How To Tune Into Your Members' Needs

Associations Now September/October 2014 By: Kristin Clarke

Country Music Association CEO Sarah Trahern says an internal research team and expanded media and corporate sponsorships allow CMA to best serve both its members and listeners.

Everyone knows the music business is tough, but so is the Country Music Association's new CEO, Sarah Trahern, a multimedia expert and industry insider whose clout is climbing the charts as she sets the stage for even greater growth in the country music genre.

Fortunately, all success metrics are up, from concert ticket sales to iTunes downloads, from international fandom to television ratings of CMA's three annual ABC specials.

But her challenges are formidable, too: piracy, shifting consumer purchase venues, diverse needs among her 7,200 members, and new ways to ensure that live events support "the revenue side" of her industry.

Help comes in part from her internal research team, which lets Trahern tune into the evolving tastes and habits of country music consumers and CMA members. Good research "creates equal opportunity, first, to monitor the growth of our format and other opportunities in the sponsorship area and, second, to look at trends where we're actually ahead of the curve or [can react] if things trend downward," says Trahern, who recently led a Game Changer session at the 2014 ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition in Nashville. "Having a strong research arm is imperative."

Such data also crank up expanded corporate and media partnerships with companies like Chevrolet, Samsung, and ABC that share not only funding but also access to their public social platforms.

According to Trahern, that outreach ability is critical to CMA, since the country music fan base cuts across demographic groups. Country music festivals and performers also are more routinely selling out beyond U.S. borders, so CMA is gaining more strategic marketing advice from four non-American music experts on its board. "Our growth of strategic media partnerships will be key to continuing to grow a new generation of country viewers," says Trahern.

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Tuned In."]

Kristin Clarke

Kristin Clarke is books editor for Associations Now and a business journalist and sustainability director for ASAE.