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Chris Parr


Parr of Spalding Entertainment and former Vice President of Music Programming and Talent Relations for Country Music Television.
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Chris Parr, VP of music programming and talent relations for CMT in Nashville, talks about his job and about the music video industry today.



Shoot Date:
Mar-06
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Chris Parr Introduction

Chris Parr: I’m Chris Parr. I’m the Vice President of Music Programming and Talent Relations for CMT, Country Music Television, based in Nashville, Tennessee. Our parent company is MTV Networks and Viacom, and I oversee the music programming direction and music direction of the network, as well as the talent relations and talent booking of the artists for all of our program initiatives.

CMT is Country Music Television. It’s in 80 million homes, domestically. It is a property owned by MTV Networks. It’s part of the MTV Network’s family, if you will, of music channels. We basically consider ourselves the authority on country music, and we celebrate the stories and the artists of country music. Country music being a kind of song based format, obviously, although we use the music videos as the way to reach the audience with that song, it still very much circles around the songwriter and the songs themselves. It’s unique in that sense, we think, and so we’d like to say that we celebrate the song.

Celebrating the song is a philosophical point of view, if you will, but it’s a filter or a mission statement that we have because so many things in country music come back to the song itself. The music video is a derivative of the song. It wouldn’t exist; the creative process that happens to create a music video that we play in our music mix versus a country radio station. Obviously, you’ve got another layer, a more extensive layer, if you will, of creativity that goes into making these visuals that go with a song and tells the story, and sometimes, those visuals match the song to a T. Sometimes, they could be completely different.

That’s part of the challenge of the artist is to interpret that. It’s an extension of their art, their songwriting or their performance of those songs, and, obviously, you get in the music video medium, and they have another avenue to explore how they express that to the audience.

We’re very much music-based, but we also – when I say tell the stories of country music, we have documentaries; we have all types of programs beyond just the music programming mix, where we might celebrate – we celebrated the life of Johnny Cash when he passed a few years ago. It was a tribute to Johnny Cash and it featured a lot of different artists that were, obviously, celebrating his songs and his body of work, if you will, so that’s an example.

We do documentaries on – we’ve done one on – recently done one on southern rock. We have a series called American Revolutions, and it basically falls under that umbrella. We’ve done it on bluegrass, kind of analyzing how those genres of music have come to be where they are today.

As overseeing the music and talent program relations, I basically – really, even in a long form show or a show that’s not just – what we call long-form is not our music mix, our music hour, so it’s kind of two. We put things in two categories, and then within the long-form programs, an hour-long program, say; you’re going to have – I typically put them in two categories. It’s either performance-related; it’s a concert special or something of that nature, predominantly performance-based or it’s personality or interview-based.

Those are large buckets, but it gives you kind of – a bit of a roadmap if you looked at our programming, they would probably fall within one of those few buckets of definition, if you will.

We really oversee – myself and my department; we oversee kind of our musical direction; what artists we’re playing; what artists we play more than other artists; who’s getting the most. If you’re just looking at it purely from a music programming standpoint, who gets the most spins versus who gets the least; whether you even make it on the channel; if the music videos are commercially viable that we think it’s something the audience is going to be interested in; obviously, we’re tied to how well – a lot of times, how well that song may be doing, and, of course, if you look at the radio charts and radio play, radio air play, you’ll see some similarities there because it’s an emphasis of that artist at that particular time.

On the talent side of what I oversee; it’s basically any interaction; any time you would see the artist on the channel, on the network, it’s coming through our department to reach out to that artist and basically book him for that television opportunity, whether it be a weekly variety show that we have or we have artist-specific concepts that we’re actually working on. We’re doing some real development this year, where we want to feature some of those artists in a little more non-traditional ways. It’s what we’re calling talent development, but it’s really having them incorporate it into an episodic 8, 10, 12 week shows.

We’re not really looking for reality shows like some of the other networks have, but we think that there’s opportunities to do things with them in that kind of a different capacity. It might feature some music; it might not. It might just be personality; just depends on the artist, so it’s really steering those two things simultaneously to drive our business and drive our initiatives, our objectives alongside as we acquire some specials that might be pre existing; for instance, you might see the CNA Awards air on a broadcast network. There’s one time that it airs. Well, we actually have a second window on it, and we have a multiple window, a multiple airing window on it, so country music fans can see it. If they’ve seen it once that night, they can watch it again or if they missed it on broadcast, they can catch it on CMT as well.

So we bring some of those larger franchises to the country music fans as well.


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