Change the Conversation
NASHVILLE SINCE 2011 (LESLIE), 1988 (TRACY), AND BIRTH (BEVERLY)
Leslie Fram, Tracy Gershon, and Beverly Keel have one very important thing in common: they all have long and impressive careers in the music industry. Between the three of them, the music industry titans have held almost every job in entertainment, including radio, publicity, management, publishing, and artist development.
There’s an evident discrepancy in the opportunities, exposure, and support female artists in country music receive with radio play and beyond, and four years ago, they collectively decided to do something about it. Change the Conversation was born.
“It really started as a meet up group to support female artists, ‘cause we saw a lack of support from terrestrial radio and somewhat from the industry, so it really started to gather women from all industries to support female artists,” Leslie explains. “It’s really become a movement.”
The three music industry titans have each had trailblazing careers. Beverly, a Nashville native, has won awards for journalism and has been the recipient of Nashville Business Journal’s Women in Music City award for three consecutive years. Her bylines have appeared in almost every major outlet, from covering President Carter and Billy Graham during her tenure as an editor of American Profile magazine to a decade as the Nashville correspondent for People magazine. The current chair of MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry, Beverly has been a professor since 1995, with a brief break to serve as Universal Music Group’s senior vice president of Artist and Media Relations.
Tracy, a Los Angeles native, moved to Music City in 1988. She’s helmed A&R at Warner Brothers Records, Rounder Records, Sony Music, and Imprint Records, and worked in publishing at EMI Music, Sony Tree, and Warner Chappell – artists she’s signed include Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves. Currently, she manages artists at the renowned Red Light Management.
Leslie is the most recent to make the move to Nashville, trading New York City for Music City in 2011. The Fairhope, Alabama native spent 17 years in rock radio in Atlanta before moving to NYC for three years, where she programmed a station with the renowned Matt Pinfield. In 2011, she was selected to run the music department at CMT, where she currently serves as Senior Vice President of Music Strategy.
“It’s kind of morphed into more,” she continues. “Our main focus is to create a level playing field for women artists and songwriters, but I think the most important thing we’ve done is we’ve created a real support system for these women. For so long they were told that there was one slot for them at a publishing company or at a record label, and when you’re told that it makes you inherently competitive. So what we preach is look, a win for one is a win for all.”
The impact is evident, from new artists hosting girls’ nights with other rising artist friends to simply tweeting about a friend’s new music. “The most satisfying thing to me has been the sense of community it’s fostered among young female songwriters,” Beverly says. “It provides them a place to come together, support each other, network, and they don’t feel alone. So often they feel like it’s me against the world, even with the Me Too movement, where millions of women had never talked about these experiences all of a sudden go, wait, I’m not alone. This way it’s a safe place to meet with other women in the creative industry.”
“We certainly didn’t know it would become a movement,” she continues, “we just wanted to try to help. Because everybody was very unhappy about the situation, but it’s like, let’s stop talking about it. What can we do.”
They hosted their first event at Beverly’s house. 40 people showed up to the meet-up to discuss solutions. At the next meeting, the numbers doubled. “It was just the right thing to do at the right time,” Beverly says.
“Our goal,” says Tracy, “is to never have this conversation again.”
Follow them @changetheconvo