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Sunday, 10 May, 2009 11:13 AM

Marketing Innovations by Katie Armiger and Dierks Bentley (CMA)

Photo courtesy of PFA

Katie Armiger with GAC contest winner Steve Schumacher and the group Love and Theft.

By Bob Doerschuk
© 2009 CMA Close Up News Service

Katie Armiger "Kaptures" the Spotlight on GAC

It's every artist's dream to be heard and seen on national television. But this dream is elusive, particularly for those who don't benefit from major record label support. That challenge spun Pete O'Heeron's creative wheels last summer.

As President of Cold River Records, he is committed to advancing the fortunes of his label's flagship artist, Katie Armiger. Part of his strategy involved targeting, not through making cold pitches to the Web channel but through offering them a completed, ready-to-run Webisode series.

He began in 2008 by recruiting Tom Forrest, President/Partner/Executive Producer, Taillight TV, to document the young artist's life, from her 17th birthday party in Houston to her CMA Music Festival debut on the Riverfront Daytime Stage, interspersed with interviews. Director Stephen Shepherd provided an often quirky look at Armiger. Then, with Believe poised to drop in July 2008, O'Heeron came to (Great American Country) with a proposition.

"Everyone thought it would look like it had been shot by a couple of teenagers and posted on YouTube," O'Heeron said. "But Craig Bann [Sr. VP, Marketing/Promotion, AristoMedia] and I presented them with a really well-done series that was beyond anyone's expectations. We had seven three-minute Webisodes - and it wasn't enough! They wanted more Katie!"

They did shoot a few more installments for the series they called "Kapturing Katie," but the ripples went beyond the Internet and back to the network as Jason Mease, VP and Site Director,, set up a meeting between O'Heeron and John Alexander, Director, Music Marketing, GAC and Scripps Networks. Based on the impact Armiger had already made online, they agreed to name her the network's Artist of the Month for February 2009.

It didn't stop there. Sweepstakes are often a part of the picture in publicizing GAC's Artist of the Month, but O'Heeron wanted to stretch that idea a bit. He began by focusing on her contributions to Believe as co-writer on 10 of its tracks. "Because Katie is a great songwriter, we decided to come up with a way of giving her fans an opportunity to look at that process," said Alexander. "Then we took it further: Why don't we have the winner participate in the actual songwriting process with Katie?"

This led to "Kapturing a Love Song with Katie Armiger." Fans were invited to register for a drawing throughout the month of February. More than 50,000 fans flocked to the Web site to enter to win a chance to write a love song with Armiger. At the end of her reign as Artist of the Month, the Riteway independent fulfillment house chose the winner, Stephen Schumacher of Charleston, W. Va., who received an excited phone call from Armiger congratulating him and was flown in March with a guest to Nashville for three days and two nights. During that time, he would write with Armiger and Carolwood Records group Love and Theft and then they would produce her recording of the tune at Sound Kitchen Studios with Schumacher observing. Once completed, the song will be released exclusively to iTunes.

"I have always wanted the opportunity to be a part of writing a song, so this is truly a dream come true for me," said Schumacher. "I sincerely want to thank Katie and GAC for this once in a lifetime opportunity. As both a singer and songwriter, Katie has a combination that makes her a truly gifted talent whose music belies her age. I still can't believe that I won and get to write with her!"
For the last seven years Schumacher has been performing with a local cover band as an escape from his day job as a CFO for a local government agency. With music as a big part of his life, Shumacher jumped at the chance to enter the contest. The proud father of four could not pass up a chance to write with one of Country Music's rising stars, who he became a fan of about a year ago.

"I am so excited to write and record with Steve," said Armiger. "After speaking with him I know this is going to be a really great experience and am thrilled he won. And getting to work with Love and Theft, they are so talented. I cannot wait to see what we all come up with."

Ten first-prize winners will each receive an autographed copy of Believe, an autographed poster of Armiger and a $50 gift certificate courtesy of f.y.e. stores.

"There has been more publicity for this particular sweeps than any we've done in a long while in regard to an Artist of the Month, from Country Weekly to Seventeen and Web sites that cater to a young female audience," said Alexander. "I've already gotten calls from managers asking, 'How come our artist isn't doing something like this?' Well, Pete is an out-of-the-box thinker, and this is what happens when you apply that to a great up-and-coming artist with a lot of momentum."

On the Web:


Dierks Bentley Sweetens the Promo Pot with Cracker Jack

For record labels seeking to promote their artists, it often pays to think out of the box. But for Dierks Bentley and the team at Capitol Records Nashville, thinking inside the box has its rewards too.

The box, in this case, is that familiar cardboard container whose festive colors and image of a smiling boy in a sailor suit identify its ingredients as Cracker Jack. This mélange of popcorn, peanuts and molasses has been a national phenomenon for more than a century - so long, in fact, that it was celebrated in the third line of the lyric to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" ("Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack"), written by Jack Norworth in 1908 during an otherwise routine subway ride.

A century later, Bentley drew from the same well when he joined Brett Beavers, Brad Warren and Brett Warren to co-write the No. 1 song "Feel That Fire," whose second line reads: "She wants the toy in the Cracker Jacks." By the time he dropped by his label to play it for members of the staff, he believed enough in the song to suggest they release it as the first single from his upcoming album. (They agreed and decided to make it the album's title cut as well.)

Like candy on a hungry kid's fingers, the tune stuck in the mind of Cindy Mabe, VP Marketing, Capitol, after she left that meeting. "The Cracker Jack line is the one that hit me the most," she remembered. "The more we talked about it, the more we thought it would be cool to see if Cracker Jack would be interested in partnering with us."

A bit of research led to Mark Vitek, who was at the time Brand Manager for Cracker Jack at Frito-Lay, Inc. Fortunately, Vitek was also a Bentley fan, so the pieces were poised to fall into place. The only question was: What picture would the pieces form?

Vitek had the answer: a sweepstakes to promote the single by shipping 2,000 boxes of Cracker Jack to Country radio stations. Fifty-one of those boxes would include scratch-off prizes - 10 autographed guitars, merchandise, personal phone calls, personal station liners posted to the Web sites of winning stations and other items. One would come with a grand prize in the form of a free backyard concert by Bentley. Each station offered its prize to listeners through contests or drawings, after which it was determined that the grand prize had gone to WTQR/Greensboro, N.C., and from there to one of its lucky listeners.

The payoff was immediate. "It got Cracker Jack into Billboard, R&R and places they wouldn't ordinarily have been mentioned," Mabe said. "To be associated with music and cool, hip magazines isn't an everyday thing for them. And it was good for us too. The campaign was originally supposed to happen just after the single had gone to radio as a tease of more to come. Instead, because the single was racing up the chart so fast, we ended up moving the campaign closer to the album launch than planned and that helped spread the word that much faster too."

Somewhere, Norworth is smiling appreciatively.

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