The Country Radio Seminar (CRS-2014) is poised to take over the Nashville Convention Center from Feb. 19-21. As usual, CRS is one of the highlights of Country Radio and Music Row business year, and is very possibly the one week in 2014 that can make or break a new artist’s career.
Kacey Musgraves was the breakout star of CRS-2013, and she didn’t even play in the climactic New Faces Show. Kacey, who just upset Taylor Swift to win the Grammy for Best Country Album, performed “Merry Go Round” at a lunchtime showcase. A few of us made notice that day of the genre-bending single and correctly predicted the huge attention the single would receive, both from country radio and from mainstream media.
Brett Eldredge, Cassadee Pope, Tyler Farr, Thomas Rhett, and Charlie Worsham are getting their set lists ready now for their own New Faces Show at CRS-2014, Friday evening Feb. 21 at the Nashville Convention Center. Several of these five artists – who were chosen by country radio programmers – have already charted country singles.
Even before CRS-2014 officially kicks off the morning of Feb. 19, the Country Radio Hall of Fame holds its annual dinner and induction ceremony the night of Feb. 18. Citadel founder Larry Wilson and Boston country radio pioneer Mike Brophey are the new Country Radio Hall of Fame inductees.
Paul Schadt of Clear Channel’s WKKT in Charlotte and Jim Denny of Indianapolis ratings power WFMS are the new On-Air Personality Hall of Famers. CMA Board President Ed Hardy receives the President’s Award, while this year’s Career Achievement Award goes to Vince Gill, a man who has charted an amazing 62 Billboard country singles, including the No. 1s “Tryin’ To Get Over You,” “One More Last Chance,” “The Heart Won’t Lie” (with Reba); “Don’t Let Our Love Start Slippin’ Away” and “I Still Believe In You,” which won both a Grammy and the CMA’s Single and Song of the Year honors in 1992.
What lots of folks forget about CRS, which is of course a week of nighttime partying and high-profile showcases, is that is truly remains an educational seminar for radio and music professionals during the day. Little Big Town will present a discussion on perseverance in the country industry; keynote speaker Gavin McGarry of Jumpwire Media will educate the radio folks about Social Media; and Steve Jones leads a Thursday class on branding. Those are just a few of the daily seminars that are highlights of Wednesday to Friday at the Convention Center.
The Grand Ole Opry teamed with CRS for the first time last year, and they’re repeating the feat. The Opry show during CRS is star-studded this time, with Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts, Love & Theft, and Eric Paslay all scheduled to perform.
The labels also sponsor lunchtime showcases for their artists. Universal Music Group’s takes place at the Ryman on Wednesday afternoon. The label hasn’t announced its artists for the show yet, but last year there were nearly 20. Most performed just one song.
Kellie Pickler, Craig Morgan, and John King are slated to highlight the Black River Entertainment noon-time show on Friday.
And how about the New Faces? Who will steal the show, and who will fumble the chance?
Eldredge hails from the small Illinois town of Paris. As of December 2012, according to Joel Whitburn’s Billboard Hot Country Songs 1944-2012, Brett had charted three singles on Atlantic, with the highest, “Raymond,” reaching No. 23.
Pope, a former contestant on “The Voice,” had a pair of Republic Nashville Top 5 singles with her debut singles “Over You” and “Stupid Boy,” both in 2012.
Farr has been on BNA and Columbia. The Missouri native debuted on the charts in the spring of 2012 with “Hot Mess” (No. 49).
Rhett is a second-generation country star. His father is Rhett Akins, best known for the No. 1 “Don’t Get Me Started” in 1996. Thomas Rhett is on Valory. Among his early hits was “Beer With Jesus,” written with Lance Miller and Rick Huckaby.
Worsham is on Warner Music Nashville. His singles have included the rocking “Want Me Too” and the more mellow harmony number, “Could It Be,” an acoustic tune with Bluegrass flavors.
For these artists and the thousands of CRS attendees flocking to Nashville, it promises to be an intense and exciting week.
By Phil Sweetland