Monday, November 09, 2015

Chris Stapleton: Winner. Country Radio Haters: Losers

Taylor Swift is right: the haters gonna hate.

For the haters of mainstream country radio, Chris Stapleton’s wins Wednesday night at the CMAs provided them an unfortunate and inappropriate opportunity to turn trophies into missiles and launch them not only at country radio but also at some of the format's biggest stars - the ones who sell out shows in minutes, who frequently top sales charts, and who release the biggest hits as determined by fans.

Like any current-based music format, country has cycles of sounds and styles, and certainly over the years mainstream country radio has incorporated them to a greater or lesser degree depending on their popularity and sticking power.

The latest boom characteristically began with a change in the pop and traditional center of the format. Subsequently rock, ‘party,’ ‘spoken word,’ and ‘cool twang’ have been absorbed into the current mix.

Along the way, the format has hit ratings highs.

Chris Stapleton of course is a part of this success having co-written such wonderful and incredibly popular mainstream songs as “Never Wanted Nothing More” for Kenny Chesney and “Drink A Beer” for Luke Bryan (whom many haters seem to associate with everything they consider wrong with country music radio – how’s that for being hypocritical?).

He also co-authored Thomas Rhett's "Crash and Burn" and "Something to do with my Hands."

Unfortunately, rabid or causal fan, songwriters’ identities on even the biggest hits aren’t generally top of mind - if they are in the mind-set at all.  

The percent of people who know Cole Swindell as an artist is no doubt significantly greater than those who know him as a co-writer (along with Florida-Georgia Line and Luke Bryan) on last year’s #1 song of the year on Billboard “This is How We Roll” or on Luke Bryan's "Roller Coaster."

Or that Florida-Georgia line’s Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley were co-writers (along with Rodney Clawson and Chris Tompkins) on the number two song from last year, Jason Aldean’s “Burnin’ It Down.”

Or that last month the prolific Shane McAnally had writing credits on four songs that were in the top 30 at the same time!

While Chris’ career of writing, producing, playing and performing has spanned 15 years,“Traveler” is his solo debut.

If Chris’ wins help elevate the profile of songwriters that would be tremendous. Their contributions to the format's successes are undeniable.

If Chris’ CMA performances and album spawn the next big thing, then that’s awesome. Every format should be excited about their next big thing.

Whether these things come to pass or not, country radio should continue to: 1) embrace music discovery – artists and genres - and 2) research and play the music that listeners are passionate about and reflect that enthusiasm on air.

And oh yeah, regarding the rhetoric from the haters of one of America’s second most popular music format who want us to "save us from ourselves?"

“Shake it off.”

Related: "Back When Radio Was Good: A Week With Beats 1"

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