Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Country Too Pop? Too Rock? Listeners on Living in Harmony

We’ve all read it or heard it by now – the CJJR-FM interview where Zac Brown called Luke Bryan’s current single, “the worst song I’ve ever heard” and that some songs on country radio make him “ashamed to even be in the same genre.”

Well, at least we know where he stands.

And of course he’s not the first to bemoan the state of country music over the years.

I speak to hundreds of country radio listeners while conducting Listener Panels for stations, and we always speak in depth about the music.

These fans are quick to list the big stars, the up-and-comers, and those who they’ve grown tired of.

Luke and his music have fared extremely well, as have most of the millennial artists. There’s great passion for our music – all the genres.

Still, in nearly every group, there is some admonishment to “keep the music country.”

While no panelist has threatened to “throw up” if they hear another song referencing trucks or tailgates, listeners have some concerns over country music becoming “too pop.” They express concerns about rock too but, anecdotally, that seems to come up less frequently.

Country radio has always been able to successfully expose a number of different styles simultaneously.  And we can see great testing as well as sales across these genres – and for the past few years, strong ratings.

But we enter the danger zone is when too much of any one style (be it pop or rock, tempo or texture) dominates.  That’s especially true if too much of the material we’re trying to manage lives at the edges.

Today, the job of balancing each quarter hour of music is both increasingly challenging and of critical importance.  

Review your library coding for relevance at least every six months. Our music is constantly changing and our rules and coding need to help us manage the ebb and flow of the imbalance du jour.

Consider balance when making adds. What theme/style/genre do you have too much or too little of? It best add may or may not be "chart obvious."

Find time to do critical listening to your station, paying particular attention to balance. 

It’s rarely about any one song.  As one listener put it recently, “We like it all. We just want you to mix it up.”

Or, as my partner Jaye Albright blogged, "(the) diversity of sound, borrowing generously from what's "hot" and adapting fresh ideas are the very things that keeps country growing. It's regrettable when any of us who understand the business disparages artists, songs, radio stations or record companies. A bit of the mud, when that happens, splashes on all of us."

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