative test within 48 hours of arrival. We’re also taking an extra step, of providing- at our cost – a rapid or PCR test for any attendee who requests one. All of these protocols are confidential, HIPPA compliant and organized with the intent to make this week as safe as possible while respecting that attendees have various thresholds for protocols. It’s a very tough thing to balance and this entire situation has been fluid and changing rapidly since December – we’ve tried to sensible about all this and again, the bottom line is attendee safety.
Radio Ink will present its “Top Country PDs” awards Thursday night at Bob Kingsley’s Acoustic Alley. The awards have been presented at the Country Radio Seminar for over 20 years and are recognized as a hallmark of excellence by country radio program directors and country radio stations around the country. Radio Ink would like to thank Sony Music Nashville for sponsoring our Best Country PD List.