The 40th Country Radio Seminar started off in encouraging style with Seth Godin giving an intelligent and rousing keynote. He knows his stuff when it comes to the music and radio industries and he certainly knows how to engage in discussion about the future. Mr. Godin also has a keen skill of inciting vision in those who wish to move from the broken model and into the new world. A brilliant move by the CRS agenda committee to bring him in.
I was hopeful that spirit would continue on into the panels, but unfortunately what I witnessed only took us down familiar traveled roads and led us to a big “You are here” arrow. During the three days of CRS I heard very little discussion and insight about preparing for the changes in the years to come. Part of the problem is no one really knows what is ahead, but at least we should be having conversations about the opportunities within new creative business models. Instead I sensed just a reactionary tone.
For instance, in listening to one particular panel where the guests were talking about how 85% of country retail sales come from the big boxes like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, etc. and how labels and distributors are handling the ever shrinking floor and stock space at these retailers. Yes, these giants have been critical to our past success and are obviously important to our current victories, but what about five years from now? We are still living in a Wal-Mart dominated world, but what happens if Wal-Mart continues to shrink the new music space and only increase catalog? What if Wal-Mart decides they will only carry the Top 20 or 30 selling acts? What if they ultimately conclude that selling CD’s is not part of their plan any longer because they just aren’t that profitable for the space they take up?
What I really wanted to hear was a plan that does not involve CD’s, does not include Wal-Mart or Best Buy, and embraces new technology and innovative marketing. A redefinition of our industry. The same strategic thinking that Mr. Godin touched on in his keynote. Though there were good panels, I wasn’t hearing anything remotely inspiring for the future.
Some within the music industry have made strides in getting up to speed with changes and technology, but we are still only making adjustments to what is happening to us at the moment. We are not leading the way in engaging where the consumer is going and what they will want down the road. That’s what got us in trouble to begin with.
Overall I love Country Radio Seminar. Walking around seeing old friends and making new ones. Having discussions with remarkable individuals who I can learn a great deal from. Talking with people about the partnership opportunities with Compassion International and finding them excited about the possibilities. Checking out amazing artists and songwriters. It’s a great time. I simply expected more focus and vision for the future than what I encountered.
I’m hopeful things will move in the right direction with CRS, but currently the best place to engage the new world is at the Leadership Music Digital Summit being held in Nashville at the end of March. There’s no Bridge Bar, no fans clamoring in the lobby, no free shows, no dinners at The Palm, and no labels dividing up the troops. Yes, not as much fun, but a whole lot more relevant and affordable.
I would like to be relevant in the years ahead, how about you?