On the final day of the 45th Annual International Entertainment Buyers Association’s (IEBA) three-day conference at Nashville’s Omni Hotel, Black River artist Kelsea Ballerini was joined by her manager Fletcher Foster (Iconic Entertainment) and agent John Huie (CAA). The three were led by Billboard‘s Ray Waddell on the stage of the CMA Theater today, Oct. 13 to give a sneak peek into breaking a new artist in today’s market.
“Kelsea was signed as a writer before she had an artist deal,” noted Huie of the importance of a song. “That’s where Nashville is going, even for someone who has the entire package. For years, this town was about finding people who had the package and then for songs. Kelsea had over 100 songs in her catalog before she ever got a record deal.”
“I feel like being naive has been my biggest asset so far because I don’t know what I’m not supposed to do,” confessed Ballerini who was introduced to Nashville by a producer her mother hired in Knoxville, Tenn., to commemorate the songwriting her 14-year-old daughter had achieved. That producer introduced the now 22-year-old star to Nashville during future visits to Music City.
Huie and Foster met Ballerini because of this songwriting–Huie at an ASCAP writer showcase when the singer was 15 and Foster through Black River Publishing’s Celia Froehlig.
“There’s this illusion that women can’t sell tickets,” said Huie of a misperception he has challenged with Ballerini. “Some people think you have to have hits before you go work because you’re not suppose to put women in clubs.
“Kelsea said she was going to be a touring act and wanted to work, so we grabbed everything. Now that she has a hit, we can direct the boat a little better but her dedication and attitude is what makes her additionally special and makes you want to fight even harder for.”
“I counted almost 190 dates on the calendar last year for Kelsea,” emphasized Foster of Ballerini’s busy year. “That doesn’t include press, rehearsal, or travel. I’m talking about a performance on each of those dates for radio, paid, or free dates.”
“One of the biggest blessings I’ve had in my life is being a hardcore country music fan,” explained Ballerini of her drive. “I remember coming to CMA Fest standing in line for hours to meet Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum, and Justin Moore. Being on this side of it now, I know how to make the 45 seconds you get with someone count. I would save my money to get nosebleed seats at arenas to see my favorite artist. Being in the back row taught me how to make people in the very back feel like you see them. Being a fan really taught me how to be an artist.”
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