Music Biz Conference Gives In-Depth Look At International Touring, Kelly Clarkson Talks ‘The Voice’

Music’s Leading Ladies Speak Out

Pictured (L-R): Atlantic Records Group chairman and COO Julie Greenwald, Senior Vice President of Music Strategy for CMT Leslie Fram, Red Light Management/Independent A&R Consultant Tracy Gershon, singer-songwriter Kelly Clarkson, CEO/President, Cosynd/Women In Music Jessica Sobhraj, Country Music Association CEO Sarah Trahern, and Sr. VP & GM, Nielsen Music Erin Crawford. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Music Business Association

Various panels held during the 2017 Music Biz conference touched on topics ranging from touring to mentoring to The Voice.

Atlantic Records’ Julie Greenwald and Kelly Clarkson were welcomed by NPR’s Ann Powers during the 2017 Music Biz Conference for the panel Creative Partnerships, to discuss Clarkson’s recent deal with Atlantic Records and her upcoming album, which she calls more soulful and urban than her previous releases.

Clarkson discussed her early career dreams, and revealed that she originally wanted to be a backup singer. “That didn’t work out, but that was my goal. Because I thought, ‘They get to sing with a ton of artists, but they don’t have to do all the famous stuff.’ It didn’t work out, but it worked out.”

‘She also talked about her upcoming stint as a judge on The Voice, alongside Blake Shelton. Clarkson’s husband Brandon Blackstock also manages Shelton. “I love working with Blake. We love giving each other shit, so it’s going to be really fun for me.”

She also discussed what first intrigued her about The Voice.

“Literally, since the show started, I remember when Blake started on the show, even before it was on, my manager was telling me how it is set up. I was like, ‘Wait, you don’t see them? I could turn around and it could be someone completely different.’ As a singer that has a lot of things that get in the way in the press, it’s very nice for it to just be about the voice. It’s just about the talent and the storytelling. It’s not just about a great voice, it’s about a voice that tells a story. It has to move you to turn the chair. I’m so excited to do that. I have a very unique vantage point as well because I’ve been them.”

Greenwald also discussed her own career history, which began in 1992 when she joined Def Jam Records as Lyor Cohen‘s executive assistant. Ten years later, she was named president of Island Records, becoming one of only three women at the time to hold that title at a major record label. In 2004, she was named president of Atlantic Records and was named Chairman/COO in 2009.

In the following panel segment, The Life and Work of a High-Powered Female Executive, welcomed music industry executives including Sarah Trahern (CMA), Tracy Gershon (Red Light Management), and Jessica Sobhraj (Cosynd/Women In Music) discussed the importance of mentoring in the music industry. The panel was moderated by CMT’s Leslie Fram.

Pictured (L-R): Writer Ann Powers, Atlantic Records Group chairman and COO Julie Greenwald, and singer-songwriter Kelly Clarkson. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Music Business Association


Thomas Rhett: Breaking an International Act

Akiko Rogers. Photo: Music Business Association

On Wednesday, May 17, the conference looked at the impact of international branding and efforts to expand country music into international markets. The efforts behind breaking BMLG’s Thomas Rhett on an international level with his manager were explored during a panel featuring Rhett’s manager Virginia Davis of G Major Management, as well as Jimmy Chapin from Big Machine Label Group, Anna-Sophie Mertens from Live Nation UK, Akiko Rogers from William Morris Endeavor Entertainment (WME) and moderator Billboard contributor Phyllis Stark.

Rhett’s first UK trip came in March 2016 for the Country Music Association/Live Nation Country 2 Country festival, which he followed up with a media trip in May 2016 and a string of shows in the UK in late 2016. This year, he returns to the UK for shows in larger venues.

Chapin spoke to the factors that help decide what artists will work in certain international markets.

“A lot of it happens organically, you see certain reactions before an artist has even been in that market. Thomas was one of those artists where sales numbers, streaming, radio had been picking up before we had even been to the market. So once he got over there it really was able to take off.”

Rogers spoke to the challenges of taking an established artist overseas and emphasized the benefits of focusing on international markets early in a career, when it can be a bit easier financially to explore international markets.

“You have to have the commitment to go over there. You have artists in the United States who are used to playing arenas and amphitheaters and it’s basically going over there and starting over,” said Rogers. “They have production and a big overhead. It’s special for them as well. It kind of brings you back to your roots.”

“Once you become a headliner in the US, you have a different level of overhead and it’s difficult to bear the burden of the cost it takes to go backward and build a fanbase and take the time,” Davis added. “It is an investment and it does cost money.”

The panel spoke of the importance of planning ahead and visiting an international market frequently to build an impression and grow audience sizes. “It’s a huge investment to go over there, so if you do, why wait three years when you are going to play venues the same size you did when you were there last time?” said Rogers.

Chapin spoke to the obstacles in marketing music in international markets such as the UK and Australia, versus the United States.

“Country radio format is a US thing. Australia has somewhat of a market, but in the UK, radio is genre agnostic. So we have to find ways to fit a country artist like Thomas in a pop format or a genre-less format. So that is one hurdle to overcome. Australia has a bit of a country market so his songs are played on the country radio stations down there and his videos are played on their Country Music Channel. They don’t have that here [in the UK], so you kind of have to go around that.”

Music Biz 2017 Conference continues through today, May 18.



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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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