Kelly Edwards: Radio Disney tastemaker

Youth Impact Report 2010: Young at Chart

Two weeks out of college, Kelly Edwards got her first job as a local on-air DJ and immediately fell in love with it. “I realized radio’s such a great way to reach people directly. Audiences have this passionate relationship with the DJs on the air and the music they hear, and that translates into what they buy,” says the Oregon native.

After moving to Los Angeles in 1998, Edwards held jobs at Premiere Radio Networks, CNN en Espanol and RadioVisa before joining Radio Disney in 2007. As executive director of music and programming for the network, Edwards oversees on-air playlists as well as music and artist strategy, helping the network achieve an impressive average weekly audience of 29.9 million.

Hunting for new talent is a big part of Edwards’ job. With that goal in mind, she created the popular multiplatform “N.B.T.” (Next Big Thing) program, which spotlights young unsigned artists. Given her position, Edwards can directly increase newcomers’ exposure by deciding which artists get airplay or come in to the studio to appear on hit shows like “Take Over With Ernie D” — decisions she makes based on a mix of research and gut instinct.

“I got an email from a friend who’d met this young, unknown band, Allstar Weekend, handing out fliers at the Jonas Brothers 3D movie red carpet. I checked out their music and just loved it,” she recalls. After she showcased the band on-air for several months, they got signed to Hollywood Records and have since released their debut album. “I feel I’m a good barometer of what will be popular for the tween market,” she says.

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