Feature InterviewInterviews

Kenny Rodgers Interview 5-3-18

Kenny Rodgers
Senior Director, National Promotion
Capitol Christian Music Group

Career Capsule: In 2006 as a part of my college studies at The University Of North Alabama I was able to connect with Capitol CMG (Then EMI CMG) by former UNA Alumn Kat Davis to get an internship.  After working there for six months I was informed of an opening as a coordinator on the Word National Promotion team and was able to make that transition.  During my 11+ years at Word Entertainment I was able to grow from coordinator and rise up to Sr Director, National Promotion under Andrea Kleid.  In November 2016 I made the transition to join the incredible team at CCMG as Sr Director, National Promotion under Grant Hubbard.


Kenny, what’s new with you, your latest adventures, happenings at Capitol Christian Music Group?

My current biggest adventure is my wife (Jamie) and I’s 19 month old son, Brady. He keeps everything very interesting and serves as great levity on long days of work.  He also is a little ham and has a great sense of humor. 

At CCMG we were able to recently celebrate Crowder’s second #1 of his career thanks to the support of Christian Radio across the country.  Being part of that song is definitely a Top 5 highlight of my career to date.  We have a big fall with new music coming from Pat Barrett, Chris Tomlin, tobyMac, Crowder and more. 


Since you have a such a busy schedule, how do you best manage your responsibilities and priorities?

I used to believe much more in the idea of “getting it all done” each day, which has since shifted to “do your best and delegate”.  Seriously though, between meetings, phone calls, emails, texts, and the many other ways we all communicate these days I think it comes down to doing your best, making lists and trusting the team around you.


Complete this sentence: The best way to get a new artist recognized is to____________?

Make sure you’ve signed an amazing artist. There is no secret sauce and if there was every label would run it into the ground and it would stop being special. An artist these days has a very tall task; they must be talented performers, be compelling in social settings with gatekeepers, respond to fans on socials and so much more.  At the end of the day they have to write lyrics that connect to the listener. 


Generally speaking how do you see the state of Christian radio?

The overall state of Christian radio seems to be the best It has been in my career.  I do miss some of our local stations we’ve lost over the years and the community impact we were able to have in those areas.  However, many still have Christian music in the market and are being impacted by the songs they hear.

There are some interesting things I am seeing from a radio/records landscape.  For one, there seems to really be a widening idea of what Christian radio should sound like.  From a creative standpoint this is an exciting time to push for new sounds, productions and lyrical content.  From a critical mass standpoint this becomes tricky because it makes it a lot harder to define what a “radio hit” is to be able to serve those to radio.  Consensus is a harder thing to get these days.  I’ve seen TOP 5 songs with great research and all the consumption data you could ever ask for and still have stations “pass” on the song because they didn’t agree it was a hit. 

Which leads me to the second point and that is the data we’re all drowning in.  15 years ago people looked at album sales and ticketing to see what was working.  Then we began to get focused on music research and the itunes single chart.  Now, we can pull analytics that tell you every song streamed in your market over a period of time all the way to global consumption.  It can be a lot to wade through and I’m sure for programmers it can be hard to distinguish the facts versus what they’re being sold.  I was on a call with a programmer several months ago who had just been told “Artist X is a top 15 CCM artist in streams.”  I won’t go into details, but I’ll just say that wasn’t even close to true and that is being generous.  With everything from CCLI to Planning Center, Shazam to Facebook Page Likes it can all be dizzying. 


Regarding record sales how has it changed ….please explain?

I don’t think I can tell you anything you probably haven’t heard or read already.  The immediate impact of the “street date splash” has shifted dramatically and has been replaced with the “long tail” approach.  Now, we don’t just focus on one transaction, but how do we get all sorts of different fans of an artist to engage with their content on an ongoing basis.  The good news is with the new digital landscape there are a ton of opportunities to focus on multiple songs and strategies at once.  You’re no longer tied to one single, one album, one spot on a shelf at a Christian bookstore.  Artists are able now to have different songs accomplishing different things all at once. 


What promotions with radio have you been involved with personally that are most memorable?

I am forever and always a fan of anything The Joy FM does, especially being a multi-year veteran of the amazing Summer Cruise events of years past.  That team does an outstanding job of making listeners family and not just consumers of their product.  I’ve watched fans line up in lines to meet their air talent that was longer than the artist line!

I also love St Louis JOY FM’s Sofa Series and Joy Ride events as they also do a great job of removing the distance from the audience and the artist. 


Do you feel the record/radio relationship is still as important as it has been in the past………..explain how its same/different?

It is 100% as important as it ever has been.  You can ask our VP of Commercial Partnerships, it takes massive songs being exposed though radio airplay to motivate listeners to search places like YouTube and Spotify for those songs.  I do think there is more opportunity to work with terrestrial radio stations and these digital service provides for cross promotions and that is hopefully something that can become more the norm moving forward.

Going back to my point from early with all the data we’re currently able to provide, my only other thing I think we have to continue doing with the Radio/Records relationship is being as honest and genuine as possible with the data and not manipulating it.  At the same time, I’ve sensed some new trends forming where some stations have gotten so used to being presented with enough compelling “DATA” that they’ve backed off trusting their own instincts that they know their consumers better than anyone else.  I was taught early on to never approach any station like I know their listeners better than they do, and to this day I believe that.  I just hope they don’t forget that part either.


What advice would you give to someone jumping from radio to records?

Don’t peek at our fun photos from promo trips and assume that’s what this gig is.  This role is about brining passionate determination to get life-changing songs to listeners and with that comes a whole lot of hard work and elbow grease.