When the pandemic hit in early 2020, veteran music business headhunter Tom Truitt — a chief partner in the entertainment/media practice of Nashville-based executive search firm Buffkin/Baker — had his own lightbulb moment.
Since 2015, Truitt had been hosting a live event, “Who Knew,” a monthly get-together Truitt dubbed “Ted Talks for the music industry.” Scheduling eight per year, six of them in Nashville, the storytelling-oriented gathering allowed the speakers to open up and reveal their true selves.
When COVID-19 hit, Truitt launched “The Smartest People in the Room,” a one-on-one webinar series featuring hour-long Zoom interviews with some of the leading figures in the music, gaming, sports and entertainment fields, each guest picking the interviewer of their choosing. Over the past year, participants have included the likes of Hipgnosis Songs Fund’s mercurial Merck Mercuriadis, Ahmet Zappa, CMT’s Leslie Fram, Stewart Copeland, John Legend manager Ty Stiklorius and jingle-writer-turned-podcast entrepreneur Jared Gutstadt, among many others, for the twice-weekly chat, logging more than 80 to date. The very first featured Twitch expert Karen Allen about how the music industry could take advantage of the app’s burgeoning popularity with gamers. The conversations even generated worldwide headlines when agency veteran Marc Geiger revealed he didn’t see live music returning at scale until 2022, which sent shockwaves throughout the industry.