At night, the attendees of the seminar meet up at the Bridge Bar in the Renaissance Hotel downtown. The room is packed with seminar attendees with the nightly addition of local hopefuls that drop in to network. A word of caution – do not sign any contracts or shake any hands with someone that promises you the moon. A common downfall of this event is when unsigned artists attend the nightly mixers in hopes of being discovered and they get “wined and dined” by middle aged men in suits that tell them what they want to hear. You can want something so badly that you will trust anyone you hear and believe their words. Put your “street smarts hat” on and go into the crowd confidently yet realistically. Be polite, swap cards, and then go research them. Use the internet, ask around, figure out if they are who they say they are. You wouldn’t purchase a car or undergo surgery without doing your research and getting second opinions – give your dreams the same amount of respect and professionalism.
This nightly unwinding session is open to the public and can get very crowded. If you plan to attend this be prepared – bring any or all of the following depending on your purpose:
- business cards – A MUST
- demo cds (artist)
- pitch cds (songwriter)
- electronic press kit
Country Radio Seminar is also a chance for unsigned artists to study how working artists are promoted. What types of materials are being passed out? How did they decide to market someone? Which artists are featured, why? You have to understand this is a business and there is a rhyme and reason to everything. When you attend CRS, you will have the chance to see live music at the event and at various music venues close to the Convention Center right in downtown. Playing to these crowds is extremely different than playing to fans or even local peers. This is a national event, drawing in people from all over the country and then some. On that stage you are praying that publicists give you good reviews, record labels see you as a threat, or that radios pick you up and play you. If you are an unsigned artist playing a showcase you are hoping for a deal and praying for the write up that declares you the the hottest thing to hit radio in decades. There is an entirely deeper layer of acceptance, pressure, and effort that goes on here.
Ultimately, you have to know why you are there. People are going to ask you what you do, why you are in Nashville, what are your goals, etc. Do you know those answers? You have less than 3 minutes on average for people to get their first impression. With the magnitude of guests roaming the room – you never know how long you will have the ear of someone before their old friend walks up and drags them away. You can’t be a salesman but you have to show confidence. You can not waste the opportunity to be in a room full of radio djs, record label executives, publishers, songwriters, publicists, etc… Here are the basics:
- SHOW UP
- Dress to impress
- Be prepared (with materials/answers)
- Work the room
- Make friends
As much as you are there on a mission, remember though that these people who are attending the daily seminars are worn out. At night, are there to have fun, make friends, and catch up as much as they are there for business. You have to read the person you are talking with. If you aggressively pursue the same musical conversation with everyone you meet, you are going to turn people off and wear them out. If you walk away from this event with a few new friends – that is a success!!! Don’t forget – this industry is built on relationships. Sincere conversations will lay stronger foundations than discussions built on self-puffery and bottomless promises.
You could attend CRS with false hopes, hunt for free wine, get drunk and network. That would be one goal. But you don’t want to be so drunk that you forget meeting the head of a label or forget that you got kicked out when you got on your hands and knees and begged that same record executive for a record deal. Every year drama like this happens because people don’t realize that you are being watched at all times. People are reading you – trying to judge sincerity and interest, watching how you work the room, and seeing how drunk you get. That being said… you could attend CRS with your best foot forward, materials in hand, make some connections, and use it as a learning experience that sharpens your understanding of this town, country radio, and how to get from singing in your shower to Artist of the year. Here are a few words from lieutenant-general in the British Army, writer, and founder of the Scout Movement, Robert Baden-Powell, “Be Prepared… the meaning of the motto is that a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise.” Like that Like a boy scout, individuals attending Country Radio Seminar must be prepared for this event… it isn’t all about free drinks!