Special Events


It’s kind of like hanging out with old friends on the first day of high school,” endearingly said Jay Allen with an excited smile on his face; a sentiment similarly echoed by Lewis Brice and Rob Mayes during our conversations with them.

Since its founding in 1969, Country Radio Broadcasters (CRB) has pinpointed their mission to ensure the vitality and promote growth within the country radio format through their annual event the Country Radio Seminar (CRS), bringing together radio programmers, industry reps, music media, and the hottest talent on the scene.

The three-day educational convention converges on Music City at the start of each year, presenting an opportunity to soak in learning on a variety of subjects that range from the current state of country radio to the ever-changing technology advances and vibrant paths into the next chapter, all while being introduced to the newest music from the artists we already know and love, but also from those who are on the verge of becoming the next to break through.

To really understand the gravity of CRS and the impact that radio makes on country music, Black River Entertainment recording artist Pryor Baird summed it up best during a conversation that we had on day one of the event.

“I just ran into Marty Raybon from Shenandoah. Cody Johnson is here. Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani showed up. That level of artist is a part of this week; all here to say thank you to country radio!”

Inside the Omni Hotel during the last week of February, we had the incredibly blessed, first-hand opportunity to be part of CRS and enjoy several key moments that opened proper discussions amongst our own team into how we, as a media outlet, can position our written pieces to better assist the artists, songwriters, and industry reps in their overall marketing efforts toward radio.

Amongst the very intriguing panels that we attended were two of the three ‘Cycle of a Song’ discussions, which focused on the rise of Bailey Zimmerman’s “Fall I Love” and Megan Moroney’s “Tennessee Orange.”

These discussions included a panel that consisted of the radio promotion teams for each specific song, label A&R reps, digital streaming leaders, radio program directors, and the artist themselves, joining in a lively conversation that peeled back the layers of what it takes in the modern era to craft a hit song at radio.

Balancing these talks on the proper usage of social media, the benefits of touring, and the necessity of streaming, the strategy’s that interestingly leapt out were not only in the similar approaches of each different team, but in how their talking with each artist about who they are at their core has really allowed them to craft unique individuality to comfortably present the authenticity of their story, and ultimately their music.

Other highly attended panels throughout the week that murmured hallway conversation all throughout the seminar focused on the hot-button issue of AI, the trending impact of podcasts, and mental health awareness within the music industry; the latter which was led by Keynote Speaker Jason Prizno.

Exposing a very important layer that’s all too often swept under the rug, Prizno led a very transparent talk on the effects of anxiety, the benefits of therapy, and offered new strategies to help navigate steps in alleviating and overcoming the extreme pressures that the music industry faces within its high stakes competitiveness.

Parlaying loosely off mental health aspects, a laid-back conversation between country music legend Trisha Yearwood and the current CMA Entertainer of the Year Lainey Wilson delivered perhaps the key aspect to overcoming anything life throws at you… slowing down and embracing the moments!

I’m learning to pay more attention to the moments instead of letting them pass by and then trying to relive them later.” Lainey Wilson

Be very intentional with slowing down and living in the moments because they pass by so fast.” – Trisha Yearwood.

At the core of every panel’s vibe, though, a commonly threaded focus on the responsibility of country music for a very hurting world became a distinctive, always looming center point.

Everyone in country music in any facet right now…we represent country music! The genre is so healthy right now because the world isn’t. The world is hurting. We naturally will always return to our roots in times like this…how we grew up, grandma’s house, a calmer world.”Cindy Mabe (CEO/UMG)

You need to use your format to make people feel less lonely through what you offer in a world where we all do feel lonely at times.” – Granger Smith

With so much learning and studying to soak already filling the pages of our notebooks, the end of the work week capped off with an incredible discussion of looking forward into 2024 through pure optimism within the innovation that arrives in not only taking some risks, but also by revisiting the foundations of the genre as the firm rock to stand on.

Offering simple, though often overcomplicated insight through very solid advice, Jon Loba (President BMG/BBR) states, “We are devoting more to our gut, to the feeling that something gives to us. If something is hitting us right, it will affect other people the same way. Push into everything you do with that gut passion.”

However, on the surface for the casual many, the everyday listeners and our readers, is the country music that they filter into their daily lives to help them get through the ups, downs, and in-betweens that life inevitably presents; And there was plenty of that to go around!

Talent luncheons presented by the major labels, and superstar showings during specialized events throughout the week, each featured the perfect blending of legends, hitmakers, and emerging talent sharing the spotlight in heartfelt appreciation of radio’s support and giving bold previews of things to come in 2024, layering the foundational aspect that upheld the underlying fact that country music is in very good hands.

Where Warner Music Nashville headlined their Wednesday afternoon luncheon with Ashley McBryde (“The Devil I Know” and “Blackout Betty”), Cody Johnson (“’Til You Can’t,” “Dirt Cheap,” “The Painter” and “Long Live Country Music”), and Bailey Zimmerman (“Where It Ends,” “Holy Smokes”), they accented with their hotshot new kids Warren Zeiders (“Pretty Little Poison”), Chase Matthew (“Darlin’,” “Love You Again”), and Austin Snell (“Pray All The Way Home”).

However, in what tallied as the first major surprise of the week, Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani caused quite the stir when they made an unannounced appearance that immediately had cameras flashing and capturing memory making video of their joining together on “Nobody But You” and “Purple Irises.”

Big Machine Label Group took over the Broadway Ballroom on Friday afternoon, utilizing their hour and a half luncheon to stamp bold definition as to why they’re top tier, bending their very high-profile emerging talent with some of the biggest in names in the business.

While Mackenzie Carpenter bopped through exciting new music and Greylan James showcased his incredible single “Young Man,” the biggest names of their vast roster secured the spotlight with performances that kept the entire ballroom talking.

Chris Janson humbly thanked radio with his latest number one song “All I Want Is You” and offered his brand-new single, “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get,” Jackson Dean brought his natural rasp to “Fearless” and fan favorite “Heavens To Betsy,” Lady A center pieced with their new single “Love You Back,” Brian Kelley told his truth on “Kiss My Boots,” and Riley Green previewed his next radio strike “Damn Good Day To Leave” before stopping the show with the unreleased track, “Jesus Saves.”

Carly Pearce delivered a stunning moment during the luncheon with the anticipated announcement of her new album Hummingbird and a very vulnerable performance of its title track, while Dierks Bentley surprised the crowd with his unannounced appearance early on with his cover of Tom Petty’s “American Girl.”

However, after a somber moment that saw label head Scott Borchetta honoring Toby Keith, who he said wanted to be there to perform, the shock of the entire week was delivered as the crowd was sent into a frenzy when Garth Brooks and Ronnie Dunn closed out the luncheon with “Rodeo Man.’

Though headlined by an outstanding, request driven performance from Lady A that featured amongst others, “Downtown,” “Love Don’t Live Here,” and “Need You Now,” Amazon Music’s Country Heat bent its focus mostly on fresh, new talent; Dylan Marlowe (“Boys Back Home”), Josh Ross (“Single Again,” “Trouble”), Chayce Beckham (“23”),” and Ella Langley, who although she was tasked with opening duties, presented an “Only in Nashville” snapshot when she was joined by Kameron Marlowe on “Strangers.”

In similar fashion to that of Amazon Music’s Country Heat, while Bob Kingsley’s Acoustic Alley was headlined by an outstanding, ultra-personal performance from Keith Urban that featured his new single “Messed Up As Me” and the colorful stories behind the songs that have layered his success (“Somebody Like You,” “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” “Wild Hearts”), the clear focus of this event was placed on the very heartbeat of Nashville…the songwriter!

Highlighting the craft and the art of the makers behind the hits you know and love, over two unique to Nashville songwriter rounds, country music lovers were entranced by intimate performances from Rhett Akins (“What’s Your Country Song,” “That Ain’t My Truck), Emily Weisband (“Love You Back”), JT Harding (“Beers and Sunshine,” “Sangria), Scooter Caruso (“Anything But Mine), Brent Anderson (“Cab In A Solo”), and John Morgan, who was joined on “Friends Like That’ and “Trouble With A Heartbreak”  by country superstar Jason Aldean.

In what is always the dressed to the nine’s formal closing of the entire event, The New Faces of Country Music stamped a final exclamation point on the idea that country music is thriving and is alive and well for the foreseeable future.

With a combination of recent hits, current singles, and things to come, the new faces class of 2024 included performances to whet your whistle and leave you wanting more from Corey Kent (“Wild As Her,” “Something’s Gonna Kill Me,” “This Heart”), George Birge (“Mind On You,” “Cowboy Songs”), Conner Smith (“Creek Will Rise,” “Roulette On The Heart”), Dillon Carmichael (“Drinkin’ Problems,” “Tiny Little Fiddle”), and the night’s headliner Megan Moroney (“No Caller ID,” “I’m Not Pretty,” “Tennessee Orange”).

But the true highlight of the entire evening was placed on the industry and radio reps who have made a major impact on country music over the past year as the Country Aircheck Awards were also announced between acts throughout the night, earning exuberant hoots and hollers from the room packed with their peers, all showing an appreciative amount of undeniable support toward the strong efforts to advance everyone’s favorite genre!

Balancing the cornerstone of our deep dive into learning new strategies and hearing great music, we also had awesome opportunities to chat with several artists, and what we consistently found to be emerging to the forefront of each sit-down talk was just how important the Country Radio Seminar truly is.

Beyond the excitement of reconnecting with their radio friends and media outlets, which works from both sides to create an atmosphere of solid friendships continuing to blossom, a shared respect for what the CRB and a seminar of this magnitude means to the advancement of their careers was prevalent in the humbleness of each artist we spoke with as they all placed emphasis on the personal connections being made becoming the heartfelt catalyst behind the idea that we’re all in this together and we need each other!

Radio and media are the liaisons that get us in contact with the fans and vice versa.” – Pryor Baird

CRS ‘25 is set for February 19-21, 2025. For ticketing information and to be part of next year’s event, please visit https://www.countryradioseminar.com/



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