The 2014 CMT Music Awards: Behind the Scenes

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cmtMusicAwards-2014Last night I had the opportunity to work backstage at the CMT Music Awards in Nashville at the Bridgestone Arena.  But when I say last night, that means I got there at 8 AM that morning…

10401726_499656626801643_121387829_nUpon arrival I had to go through credentials to get my assignments and backstage pass. Then all of the Artist Escorts (aka Me) had to gather together to learn the run down of the arena and the many paths we would need to take throughout the night.  Memorizing dressing rooms, appearance schedules, which elevators and stairs take you where…it was a lot to take in.  Thankfully, the Talent I was assigned to was not performing so I had a low key schedule until they arrived.

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Starting at about 9 AM, the final dress rehearsals began for the show prior to the final show run through.  The ever talented and beautiful Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert took to the stage to sing their new duet “Somethin’ Bad” which is featured on Lambert’s newly released album Platinum.  Between the glitter cannon and the bad ass lyrics, we all knew this performance would be the highlight of the show.

2014 CMT Music Awards_Cham640Then came the rehearsal for the opening act where Luke Bryan, ZZ Top, Florida Georgia Line, and Jason Derulo (and his ever allusive dancers) all performed a mash up of their songs “La Grange”, “This is How We Roll” (which features Luke Bryan), and “Talk Dirty”.  From pyrotechnics to strategically planned remix, the act had the potential to epically fail.  Timing had to be just right, and it took several go throughs to get it down.  However, by the last run through it was show ready.

openingWe broke for lunch around 1:00 PM and that gave me some time to run through my Talent’s schedule and switch out my walkie’s battery pack.

lady-antebellum-cmt-music-awards-2014Next thing we knew, acts were arriving and the buses and dressing rooms were filling up.  Lines began to form around the Bridgestone and press was filing onto the red carpet.  Catering at Craft Services and the Crown Royal Room began to serve up food and drinks.  People were running golf carts to and from the bus lot frantically picking up and dropping off acts to rehearse.  The best way I could explain it is organized chaos.  Everywhere you looked people were running and tracking their acts.

imagesAfter picking my Talent on the red carpet, we took an elevator down to the backstage level. Here we had time for them to access the press room, WonderWall, and the Crown Royal Room to mingle with the other Talent onsite as well as their managers, publicists, and friends/spouses.

2014 CMT Music Awards - ShowYou’re main job as an escort is to be a babysitter for lack of a better term.  You keep track of where they are in the building 24/7.  You make sure they are where they need to be when they need to be.  You keep them calm, fed, glamed up, and hopefully on time.  I think that was the hardest aspect for me; trying to babysit my Talent without feeling weird.  After all, they were adults and honestly I think they were capable of going places and coming back to me on time.  Yet its live TV, and we run on a strict timetable with no room for error.  I had a booklet at least 20 pages long of our detailed schedule down to the second.

By 8:00 PM my feet were toast and we were not even half way through the show.  And I was pretty hungry seeing we hadn’t gotten a dinner.  Yet keeping up with mine and others talent (“Anyone have eyes on Luke Bryan?”, “Jess to Kelly, What’s You’re Twenty?” “Copy that”) made the time pass pretty quickly.

Next thing I knew the show was pretty much over and “ZZ Top has left the building…Lady A has left the building…Tyler Farr has left the building…Can anyone find the Derulo Dancers?” came flooding over the walkies.  As the mass exodus of stars caravaned down our hallway, they for once seemed like normal people.  It was like a college reunion where all these people who lived busy schedules were able to finally reunite and be with people who understood their lives.  They caught up and planned after parties or when they would finally catch up again.  For once, I wasn’t feeling the star struck wide eyed feelings I had to suppress all day.  These were just people under the fancy clothes and makeup.  They work harder than most people and for a few seconds in that tunnel they got to just be themselves.  It was very cool.

CMT-Music-Awards-2014-Show-PicturesAs Miranda and Blake, Carrie and Mike, Dan + Shay, and Brett Eldridge funneled out into their limos and buses, we finally met to turn in our gear and head out.  Sitting in my car had never felt so good, and I was so excited for the thunderstorm we had in Nashville last night to fall asleep to.

Perhaps I’ll get to actually watch the show sometime this week (I honestly only heard a few parts), but if I do so say myself; my view was ten times better.

-Jess

Good Bye for Now CMT

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Its my last week at CMT and just a few days until I graduate from Belmont University with a degree in Music Business (BBA).  Its a really stressful, exciting, crazy time in the world of this graduate, but keeping a regular work schedule helps. 

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This week we had Cole Swindell and Jerrod Niemann in house working on a new feature for CMT’s Listen Up!  And while I could only attend the Cole Swindell taping it was truly worth the experience.  While waiting for the set to begin, I met two women who worked for Warner in their licensing department.  It was very interesting to learn that one of them had grown up around where I had, we casually reminisced about hometown favorites (Graeters, La Rosas, Skyline) and life working in Nashville.  It was great to learn about her journey to Nashville and how she had gotten involved in the industry. 

ImageI always used to think that it would be very difficult to get into the industry as a woman and it very will still be that way, but after my time at CMT and working with other companies; I’m beginning to see this trend shift.  My supervisors and bosses at CMT were mainly women who had worked hard to get to where they were.  Many of the team leaders and contacts I had in LA and New York were majorly women.  I think its an exciting time to be breaking the glass ceiling in the entertainment and music industry. 

But back to the taping.  Cole played a few go through’s of his songs “Chillin It”, “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight”, and “Let Me See Ya Girl” and recorded a few introductions to the program.  The crowd was very excited for this up and coming artist who is touring with Luke Bryan on his That’s My Kind Of Night Tour.

ImageAt the end of taping, representatives from Warner brought Cole back up on stage to present him with two framed records.  The first was awarded to him for his single “Chillin’ It” reaching Gold; but because he had been on the road so much they were unable to award him a Platinum recognition as well. 

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It was really interesting to be able to see this all happen at the beginning of someone’s career and to see all their hard work pay off.  Regardless of what you think about Cole, the artist life style is very difficult and requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice.  Just because they always look glamorous or happy doesn’t make it so.  In the music industry the product we sell is not just music, its an experience and an image.  Taint either or be off your game once and its a major road bump-especially for a new artist. 

{check the video here: http://instagram.com/p/nETxUfuKQZ/ }

That’s what our business has become, only now its harder to hide because of social media and people like me who comment and write about everything.  We work and live and breathe in a business of perception.  There are days when the reality can smack you in the face and make you want to give it all up.  Its harsh and dog eat dog. 

But then you meet people like my coworkers at CMT, songwriters who don’t care if they have a number one they just want to write, artists with kickstarters to fund their new album, and it all gets a lot easier.  In Nashville, we look after one another, we care about each other.  Its intense but not as bad as LA and New York.  Sure there are crooks but ultimately we all have each others backs. 

I left CMT having learned so much about Media, Licensing, Corporate Life, Viacom, and Music, but also with a new set of industry friends and contacts.  My supervisors and coworkers are amazing, hands down.  They are people I hope to stay in contact with regardless of where this crazy world takes us.  My fellow interns have become great friends whom I’m sure I’ll still see and work with.  Because Nashville is that small town in the Big city.

ImageMy last day at CMT was busy for sure with exit interviews, license request letters to draft, song data to update, a programming department showcase/info session, and plenty of people to say goodbye to. My department did make time to schedule a goodbye lunch at Pub5 which was delicious.  It was definitely a great way to end my semester with the people who had taught me so much.

ImageI have plans to work the Award Show with an outside company and I have several industry contacts I’m meeting with now…so don’t count my industry blog out just yet!  Until the next big thing, I’ll be showcasing all of the art and culture and fun this town can bring you and I’ll be working with my long term job Wannado to bring you the best events in town!

My Best To You -Jess

Show Spotlight: Swamp Pawn

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So for the past couple weeks I have been working on deliverables for the second season of Swamp Pawn.  Swamp Pawn is a show that is set in Bayou Pigeon, Louisiana where Pawn Shop Owner Rick Phillips sells anything that the swamp can bring him including alligators.  The people of Bayou Pigeon live off the land and focus on each other to survive.

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The show also features the quirky father-son fisherman duo of Coy and Shorty Gomez who spend most of their time arguing with one another or looking for work. They also make frequent visits to the Pawn Shop.

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The show just wrapped its second season and episodes can be watched on CMT.com or on the new CMT App as the re-airings are not in this coming week’s lineup.  But don’t worry, Swamp Pawn Season 3 will air this fall.

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Part of my job when closing a show is to organize all of the Guest, Logo, and Material Releases as well as Location agreements. I upload them to a central document file and then input them into our secure database which allows for anyone who would need the information to access it.

Reading over some of these documents is interesting to me as you can imagine some of the legal circumstances if they were not signed. Concern for Minors and location’s are high on my list for securing the documents.  Once they are all organized I send the file to legal and they begin the work of completely closing the show.

How To Make Chocolate Cake

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This week has been pretty busy as I prepare for finals and graduation, but on Tuesday I had to opportunity to attend a Grammy U event with Will Hoge.  Will Hoge is a Nashville native songwriter whose song “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” (made famous by the Eli Young Band) was nominated for Grammy Country Song of the Year, ACM Song of the Year, and CMA Song of the Year.  His newest hit “Strong” has been featured in the new Chevy Silverado campaign, was number 2 on the Shazam charts, and has sold almost 200,000 copies.  Hoge’s newest album Never Give In (and one of my favorite tracks off the album) was number 4 on the American Airplay Charts and in the Top Ten for 15 weeks.

Ken Tucker, a former professor of mine for PR in the Music Industry and a former Country Weekly managing editor, conducted the interview portion of the night.  We began discussing Hoge’s roots which can be found in Franklin, TN where he was surrounded by a family with strong musical influences.  Though he picked up guitar later than most (his later high school years), Hoge quickly took to writing.  When asked about when he first got into music, Will said, “I fell for it pretty hard…and joined my first real-quote unquote-band in college with some older guys looking for a singer”.  Though he attended Western Kentucky for college and planned on becoming a teacher, he soon realized in his sophomore year (what he calls his Senior Year) that music was what he really wanted to pursue.  After dropping out, Will moved back home and focused on writing professionally.  Songwriting, “…was the first place that [Will] …really felt comfortable and [he] felt this sense of self-expression that [he] hadn’t found anywhere else”.

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The next single off of Never Give In is “Still Got You On My Mind” and was featured on a recent Episode of Heart of Dixie.

“More Than Your Life Story”

Will Hoge also touched on where he draws inspiration, sometimes from his own life and sometimes on character’s he creates.  He even went on to say, you can empathize with creating characters which you may not know, but can imagine how things would be if you didn’t have certain things in your life.  Will went on to say that there comes a point that you realize “Writing is more than your life story”; and compared it to the Beatles and their Sgt. Pepper Album he grew up with. The key to writing a song that is not your story is to “inject enough truth and realism into [a song] to make it believable”.

Will Hoge also shared with us his family and how they have impacted his writing.  From being a father to his relationship with his wife-Will is able to share his experiences in his work flawlessly and to adapt them to create songs which can showcase varies forms of humanity.

“You Can Have Career Highs And You’re Kids Don’t Care”

After “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” hit number one, the Eli Young Band and Will were thrown a number one party.  Will brought his whole family-including his young sons, and everyone enjoyed themselves with toasts and mingling.  However, by the end of the party some invitees were not happy.  Will asked his sons if they had had fun at the party and they had some news for him: No, There was no cake and you need cake at a party.  Needless to say, Hoge will have cake at his next number one party and I hope we see one for “Strong”.Selling Out and Making Cake

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The “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” #1 party.

When Will was first asked by Chevy to use “Strong” he admits he was a bit hesitant.  Could this move to go commercial be seen as selling out?  He debated it for a bit and realized that it could help the song and maybe he’d get a truck out of it, or it wouldn’t help the song and he could get a truck out of it.  An industry friend of Hoge finally told him.  “You can’t keep making vanilla cake and expect it to be chocolate cake, at some point you have to do something different to get chocolate cake”. In order to make big things happen you have to take big risks. By partnering with Chevy for the deal, Hoge as an indpendent artist was able to brand his music side by side with Chevy (a prominent country music supporter and known for a blue collar customer base, similar to that of country music) to attract a larger fan base.  Now not taking the deal would not have ended Hoge’s career, but it sure has helped it.   “Strong” has done well and he has gotten a truck out of the deal.  Hoge says he has no regrets.

“Ain’t Nothing Gonna Knock Him Off The Road He’s Rollin On, He’s Strong”

After being signed to a label for a bit, Hoge felt that having his own label would better suite his creative and business aspirations.  Recently, he started his own label Cumberland Recordings.  He says he is a great boss and that going on your own can be tough; “at the end of the day it’s just a different set of headaches”.  However, Hoge is not intent on being a label mogul, but wants to focus on music and independent projects.  After a serious accident a few years ago, Hoge found a renewed spirit to chase what is important.  To Hoge that will always be his family and music.

“Some Dreams Keep On Gettin’ Better, Gotta Keep Believin’ If You Wanna Know For Sure”

Will Hoge is a rarity in today’s Nashville as his focus on artistry and music is forefront.  Some days I get so caught up in the business world and the strategic planning of the industry that I lose sight of what brought me here in the first place: making chocolate cake.  No not actually chocolate cake, but music that was real and authentic and worth being heard.  Having a message and a purpose.  We are taught in school that music is second, marketing deals and contracts, and budgeting tours, and saying what’s hip is first.  As a Senior, there have been times in the past four years where I’ve lost sight of the magic of music.  It’s why I fell in love with this city and why I want to be a voice for musicians and artists one day.  Will Hoge isn’t writing for Luke Bryan, he’s not trying to be someone he’s not: He’s writing what he feels and he’s doing a pretty damn good job at it.  And he’s doing it his way.

My first day at CMT, the Eli Young Band performed “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and to close the evening Will Hoge also played it.  As my internship winds down and graduation nears, everything is coming full circle.  Why I came here, what I believe is important.  Being True to yourself.  Thinking back on the 17 year old girl with a Crazy dream to move to Nashville and everyone told her she’d never make it or that she could come home whenever she wanted.  And now that girl is graduating and she’s making her dream a reality.  Its all a bit cheesy, but for artists we all just feel things a little differently than most.

So here is to the pursuit of making Chocolate Cake.

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Will Hoge performs at the Grammy U Finale Event

Changing Roles and Changing Communities

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Hello Again Friends!

I’ve been very busy working on some great new projects for CMT so pardon all the past tense posts!

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I’ve got a new view here at CMT overlooking Broadway and the Bridgestone/Ryman buildings.  I’ve also been working more closely with our CMT team whereas I focused on all of Viacom before.  Currently I’ve been working on Music Research, dabbling in some Contract Drafting, Managing some database materials, and reviewing some content for our new program lineup.  As we near the CMT Awards, I’m sure I will be busy working on tasks for that night.  MTV is also having their Movie Awards this SUNDAY at 8pm CST!! Let’s just say I’m secretly willing anything Hunger Games and Jennifer Lawrence to win. 

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Another thing that has been showing up in my inbox is how Viacom is giving back to the community.  Viacom offers their staff additional vacation days to do community service and to help better their community.  They even offer a website that will help employees track their hours and connect them with service projects.  Their Corporate Social Responsibility website Viacommunity outlines their projects and helps promote goodwill across the company. 

The mission of Viacommunity is: “to better the communities which Viacom serves, and make a positive social impact on the people and areas where we work and live. It’s about leveraging the power of Viacom’s brands to drive action on the issues that matter to stakeholders. And it’s amplifying those acts, spreading their impact to help others make a difference. Plain and simple, it’s Impact. Amplified“.  This is something that not only I agree with, but something that I feel I will require in a corporate atmosphere when I am looking for a job. 

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In my time at CMT, departments have come together to help build a home for Habitat for Humanity and have even hosted a Career Interest Day with students at our partner school McGavock High School.  CMT and Viacom truly invest in their community and encourages its employees to do the same.  By investing in our communities we can better understand our consumers and can give our employees a chance to feel more connected to the areas they work in.  This outlet benefits both the community and Viacom. 

Show Spotlight: Party Down South

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ImageThis week’s Show Spotlight focuses on CMT’s newest hit show Party Down South.  The Show is brought to you by the producers of the Jersey Show and airs Thursdays on CMT at 9:00 EST.

Party Down South follows the summer of eight southern young adults and all the crazy fun they have.  Its trashy enough to keep your attention and just might remind you of some wild summers of your youth. 

Stationed in Murells Inlet, South Carolina this crew has a wild first night which includes lots of beer, peeing outside, a funnel, swimming in the canal, a late night feud, a drunken prayer from Little Bit, and ultimately the whole cast blacking out.  Yet their comradery remains and the summer is looking to be one hell of a good time. 

Make sure to like their page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/PartyDownSouth) and Watch past episodes on CMT.com (http://www.cmt.com/show/party-down-south/series.jhtml).