Spins.FM Turns Dial Toward Nashville

David Baker

Since last week (7/19), when MusicRow wrote about Spins.fm, an interactive tool designed to convert social networking fans into radio requests, there are rumblings that a few high profile country artists are set to take the technology for a “spin.”
Spins.fm has created two widgets to help leverage an artist’s social networking success into FM radio success. One widget goes on radio station Facebook pages and the other can be embedded in Facebook pages for labels and/or artists.
David Baker, Spins.fm founder is excited about the possibilities. “I’ve been making websites for 12 years and over the last five years working exclusively with artists,” says Baker who was born in Hawaii and currently lives in New York. “Artist websites, social media campaigns, everything related to the internet with artists. We started exploring this radio opportunity last year. There is lots of activity with online and streaming radio, but the fact remains that for local artist shows and appearances there is nothing that comes even close to the power of FM terrestrial radio. We wanted to bridge the gap between social media and local radio.”
The company has had early success with urban and Top 40 radio formats, but Nashville and country music is still an untried destination. “Regardless of the format,” says Baker, “we are staying focused on our core products for artists, labels and stations and trying to improve on them by incentivizing fans to participate and allowing artists to reward the fans for a request.”
What is the million dollar question? As the embedded widgets leverage social networks turning the followers, likes and fans into the tip of the request spear, will those requests actually cause the desired result—more airplay?
“Yes, that is the million dollar question,” says Baker. “Right now we can’t explicitly state that if you sign up for a Spins.fm campaign your song will be No. 1 on the radio. However, we have developed a number of case studies showing some really positive correlations and results. Hot Chelle Rae is our most recent success story. When we started they were at 0 and the record is now No. 7 on Billboard. We can’t take all the credit of course, but their team is giving us lots of credit for that. In terms of case studies, we are getting more data each month.”
Baker is intent upon continuing to fine tune the interactive process. “In a few weeks we will introduce a new audio feature that allows fans to record their requests,” Baker says. “A lot of stations say they love the social media requests, but would also like the ability to play the audio requests on the air, like they do traditionally from call ins. From the fan side it gives them another outlet to show support for their favorite artists and from the stations side we’re hoping it will drive adoption. We are also rolling out new features on the FaceBook side, so that after a fan makes a request they can dedicate the request to one of their friends which makes it more viral and gets more people involved.”
With the powerful role that fm radio plays for country artists, it certainly seems sensible to give Spins.fm a test drive. Should it prove capable, it could become a powerful career force for the artists most able to wield its power.

Charlie Cook On-Air

Charlie Cook

The R Word

I know many of you as I have been in this business for 40 years. All of my business life has been in radio and most of it in Country Music. I lived in Nashville in the mid and late ’80s but have been coming to town since the mid ’70s for the Country Radio Seminar.
I am currently on the board of both the ACM and the CMA. I was chairman and president of the ACM in the old days and served on the CRB board for over 20 years. I was president of the CRB for a year or two during that span.
Today I am Director of Programming and Brand Management for West Virginia Radio Corp, based in Morgantown, WV and president of McVay/Cook and Associates a media consulting company based in Cleveland. I live in Morgantown and pay property taxes in California. That’s for another article.
This introduction is to lay out some credentials as David Ross has asked me to write a weekly column for MusicRow and I am most often going to come at it from my perspective of being from the radio community.
Hanging out as much as I do with record employees, and others making their living in Country Music I can feel the boos rising from Nashville. I don’t think that the two industries are at cross purposes, but we have some things that should be addressed with a blunt force. I trust that David knows what he is getting into with me as a contributor. I am closer to the end of my career than the beginning of my work life. I am not looking for a job. I have enough friends and I will say what I believe to be true.
I also understand that many others will have a different, very worthwhile opinion. I hope that we can all listen and maybe even change…not our stand on things, but our rigidity towards the other side.
I will talk about things that impact the record, publishing, production and promotion community from the radio side. I want to explore playlist size, PPM (a new system for measuring the radio audience in the top 48 markets), promotion for play, research and many other things that make our jobs easier and harder at the same time.
The R Word
I would like to start off today with the R word. I hear from record promotion staffers (I suspect that this is coming from higher up the chain) that research is the devil’s tool. It is only evil when it presents an excuse for radio to not play or stop playing one of their songs. John Hart is the most popular guy in town when the information is positive. Research cuts both ways and it is only as credible as the source. It is also only as credible as the question asked.
Many music research projects are done in a vacuum. Listeners should be informed why the information is being collected. If you ask a person, “do you like chocolate?” you’re going to get on answer based on how they feel right now about chocolate. If you ask them, “do you like chocolate more than vanilla to the conclusion of not having vanilla for the next ten weeks?” you might get a completely different answer.
“I am going to play you the new Dudley Doofus song. Please tell me, on a scale of one to five how much you like the song.” This is a very different question than, “in the context of the radio station you listen to everyday, how would you rate this Dudley Doofus song? Would you like to hear it more or less than your current favorite song on the radio?”
Let’s get back to my first comment about giving something back to the listener. Giving them more of what they like is all about understanding what makes them gravitate to a specific radio station and a particular artist.
In Nashville you have three radio stations that play current-based Country Music. The top songs are all the same across these three music stations. I can tell you the one station in that mix who is doing some music research. It is WSM-FM. I can tell by the difference in the songs once you get below the top tunes.
You know that there is more than just music in the mix on successful radio stations. If, as I contend, WSM-FM is researching their music, how come they are not the number one Country station in town? Well, they are still trying to find their footing with their morning show. They have been many different things over the years. Live 95, 95 the Wolf and now WSM-FM. The listener knows that 95.5 plays Country Music, but what is happening around the music is less defined.
The company has been successful in Dallas and Indianapolis with their Country products, where they get the morning shows right. Both of these stations have had long time images, built by another company and not tinkered with (outside of personnel) by the parent company. I know that research has driven those decisions.
Asking the listener, understanding the listener and delivering the goods, based on that, will win. Everytime.

Toby Keith Joins Fall Release Line Up

From Toby Keith's video for "Made In America."

Toby Keith
has set a fall release date for his new album Clancy’s Tavern. Lead single “Made In America” is climbing MusicRow’s CountryBreakout chart just five weeks after release.
Clancy’s Tavern, coming via Show Dog-Universal Records, will hit shelves Oct. 25 in time for holiday shopping. The album draws its name from the title track, which Keith wrote about his grandmother’s bar.
Keith is spending the summer on his Ford driven Locked & Loaded Tour. Joining him on the road are JT Hodges and Eric Church.
See the complete list of upcoming album releases here.

Big Machine Adds Interactive Director

Annie Ortmeier

The Big Machine Label Group has added Annie Ortmeier to the Sales, Marketing & Interactive Department as Director of Interactive, spearheading social networking and website initiatives.
Ortmeier joins the label group with a strong background in the area, including time at CMT as Merchandising Manager of Ecommerce. She also worked for echo and relocated to LA with the company after the merger with Ticketmaster. Most recently Ortmeier explored her entrepreneurial side with her own digital marketing agency YowZa! Ecommerce Solutions.
At Big Machine she will report to VP of Sales, Marketing & Interactive Kelly Rich, who said, “Annie’s impressive background working in both e-commerce and the music industry make her an excellent candidate to drive our interactive presence forward. She’s a hard worker with a knack for innovation, and we are excited to have her on our team.”
Ortmeier can be reached immediately at (615) 324-7922 or [email protected].

Hall of Fame Shares Expansion Details at Fundraising Launch

Pictured at today's event. (L-R): Museum Director Kyle Young, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford and Steve Turner, chairman of the museum's Board of Officers and Trustees. Photo: Donn Jones

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum this morning (7/28) launched a capital campaign to fund an expansion that will more than double the size of the current facility, as well as offer Nashville a new performance venue.
“This is an unbelievable moment in the history of this museum and in the history of Nashville,” said Hall of Fame Board Chairman Steve Turner. “The campaign will finance a 200,000-square-foot museum expansion that will connect structurally and financially with the Omni Nashville convention hotel. This is an unprecedented public-private partnership made possible by the vision and stewardship of Mayor Karl Dean.”

Ricky Skaggs. Photo: Sherod Robertson

Due for completion in spring 2014, the expansion will triple the current exhibit space, include an 800 seat theater, and offer an educational center with children’s gallery, classrooms and recording studio. It will be connected to the Omni on three levels. Tuck Hinton Architects, who built the magnificent current building, are returning for the expansion.
“Since the Museum opened in 2001, it has become one of Nashville’s signature cultural assets and a key economic engine,” said Mayor Dean. “This [expansion] commitment is valued at over $30 million, which the Museum will return to city coffers through a long-term lease agreement.”
Today’s event marked the beginning of the public phase of the $75 million fundraising initiative called “Working on a Building: Country Music Lives Here Campaign.” Thanks to generous donations by Nashville and nationwide power brokers, many of whom gathered today, $56.8 million was raised during the campaign’s silent phase. More than $48 million of that comes from donors who contributed $1 million or more, including a lead gift of $6.5 million from Steve and Judy Turner.

Alan Jackson. Photo: Sherod Robertson

Among those celebrating the success thus far and championing the project’s next phase was Ford Motor Co. executive chairman Bill Ford, whose family name brands the theater where today’s assembly took place. He is serving as honorary co-chair of the campaign with Kris Kristofferson.
An event at the Country Music Hall of Fame wouldn’t be complete without music. In keeping with the campaign’s mantra, Ricky Skaggs kicked things off with Bill Monroe’s bluegrass breakdown “Working On A Building.” Buddy Spicher kept the mood lively with a fiddle jam. Alan Jackson performed “You’ve Been Lonesome, Too,” a song partially written by Hank Williams and completed by Jackson, which will be on an Oct. 4 release called The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams (Egyptian Records/CMF Records/Columbia Records). Then Jackson closed with his classic “Chattahoochee,” chuckling as he encouraged Mayor Dean to get up and dance.
Dean proudly told Bill Ford that he has been driving a Ford Mustang for 12 years. He wasn’t the only one, Jackson and Lynn Anderson also shared that they are loyal Ford owners.
Besides Ford and Kristofferson, the capital campaign committee also includes Earl Bentz, Mark Bloom, Bill Denny, Mike Dungan, Rod Essig, Vince Gill, Randy Goodman, Keel Hunt, Ken Levitan, Brian O’Connell, Ken Roberts, John Seigenthaler, Steve Turner, Ernie Williams and Jody Williams.

Rendering of CMHoF expansion, as seen from 4th Ave.

Theater rendering

Event Hall rendering


Country Tours Rock New York

New York City concertgoers are proving they love country music. Kenny Chesney’s Goin’ Coastal Tour is breaking records with an upcoming date in the area, and Taylor Swift just wrapped a run of four sold-out shows.
Swift played Newark, NJ’s Prudential Center last week and sold a combined total of over 52,000 tickets.
Chesney and Zac Brown Band’s upcoming date at New Jersey’s New Meadowlands Stadium has sold 44,000 tickets and features guests Billy Currington and Uncle Kracker. The Aug. 13 concert is the single biggest ticketed country show in the area since Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and Linda Ronstadt played Giants Stadium in 1983. Chesney’s tour was recently ranked by Pollstar as the highest-grossing country tour of 2011 so far.
Chesney’s Aug. 13th show has already topped last year’s concert at New Meadowlands Stadium by The Eagles, Dixie Chicks and Keith Urban in sales.
“When I first heard we’d be playing at the Meadowlands, I was ecstatic,” Chesney said. “It has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember and will be an unforgettable evening for everyone involved.”
The August performance is part of Chesney’s ‘Goin’ Coastal’ Tour, highlighted by The New York Times and USA Today atop their lists of the year’s biggest tours, and marks balladeer’s eighth consecutive tour selling more than a million tickets.

SESAC Partners With INgrooves For Digital Distribution

SESAC has announced a new partnership with INgrooves a leading provider of digital distribution, marketing and promotion services to the global music & video community via its One Digital platform. INgrooves will service SESAC-represented content to online retailers, mobile carriers, and other digital media outlets. Through this relationship, SESAC will now be able to service content, for which publishing and master rights are owned by its affiliated artists and songwriters, to INgrooves’s list of over 500 online and mobile destinations worldwide. SESAC’s utilization of the One Digital end-to-end digital asset management platform, made possible by the arrangement, automates many distribution and administrative functions for SESAC artists and connects them directly to leading online and mobile stores worldwide.  In addition, the partnership provides clients customized marketing, promotion, and administrative support to help maximize the earnings potential of specific music releases and catalogues.
According to SESAC, the deal signifies an evolution in its digital strategy.  While licensing and royalty accounting remain core competencies, new value-add services such as digital delivery and distribution will augment opportunities for licensing SESAC-represented content in the marketplace.
“A PRO is often the first industry relationship an aspiring artist, songwriter, or composer has in their career,” said Hunter Williams, Sr. VP, Strategic Development, Distribution and Research Operations, SESAC, Inc. “In the age of DIY (do-it-yourself), it’s more important than ever that we use this position to provide complementary services to our affiliated artists and writers to help them meet their professional goals. The more opportunities SESAC can create for its artists and writers to distribute their content into the marketplace, the more opportunities it will present for SESAC to monetize that content in the licensing arena.”

Summer NAMM Offers Best In Show

Art Guitars by JD Vokes. Photo: Daniel Ethan Podolsky

By Daniel Ethan Podolsky
Imagine being surrounded in every direction by every type of instrument and accessory imaginable. Where any shape, size, color, make, model or even flavor of musical product is waiting for you to come test it out, all within one room. For musicians with bigger eyes than wallets, the Summer NAMM Convention—a gathering of the musical products industry held annually at the Nashville Convention Center—can be a dream come true.
From July 21-23, over 11,000 industry professionals representing 30+ countries were on hand to get up close and personal with the newest offerings from over 450 manufacturers—as well as to order a few for their own stores, and to network with others in the industry. The convention was expected to bring $13 million into the Nashville economy.
Summer NAMM has a mission to benefit the local, independent music retailers that survived the growth of behemoths such as Guitar Center or Sam Ash. In that spirit workshops and lectures, dubbed “NAMM U,” run all weekend with titles such as “Successful Promotions on a Dime,” and “How to Use Facebook to Market Your Business.” These breakfast sessions are held each of the three days.
Celebrity appearances created a big draw for “Wanna Play Day.” Former New York Yankee turned Jazz guitarist Bernie Williams was promoting his new book Rhythms of the Game, and taking time to speak and play for the public. His 2009 full-length album Moving Forward is his second and features collaborations with Bruce Springsteen and Dave Koz. “I’m really working with NAMM advocating for music and arts education in schools,” says Williams. This visit to Nashville was his “first time here, but hopefully won’t be the last.” Williams has been a celebrity face for the convention since January’s NAMM Show in Anaheim. His book features a foreword by musician Paul Simon and discusses the link between musical and athletic performance. “I think there’s a lot of similarities between music and baseball, and it’s worth reading. The book is out now, and I think it’s going to be very successful.”

Gibson's Firebird X. Photo: Daniel Ethan Podolsky

This year’s show contained a bit of a break from traditional NAMM procedures. On the final day of the convention, doors were opened to the public for “Wanna Play Music Day.” For a $20 ticket price, casual fans and music buffs alike can see the exhibits and attend valuable lessons such as “Setting Up a Home Studio,” and “Garage Band Hands-On Test Drive.”
“I’m glad they’re doing a public day,” remarked Frank Johns, head of R&D for Gibson Guitars, a Nashville-based company. “It’s one thing to have dealers come and check everything out… but it’s also great to have the public come and check everything out.” Gibson is at NAMM promoting it’s newest Firebird X computerized “robot” guitar. The guitar features technological innovations such as robotic tuners, Bluetooth to communicate with effects pedals, onboard effects, and more. “It’s our first foray into this technology, but we really feel at Gibson that it’s the way of the future,” explains Johns. “It’s the technology to keep up with the latest iPads and that sort of thing.”
With a very unique exhibit, Quaver’s Marvelous World of Music is pioneering another approach to music education, demonstrating a “new music program designed to bring added excitement to the way music is taught to children.” Graham Hepburn, known in the video series as Quaver, is very enthusiastic about getting children to learn about music. When “I was a [music] teacher, I could never find any good DVD resources that weren’t too long or too boring,” explains Hepburn. Quaver’s offers a DVD series containing 30 different episodes. “Each episode is 15 minutes long, so they don’t take over music classes or private lessons. They talk about beat, rhythm, duration, pitch, music theory, there’s music styles, ensembles, musical periods,” he says. “Each episode is really funky, fast moving, there’s animation, there’s live action.” Over 500 kids from the Nashville area get involved in the project, which is based on Music Row. The project also contains an online virtual world for kids to create and compose music. “We hope it’s going to become a worldwide success,” says Hepburn, “if it isn’t, I’ll have to become a window cleaner again.”

Quaver’s Marvelous World of Music. Photo: Daniel Ethan Podolsky

Working On A Wednesday

Payton Rae on the set of "Not Your Cinderella."

Payton Rae’s latest video, “Not Your Cinderella” debuted earlier this month. The clip is the second created from her five song EP, Dare To Live. Houston-based OOA Productions produced the effort which was filmed mostly in the historic district of Galveston, TX at the Trube Castle.
“I get very excited when it comes to music videos; my mom and I are always throwing out ideas.” said Rae.  “I was on the computer one day looking for places we could use, and I came across the Trube Castle right in Galveston, and I knew that had to be it! I’m so blessed to have gotten to shoot at such an amazing place.”
Fifteen year old Payton Rae’s album was produced by Nashville veteran Brian White and features songs created by a marquis of acomplished songwriters including Steve Bogard, Brett Beavers, Stephony Smith, Shelly Fairchild and Rae.
Rae has over 62,000 Twitter followers and 2.8 million YouTube views at her dedicated channel.
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Stealing Angels and KSON/San Diego enjoy an afternoon at the Lakeside Rodeo.(L-R) Dave Collins, Jennifer Wayne, Brooks O’Brian (KSON/ San Diego), Tayla Lynn, Kevin Callahan (KSON/San Diego) and Caroline Cutbirth

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Nan Kelley and Margaret Durante

Margaret Durante recently visited with GAC’s Nan Kelley on the set of her Top 20 Country Countdown video show. Durante’s video, “Maybe Tonight” placed No. 1 on the countdown for two consecutive weeks, but she only discovered the news while reading the teleprompter to introduce her video.
Directed by Kristin Barlowe, the clip for “Maybe Tonight” (co-written by Durante, Blair Daly and Rachel Proctor) highlights two lovers flirting their way through the early stages of a new relationship. Fans also get to see a spontaneous side of Durante, as she leads a troupe in a dance on the streets of downtown Nashville.

Kidman To Film In Nashville

Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban on the red carpet of the 2011 Golden Globe awards.

Nicole Kidman’s new movie Stoker will be filmed in Nashville, specifically in Belle Meade, reports The Tennessean.
The project is described as a vampire thriller; the name a nod to Dracula author Brahm Stoker.
The story centers on a teenage girl named “India Stoker,” played by Mia Wasikowska of Alice In Wonderland fame, who is coping with the unexpected arrival of her strange uncle after the death of her father.

London’s Daily Mail reported earlier this year that Kidman will star as the mother and fellow Oscar winner Colin Firth will play the uncle.

The script was penned by Prison Break star Wentworth Miller.