Kirt Webster is an award-winning entertainment consultant and project manager based in Nashville, Tennessee.
Originally from Arizona, Kirt moved to Nashville at the age of 20 eager to break into the entertainment industry. Once there, he founded Webster Public Relations. Almost immediately, he gained a reputation for working non-stop in the pursuit of clients’ interests, and his career in public relations began in earnest.
Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, Webster Public Relations grew into a nationally known and well-respected home for creative artists. Kirt worked with some of the biggest names in country music, including Carl Perkins, The Bellamy Brothers, The Little River Band, Lee Greenwood, Crystal Gayle, and The Gatlin Brothers. In 2002, he signed Hank Williams, Jr. in what was widely viewed as a considerable coup de grâce. A year later, at the request of Johnny Cash’s long-time manager Lou Robin, Kirt Webster was asked to help stage the now memorable Cash Memorial event held at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Kirt worked with Robin on several other Johnny Cash-related projects, and those events were chronicled by author Steve Turner in the book The Man Called Cash.
In 2009, Kit Webster was named one of the most successful businessmen in Nashville under the age of 40 by the Nashville Business Journal. Around the same time, he served on the boards of directors for the Academy of Country Music (ACM) and the Nashville Association of Talent Directors (NATD).
Over the course of his career, Kirt Webster has represented many world famous entertainers and elite musicians, including Dolly Parton, Cyndi Lauper, Randy Travis, and The Judds, among others. He has also received several industry awards, such as a TELLY Award in 2021 as a consultant on Rainy Night in Georgia, and a 2022 TELLY Award as the producer of Tyson Fury/Dillian Whyte Heavyweight Championship Fight Opening featuring Don McLean, which won in six categories. He also served as an executive producer to Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountains Rise telethon, which won an Emmy award.
What do you currently do at your company?
Ever since the COVID pandemic, the music and entertainment business has become very Zoom-oriented and technological, so my daily routine largely consists of checking emails and making phone calls. A lot of the in-person daily activities have shifted to Zoom, but the same basic work is still being done. Beyond those activities, I work on brand deals for both corporate clients and entertainers and act as a consultant to several entertainers for marketing and touring.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
Having worked as a marketing and PR executive for 25 plus years, I saw every great manager and every bad manager do their job. When I say good manager versus bad manager, what I mean is that some are proactive and some are reactive. Some are forward-thinking, and some put up roadblocks. Everybody has a different style in the way they work, and I was able to sit back and observe all those styles and see which ones worked. When I decided to launch into project management and consulting, I took the knowledge that I had gained from working with other companies, then asked myself what the best style and approach was to accomplish things. When all is said and done, the clients only care about what you accomplish. Clients care about wins, so I chase wins each and every day.
What defines your way of doing business?
I think what sets me apart from a lot of people is that I’m bold, I’m direct, and I’m blunt. I get excited about good things and I don’t sugarcoat bad news. I don’t try to make things that nobody wants to hear disappear. In the past, I’ve been told I’m like sushi—meaning you either love me or hate me. Nobody ever has to second guess what I am thinking and I believe that is why my phone is still ringing with potential clients on the other end of the line.
Tell us one long-term goal in your career.
Honestly, I’ve achieved all my career goals. I’ve represented members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, Grand Ole Opry stars, actors who’ve begun a recording career—I’ve done everything I wanted to do. Now, I’m in a position where I’m able to help people with their careers because I want to. In fact, that’s really what enables me to be bluntly honest with people. I don’t really need anything from anyone anymore. I’m equally fine hearing the words “You’re hired” as I am “You’re fired.” I’m okay with both because I’m happy with the way I do my work.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the course of your career?
Always be truthful. I’ve always been honest, whether people like it or not. My reasoning is that there’s no point being dishonest, deceptive, or evasive because the truth always comes out anyway. Although sometimes people might doubt the truth, eventually they realize what’s real and what’s not.
What advice would you give to others aspiring to succeed in your field?
I never give advice, I give information. Everybody has an opinion, but being in possession of good, solid information allows people to make their own judgements. So, in answering the question, the information I would give somebody trying to break into the entertainment industry would be based specifically on what they’re trying to accomplish and what I think they need to know. Define yourself and what you want and then go after it!
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
For the first 25 years of my career, my whole life was work. Now, I go fishing, I go boating, I visit people. I still get work done, but I now take time for myself and live life to the fullest because there’s no telling what tomorrow will bring. Over the past few years, I’ve started adding personal appointments to my calendar and it’s worked out very positively.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
Early on in my career, it was Merle Kilgore. He gave me one of my first very big positions in the music business which was representing Hank Williams, Jr. Merle gave me a lot of advice on how things worked in the business; what to look out for and who to watch. I learned a tremendous amount from him and worked with him all the way until he passed. He was an unbelievable mentor to me.
What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?
Merle Kilgore once told me “If a deal starts out squirrelly, it’ll probably get squirrellier. I’ve always remembered that line and, to this day, if something starts out weird, I walk away from it. If it starts out great, then I move forward.
What does success look like to you?
The key thing for me has always been to remember that we’re here to put smiles on people’s faces. I’m not curing cancer; I’m not a doctor or a lawyer. Those jobs are tough. It shouldn’t be hard for me to put a smile on somebody’s face. If we’re entertaining people and making them leave their worries at home, then we did our job. That’s what success means to me.