Charlie Cook On Air: Making Stars One Fan At A Time

Charlie Cook

Charlie Cook

Luke Bryan was all the buzz last week in Nashville. It has been a long time since a Country music artist debuted a CD with over 500,000 sales. In this case almost 528,000 sold the first week. Earlier this year Luke was the co-host of the ACM awards show and went on to surprise many (including himself) as the Entertainer of the Year for the organization. Now he goes Gold out of the chute. You know the ACM EOY is fan-voted and, of course, selling CDs is REALLY fan voted.

Over the weekend, I told a few people a little story about Luke from a couple of years back when I was at KKGO. Luke came into the station, did some time on the air and answered questions texted in by listeners. There are few performers as affable as Luke and he quickly made friends with the audience. Luke was still pretty new to the format at that time. After he got off the air he told me he had some time before his next appointment and wondered if he could get that list of texts so that he could spend about an hour calling some of the fans and saying hello.

Each text came with the cell phone number so he got directly to the listener when he called. I could hear the listeners screaming over the phone after he introduced himself to them and told them he just wanted to thank them for texting in and asking a question. That one hour built a foundation that will never crumble. I doubt this was the only time Luke did something like this so multiply that effort by scores of other events and you can see why, when it comes to voting for Luke Bryan, he is going to score big time.

When my daughter met Taylor Swift for the first time, five or so years ago, Taylor leaned down and got on her eye level (Izzy was about 7 then) and told her, “Izzy, your dad talks about you so much it seems like I already know you.” Well, Taylor made two lifelong friends with one statement. Now, I am not so naïve to think this was something just for me and Izzy, but taking extra effort to think about the fan is what makes Taylor so special.

Recently format newcomer Bobby Bones of Premiere Radio was being interviewed at Morning Show Boot Camp and he made a point of how accessible the country acts are to radio and their fans versus performers from other formats. This is something that jumps out at you during the Country Radio Seminar, during CMA Fan Fest, and backstage at concert meet-and-greets.

I have lived in Morgantown, W. Va. for three years, and with a gun to my head I could not tell you my next door neighbor’s name. I see Eric Church twice a year, after he has visited with thousands of people, and he comments about where we last visited and picks up the conversation. This attention to detail is what makes stars superstars. Do you think Kenny Chesney still has to stay around an hour after his concerts to sign autographs from the stage. Heck no. But he does and that is one of the reasons why over a million people put down their hard earned dollars for his shows, t-shirts, rum, sunglasses, CDs…well you get the idea.

I spent a day traveling with Austin Webb last week from Pittsburgh to Nashville. We just ran into each other at the airport and it was darn early. I wanted to sleep on the flights to Chicago and then to Nashville, and I know he did too. But he and I talked like we grew up together. Austin could have put his headphones on and closed his eyes but instead he saved me a seat and we talked for four hours about music. Not just his music.

I know these guys understand being cordial and remembering radio people is part of the job. I wonder why I don’t learn how to do it and remember my neighbor’s name.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MusicRow.)

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