Monday, April 7, 2014

Country music morphs mainstream

The New York Times published this story yesterday "Young, Rich and Ruling Radio, Country Walks a Broader Line."  It came ahead of the Academy of Country Music Awards last night on CBS.  Ben Sisario writes:
Country has long been a mainstay of American music. But as the music industry continues to struggle financially and once-dominant genres like hip-hop recede on the charts, country’s audience has grown stronger, wider and younger — a fact that has not escaped the notice of media companies that have doubled down on the genre.
Sisario attributes the shift, at least in part, to the rise of "telegenic and web-savvy young stars like Ms. Swift, Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton."  He also notes the rise of Nashville's popularity, as I discussed last year here.

Sisario explains:  
While country broadcasters typically give their stations names like “The Wolf” or “The Coyote,” suggesting rural stereotypes, Lew Dickey, chief executive of Cumulus, said his new brand captured a broader and more upwardly mobile audience for the genre.
Cumulus has 460 radio stations, and it introduced the brand, Nash" last year.  Dickey explains:  
We wanted to eschew the conventional stereotypes in the format and go with something more aspirational.  Nash is cool; Nash is fun; Nash is relevant.
Sisario adds that country has been coming on strong for a decade or so, with country's audience share up about 15% among those aged 12 and up, even as the number of radio stations has remained stable.  Just five years ago, he explains, country's biggest listener share were white suburban women in their 40s. 

The story closes with this quote from Kix Brooks, formerly of Brooks and Dunn, which sold 27 million albums in the 1990s and early 2000s. Brooks now hosts a show on Nash:
I don’t think country music is hick music anymore.  It’s not hay bales and cornfields.
As country music surges and becomes, dare I say, "hip," I can't help remember this statement about "hillbilly music" from Variety Magazine in 1926, scorning it as 
'poor white trash' genera. The great majority, probably 95 percent, can neither read nor write English. Theirs is a community all to themselves. [They are] illiterate and ignorant, with the intelligence of morons.
Read more here.  

No comments: