By Scott Lindy, Futuri Media
It’s hard to believe CRS 2022 has come and gone. The firehose of thought-provoking sessions and heady conversations at Country Radio Seminar seem to have sped up the time-space continuum in Nashville. I guess it makes sense. The things we enjoy the most never last as long as we wish they would.
I witnessed an oddly beautiful moment repeatedly in the hallways, hotel lobby, and restaurants during CRS. It had a lot to do with the seminar returning to a live and in-person event, but it’s also about Country Radio people.
The Joyful CRS Noise
This is what happens; two people who haven’t talked in years, just about to walk past each other, suddenly stop, lock eyes, and burst into a boisterous joyful moment of reunion. And it’s loud. I mean, ‘I-just-won-the-lottery!’ – loud. That’s happened so often in the three days of this years’ CRS, you’d think everyone there would be unfazed by it.
Still, when the howls and yelps of happy reconnections would suddenly ring out, those within earshot would stop and watch. Often, those moments would trigger another person to join in. The people who work in Country Radio rarely miss an opportunity to share their good cheer at high volume. I love that.
The Future, Live On Stage
I was running late for the New Faces of Country Music Show, the famous final CRS event of every year’s seminar. Waiting for the elevator and looking out at the Nashville skyline from the 14th floor of the Omni, my mind wandered back to previous New Faces shows. I must have seen twenty or more of them but could only recall a few standout memories. The virtuoso guitar exhibition from Brad Paisley in 2000. The raw honesty of Jason Aldean in 2006. Keith Urban’s transformation from playing with The Ranch in 1998 to his solo appearance in 2000. And Chris Janson’s performance in 2016 made you know that he was going to live the rest of his life on any stage he could find.
The lineup for the New Faces show at CRS is voted on by Country Radio, Labels, and other select industry folks. There’s no shortage of artists that became A-listers who didn’t make the cut. And a long list of those who did and then faded into the Nashville sunset, for one reason or another. You can see the lineup for every show going back to 1970 here.
The New Faces of Country Music class of 2022 featured Gabby Barrett, Walker Hayes, Parker McCollum, Jameson Rodgers, and Lainey Wilson. The voting was dead on the money with this lineup. There wasn’t a weak moment between the five. Gabby, Lainey, Parker, and Jameson put on a show. Energy, depth, polish. To my surprise, Walker Hayes left the biggest impression on me. And maybe the rest of the room.
Fancy, Don’t Let Me Down
You know Walker’s big hit, right? “Fancy Like,” which, thanks to Applebee’s ad campaign, became the most familiar country song in the world in the past year. Whether you love it or it’s driving you absolutely nuts, seeing Walker perform ‘that Applebee’s song’ live at CRS was different. Everyone in the room knew it was coming, and it did.
As Walker sang and played his three songs (that’s the New Faces limit), there was an energy; an emotional pulse spread across the audience. Was it his undeniable charisma? The ridiculously simple but personally enchanting lyrics? Walker is unquestionably talented and understands that cultivating a unique style only works for the fans if it’s from the heart.
Show business is funny, though. Ten years from now, Walker Hayes will either be that guy, from that time back in the day that sang that song for the Applebee’s commercial, or he’ll be thanking a worldwide audience for being named entertainer of the year while fans are thinking, can you believe it all started with Fancy Lite?
They said it well
As we put another CRS in the books, I’ll close this dispatch from the center of the Country Radio universe with a few of the more memorable quotes I’ve gathered here at CRS this week. The ones that get the Country Radio program director still living inside me, fired up and ready to get to work.
“We are companions to our audience. We help them get through”
-Caroline Beasley, CEO Beasley Media
“It’s not that Gen X and Millennials don’t like your stations. It’s first about being available to them on the platforms they like.”
-Leigh Jacobs, EVP Research Analysis, NuVoodoo
“Listen more than you talk.”
-Lindsay Bertelli, Owner/President REACH
“Pay attention to how your station sounds on smart speakers. Treat it like it’s as important as what’s on their air.”
-Gator Harrison, SVP of Programming, iHeartMedia Nashville
“Breaking a new song is kind of like long-term marketing.”
-Jeb “Nerf” Freedman, PD/Afternoons KTCL, IHeartMedia Denver
“If you ever hear me on the radio in any format other than country, come find me and get me out of there.”
Scott Lindy is a Marketing Content Specialist and Partner Success Specialist at Futuri Media. He works with a select group of stations to drive their digital efforts forward while also creating compelling marketing content about Futuri’s audience engagement and sales intelligence solutions. Prior to Futuri, Lindy spent 30 years developing an impressive programming resume at companies including Cumulus, Clear Channel, Lincoln Financial Media, and SiriusXM. He has also served on the boards of directors for several industry organizations, including the Country Music Association and Country Radio Broadcasters.