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

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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