“For instance, the main person I’m trying to connect with is one of the top radio charters in the industry, who places a lot of music on the air. She has 38 Stellar nominations, represents all of the artists nominated for Song of the Year and seven Grammys just this year. Just getting her ear would be a major plus.”

‘Here with God’s people’

The closing highlight of the pre-show day was a service led by industry legend Pastor Hezekiah Walker, who presented the award to New Artist of the Year LeAndria Johnson.

Heading back to his hotel room afterwards to rest up for the big day, Walker’s representative, Sean Pennington, offered insight from his decade-plus work managing a major industry figure via his company Flipside Entertainment (which also represents the Wess Morgan).

“Pastor Walker was really excited to present the New Artist award because he loves to see young people succeed in any endeavor, praise God,” said Pennington.

“I like being here to see people that may not be winners out front yet but are winners at heart be made known to the world, and to get to know others with similar interests. Just the opportunity to be here with God’s people doing good is a win.”

‘Step up our game’

In entertainment, crunch time is called “Day Of,” and nearly every conversation kicks off with “It’s Day Of, so…”

For the Stellars, “Day Of” presented several optional events, the most important being a conference for radio media. Totally thronged, a perfect example of smart marketing was the currently unknown and New York-based Livre, who had a full display on the event floor, positioning them to appear like a major. Another smart thing they did was to have door hanger flyers made and placed on room doors at the hotels where the industry players were staying.

“We just work hard,” manager Craig Towns said. “We planned everything this year around the Stellars. We’ve been here several times now and knew we had to step up

our game.”

After the radio meet, all on board repaired to the hotels to breathe and change for the night. As the crowd thronged in, Michael Adrian Davis, air personality for the Memphis gospel arm of the powerful Clear Channel Group, summed it all up.

“It’s the industry Grammys, and because it’s now a live broadcast, it makes it even more important,” said Davis.

“But it’s really higher than that because of the message of the music. Praising God is always most important.”

(Tony Jones reported this story for Real Times News Services’ Memphis outlet, The New Tri-State Defender.)

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