Wednesday, February 9, 2011


This one is going to strike a nerve and be pretty polarizing.

Chris Young is proof that country radio is still artist driven. He has the #1 song in the country this week with “Voices.” The exact same song he released a few years ago and it didn't do much. Back then he didn’t have any hits under his belt. Now he’s had two back to back number one songs and the label decided to try the song again as a single. It worked.

Miranda Lambert is another one. She had mediocre songs that didn’t really catch, then finally after several tries, “The House That Built Me” paved the way for her to have hit after hit after hit. She’s now up for 7 ACM’s and on fire and it's well deserved.

A weaker example is Jessica Simpson. I did an experiment when her first single was release to country radio. I put her in my online call out the first few weeks and didn’t use her name. The song did OK, then I put her name in the call out and the song tanked, badly. People thought the song was OK until they knew it was Jessica Simpson, and then they hated it. I would bet that’s part of the reason why her country career went nowhere. It was mostly about the artist.

We do a daily feature called “The Delivery Room” where we play a new song and take votes. Many times when people find out it’s someone they know, love and are familiar with, they give it a 10. Some will even say “I didn’t even hear the whole song, but I know it’s George Strait, so I’ll give it a 10.” Even country listeners will gravitate more to the bigger, familiar and more established stars.

All of this makes it really hard for a brand new country act to break at radio. Labels have to work really hard to get that first hit. Once the star has a couple of hits, I expect it becomes just a little easier to get airplay on the next single. PD’s and MD’s will always gravitate to the more established artists with proven hits. Count the unique artists you have in your Selector or Music Master, and then compare it to a CHR or Hot AC. You’ll see my point.

In order for country music to survive, we will always need new stars. That’s why it’s so important for you to find the best new music and when you play it, sell it on the air. It’s part of our job to make new music familiar and create fans of these artists and songs. The bigger fan someone becomes, the more they will listen to your station to hear their favorite star or song. That equals cume and TSL.


  1. Fantastic stuff. That's the tightrope we walk at "fresh new country" stations!

  2. While not my format, I disagree about country radio being a artist driven format. I'm not sure that and artist driven format exists in any format. I think we can hang our hats on a group of artists that resonate with the audience but at the end of the day if these artists do not reach the listeners ears and make that emotional connection stations do not hang around long term.