This Oct. 30 photo shows a virtual record player promoting Blake Shelton that was produced to influence voters of the CMA Awards in Nashville. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
NASHVILLE — The folks at Warner Music Nashville are showing they know how to get your attention. And this time of year, it's all about attention, with the County Music Association Awards being presented next week.
This includes mailing out a nifty virtual record player to promote Blake Shelton at the CMAs and hiring a marching band to draw attention to new artist nominee Brett Eldredge.
Peter Strickland, WMN's executive vice president and general manager, calls these attention-getters awareness campaigns, and they sure have raised awareness.
The virtual player has been the talk of CMA voters. It includes a vinyl copy of Shelton's "Based on a True Story" laid in a thin plastic rectangle. Scan a code with your cellphone, put it on the record, and a digital arm appears that allows you to "play" the music. You can move the arm back and forth, just like on a turntable. And the vinyl album can be played on a real turntable.
"We just wanted to focus on the music and we knew if we did something totally revolutionary, I guess, that people would take the effort to listen to it," Strickland said. "The hardest part is to get the CD from the package into the player to pay attention to the music, and we didn't have an issue with this piece."
Each awards show has its own set of rules about lobbying for an artist. The CMA encourages artists and their labels to educate voters, allowing three email blasts and one mailer a year. Brandi Simms, the CMA's director of membership and balloting, oversees the program and vets the mailers to make sure they conform to a few guidelines.
Most mailers consist of simple items like CDs or postcards, but vinyl albums have become popular. Taylor Swift sent out a tour book this year. (Jason Aldean once sent out a translucent plastic envelope containing a memorable letter.) Before Shelton set the bar this year, the most memorable item in recent years was the holographic picture of Billy Currington that featured two images as you moved it back and forth — one with the singer's shirt on — and one with it off.
"Does it influence voting? I have no idea," Simms said. "I can't tell you if it does or doesn't. But I think at the end of the day the voters enjoy getting the CDs in the mail and things like the Blake Shelton mailer. I've gotten more calls because people can't figure out how to use them. It's just really a cool member benefit."
The CMAs on Wednesday night isn't the only awards show that Music Row focuses on. The Grammy Award nominations will be announced Dec. 6 and the Academy of Country Music Awards will be presented next spring. Then it will be time to start focusing on the CMAs again.
"It's a lot of fun to do, but it goes from one to the next to the next," Strickland said. "It always seems like we've got a campaign going on."