The Hodgepodge: Five Ways I Would Fix Country Radio

Alan Jackson

I don’t think it’s much of a secret how I feel about country radio. Anyone who has followed Country Perspective and The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music in particular know my distaste and at times outright anger towards country radio. At times they can get it right, only to screw up again. But one thing I have come to accept compared to when I first started to track country airplay charts is that I don’t entirely represent their target audience. As much as I want to hear Jon Pardi, Maddie & Tae and Eric Church get played on country radio, the person down the street simply prefers Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt. We all have different tastes and country radio doesn’t always deliberately play the worst music being released. Some people choose to listen to this music and I respect this choice, even if don’t understand it or agree with it.

But I think something all country fans can agree on, especially in light of what has happened so far in 2016, is there’s a clear lack of direction at radio and several other problems accompanying it. There’s a lack of traditional country music still, even if there has been some notable accomplishments by traditional artists on the airwaves this year. Most female artists continue to be ignored and older artists are still shunted aside. Not to mention there seems to be this never-ending chart clog, as every label desperately tries to push their new act so they can become established. That’s a lot of issues and it got me thinking of how exactly I would go about fixing this issues. And by fixing that doesn’t mean removing every artist from the airwaves I don’t like, as much as I would love to ban Sam Hunt from country radio. So after doing some thinking, I came up with what I believe to be five sensible solutions that would go a long way in helping fix country radio and turning it into something that can appeal to both traditional and modern fans.

  • Ban the On The Verge Program

iHeart’s On The Verge program looked like it could be a useful program at first for country radio. It seemed to promise to help up and coming, new artists at radio and give them a chance to make a successful career. Well after a couple of years of observing this program, I would call it an absolute failure. The only two acts to actually benefit from it and help them launch successful careers is Sam Hunt and Old Dominion. The rest of the artists chosen for the program haven’t really done much since being chosen. Even a quality artist like Cam has failed to produce a hit since “Burning House” was chosen for the program. Maren Morris is struggling right now at radio with “80s Mercedes” after “My Church” was chosen for On The Verge and she’s probably been one of the biggest breakouts recently in country music. It reminds me similarly of A Thousand Horses with “(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial” stalling out after “Smoke” landed them a #1 hit. The latest On The Verge pick though has really exposed this sham of a program, Lauren Alaina’s “Road Less Traveled.” She isn’t a new artist by any stretch and has had plenty of time to establish a career. Alaina is undoubtedly a talented artist, but this is not the way you build her career up because I don’t see the followup to this netting her another hit and establishing her as a star.

The whole situation with On The Verge is very forced and inorganic. It represents a problem that has been plaguing country radio, which is why I would end it effective immediately. It’s not creating stars and it no longer serves a purpose. Why continue to run something that is ineffective and only strokes the egos of label executives? It’s just causing problems and getting the hopes of young artists and their fans. You can’t force radio and people to like a song, no matter how hard you push it down their throats. Speaking of which…

  • A Song Can Only Be On The Airplay Charts for 25 Weeks at Max

This solution is 100% directed at labels pushing the likes of Chase Bryant and Canaan Smith down our throats when nobody cares about them and their music. Just look at the chart right now and you can find songs that have been on it for over 30 weeks. As glad as I was to see Jon Pardi hit #1 with “Head Over Boots,” I cringe when I see it took over 45 weeks to reach this achievement (ironically it took exactly 11 months). Chase Rice infamously pushed a song for over a year to reach the top ten. This kind of gerrymandering bullshit needs to end and that’s why I would cap the limit for charting at 25 weeks. This gives labels just over six months to push their single at radio. After 25 weeks it must leave the chart and go recurrent. I think this is a good balance between giving labels enough time to push songs, as well as account for slower growing songs. It’s more than enough time to determine the true peak of the song. If this type of rule were to ever be implemented I could just see labels crying this is unfair because they can’t push their newest project for 40 weeks. And to them I say this: Perhaps this demonstrates how you shouldn’t waste time and money on artists that simply don’t connect (looking at you Curb Records).

  • The Top 30 on Both Mediabase & Billboard Airplay Charts Must Contain At Least 10 Songs with Female Artists

Now this solution and the next one are bound to be controversial, especially since I just said that you shouldn’t force music on the charts. But hear me out. Tomato Gate did absolutely nothing to improve the standing of women being played on country radio. A bunch of words and think-pieces have been churned out, yet no viable solution has been put on the table. Having the same three female artists in the top 30 is not enough progress. So in my opinion the only way you reverse the discrimination of country radio against women is to implement a rule like this one. Radio programmers aren’t going to willingly change their ways, so you have to force feed it down their throats so they will comply. Women deserve a fair chance and this is the only way I can think of them getting it. Notice I say it doesn’t have to be songs by solo female acts, but it simply must have a female artist on the song. The reason I word it like this is because major labels aren’t equipped at the moment to have ten female solo artists on the radio. They simply aren’t enough to be pushed, but by implementing this rule it would force them to sign more female talent and more importantly push them to radio when they’re guaranteed to have a chance. Now I realize not all of these pushed female acts would connect with audiences and if they don’t, they simply fall out of the top 30 in favor of a new one. Nothing would be forced.

  • The Top 30 on Both Mediabase & Billboard Airplay Charts Must Contain At Least 2 Songs by Artists 45+ Years Old

While women have been the victims of sexism and misogyny at country radio, the other big problem country radio has always had is ageism. As soon as an artist gets older, they casted aside and ignored by country radio. This is bullshit. Alan Jackson, Reba and George Strait are all still making music and want to be played on country radio. There’s plenty of people who still want to hear them on country radio. I say they should still be getting played and this rule would force radio to continue to consider these senior acts. Why should Chris Lane be getting played over George Strait when Strait can outsell and outperform him in his sleep?

  • The Implementation of a Quality Assurance Panel

This last one is pretty self-explanatory, but might also be the most important. I would establish a Quality Assurance Panel for country radio. It would consist of ten people whose job would be to vote on whether or not a single should qualify for country radio. In other words, is the single country enough for country radio? This would eliminate pop carpetbagging and outsiders hijacking the format. It would also still allow for pop country songs, which many people enjoy and wouldn’t be taken off the airwaves. A strict checklist would have to be met for the song to get passed by the panel (instrumentation, lyrics, etc.). So while I’m not banning Sam Hunt off the airwaves, a quality panel would force him to either start making country leaning songs or get the hell out and go to pop radio. Kelsea Ballerini would be forced to incorporate more country elements into her music too if she wants to stay on country radio.

For the fun of it, I decided to apply my hypothetical solutions to the current chart. Here’s what the top 30 would look like after removing all songs that would fail to be on the current chart and applying my rules:

  1. Dierks Bentley & Elle King – “Different For Girls”
  2. Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory”
  3. Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime”
  4. Zac Brown Band – “Castaway”
  5. Miranda Lambert – “Vice”
  6. Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be”
  7. Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time”
  8. Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All”
  9. Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song”
  10. Chris Stapleton – “Parachute”
  11. Jerrod Niemann & Lee Brice – “A Little More Love”
  12. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night”
  13. Carrie Underwood – “Dirty Laundry”
  14. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her”
  15. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl”
  16. Michael Ray – “Think A Little Less”
  17. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl”
  18. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven”
  19. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill a Word”
  20. Eli Young Band – “Saltwater Gospel”
  21. Runaway June – “Lipstick”
  22. Mickey Guyton – “Why Baby Why” (“Heartbreak Song” is not country)
  23. Easton Corbin – “Are You With Me”
  24. Darius Rucker – “If I Told You”
  25. RaeLynn – “Love Triangle”
  26. Ashley Monroe – “Dixie”
  27. Toby Keith – “A Few More Cowboys”
  28. George Strait – “Goin’ Goin’ Gone”
  29. Maddie & Tae – “Sierra”
  30. Margo Price – “Hurtin’ On The Bottle”

Let me know in the comments what you think. These are all hypothetical solutions and are closer to fantasy than reality. If you have any ideas you would like to add I would be glad to hear them.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • Tomorrow the following albums will be released:
    • Dwight YoakamSwimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars…
    • Reckless KellySunset Motel
  • Next week the legendary John Prine will release his duets album For Better, or Worse
  • William Michael Morgan will release his debut album Vinyl next week too
  • Wayne Hancock will be releasing a new album titled Slingin’ Rhythm on October 28

In Memory of Windmills Country

Country writer Grady Smith brought to us the unfortunate news this past week that beloved country writer, chart analyst and all-around wonderful person Windmills Country (real name Devarati Ghosh) has passed away. Her loss will be greatly felt throughout the country music insider community, as her kindness and insight was second to none. I know she influenced several of my best posts on this blog and inspired me to take on many challenging topics. While I never met her in real life, her advice and presence will be forever felt. May she rest in peace.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Born on the Bayou” – I’ve been digging into CCR’s catalog lately and they’re probably one of the most unsung acts of the 60s and 70s in my book. The way they blend soul, R&B and that swampy rock sound is infectious and memorable. You really can’t go wrong with any of their music.

Tweet of the Week

Yep! Also ties into last week’s Hodgepodge.

A Spot-On Review of the New Jason Aldean Album

all-of-aldeans-songs-sound-the-same

I’m still unable to listen to the new Aldean album, but I don’t have any plans to do so when I can anyway. According to people I trust on country music opinions, they all echo this above review: every song sounds the same. Based on what I’ve heard on the previews and Aldean’s track record, I’m not surprised. After all you don’t want to get too “songwriter-y.” Aldean is such a meat head.

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39 thoughts on “The Hodgepodge: Five Ways I Would Fix Country Radio

  1. Pop country is country music, it is equally as country as rock country, americana country, roots county etc. It has been part of country music for a long time. Is to much of today’s radio music pop country, yes? Does some of the pop country on the radio totally lose the country part? Yes. Also pop-country is a specific thing, it is not R&B country (which also exists, or rap country, etc R&B is a distinct music style from pop). But it has its place..and to treat it like it’s its own thing is basically why I hate the idea of a quality panel.

    The quality panel will essentially come down to..well this is what I like & consider country & get off my lawn. And that is in general bad for the progression of ANY artistic medium. I can easily imagine a quality panel in the 1950’s deciding that Cash wasn’t country (never mind the issues you’d have gotten into with minorities, Gay people etc). Sorry, but that sort of protectionism is never a good idea, and the possibilities for abuse are massive.

    I love the 25 weeks idea though.

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    • I understand your concerns, but I said right there in the article that pop country would be considered fine as long as there’s enough country elements to consider it pop country and not straight pop. I know this would be a fine line to determine, but it is possible. The panel would not be made up of just strict traditionalists and would be sure to contain a plethora of different people from different backgrounds and tastes. Each side would be represented fairly. This panel wouldn’t be implemented to keep pop country off the air from the likes of Carrie Underwood and Brett Eldredge, but it’s in place to keep out pop artists pandering as country like Sam Hunt and Kelsea Ballerini. I’ve always said that the lack of gatekeepers has been a big issue with country radio and this would solve that. And if this hypothetical panel would be abused there would almost certainly have to be a repercussion rule in place in the instance this would happen.

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      • 10 people shouldn’t get to decide anything, much less what is and isn’t country. As much as I love country, and as much as I agree with you that much of what is on today’s radio isn’t country…that is a terrible idea & terrible way to do it. Narrow (few number deciding) protectionism is always a bad idea & just generally reprehensible.

        “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others” (Churchill)

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  2. How amazing would it be to see Ashley Monroe in the top 30 for real? She’s one of my favorite artists ever. It would also be awesome to see Margo Price there, as well as the return of the king, George Strait. Sierra is an awesome song. I would also be ecstatic to see Mickey Guyton release Why Baby Why as a single. It was by far my favorite song of last year. I desperately hoped she would have released it instead of Heartbreak Song.

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  3. I do not like RaeLynn (especially after the horrendous God Made Girls. That song makes my blood boil.), but Love Triangle is an alright song. And on a final note, September 30 can’t get here fast enough. From what I’ve heard of the WMM album, it is going to be incredible!

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    • God made girls is terrible, and I used to find her tone very whiny. I still don’t love her voice, but I think it’s gotten a lot better. Love Triangle is a good song, I think the stuff on her upcoming album is…better. It’s not (even close to) WMM, but might be worth giving her a second listen.

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      • I hope that maybe her music is matured. I’m not a fan of the song “Wildhorse”, but some of the other songs on her album may be worth giving her a second chance.

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  4. The one thing that would make me happy is to split country up into 2 genres, with their own charts and radio stations. A traditional country genre, and contemporary/pop country genre. That would allow for George Strait, Alan Jackson, and all the others to still receive airplay and I would still get to enjoy hearing my old favorites

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  5. The main criticism I have with a few of your proposals (and please note that I do respect you immensely for offering specific ideas and actively putting effort into finding solutions, which I feel some other outspoken critics of country radio don’t do)………………is that they come across like Band-Aid solutions that don’t actually address the greater issues holding certain communities and artists back.

    For example, with the proposal to implement a ten-female artist chart rule, it’s still not going to change ATTITUDES regarding institutionalized sexism and, thus, how women are treated in Music Row. With radio as a whole, we’ve made some progress since the days of widespread statutory rape that plagued the music business in the 70s and 80s from the Sunset Strip to Geffen Records and so forth thanks to the advent of social media making it easier to openly address such travesties in the business. But while Ke$ha’s ongoing case signals growing awareness of institutionalized misogyny across many mainstream arteries, there still remains a lack of urgency regarding its existence on Music Row which Katie Armiger’s recent heartaches underscore.

    And part of it comes down to the lack of human resource departments between countless talent agencies and labels. A survey conducted by YouTube and the Huffington Post recently found that nearly 70% of women who are sexually harassed in the workplace don’t report the incident for fear of retaliation. And when you have repressive environments that do next-to-nothing in ensuring mutual respect and accountability because of the “boy’s club” entitlement mentality, what becomes clear is that until our broader culture changes, women will have to default in the meanwhile to forming support systems and form something like She Said So on Music Row: where women band together in a coalition of mentors and mentees across all realms of the business from the creative facets to publishing to management, and through skill-sharing, emotional support and heightened clout crash the gates from there.

    Enforcing an affirmative action sort of approach with regards to who gets played on the radio, I feel, gravely overlooks how women are falling behind across countless other facets of the business. And affirmative action also doesn’t directly address attitudes and/or the psychological makeup of the misogyny tainting Music Row and much of the rest of the industry. By all means we have to start somewhere, but we mustn’t overlook the bigger picture beyond a weekly thirty-row spreadsheet.

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    As for the “Quality Assurance Panel” idea, same story.

    Obviously we need gatekeepers in place that properly put types of music in their place in that contrast is essential to culture. But at least in my opinion, the most tragic problem besetting mainstream country/”country” radio in recent years has been the staggering plunge in lyrical quality.

    THAT’S where I feel we most direly need a “Quality Assurance Panel”.

    Now don’t get me wrong: fluff has always been a part of our musical tradition. Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, for instance, cut his share of enjoyable but insubstantial ditties throughout the 1930s and 1940s like “Bubbles In My Beer”, “Sugar Moon” and “Whoa Babe”. But they were contrasted by songs that concerned themselves with storytelling and spoke to broader slices of life that at first were a minority on playlists but gained more demand as time went on. We don’t have anything remotely reflecting that balance as of late.

    I’m still not sure how to address the songwriting anemia epidemic. Part of the problem comes down to all of us, as individuals, having different yardsticks and criteria as to what passes off as “deep”. Luke Bryan’s “Drink A Beer” may be one of the most shallow attempts at passing off a “deep” song I’ve EVER heard, for instance, but there’s no question that much of the general listening populace regards it as a poignant and meaningful song. Conversely, I consider Keith Urban’s “Stupid Boy” an excellent gut-puncher but, in the eyes of those who grew up strictly on outlaw country, that would cross their mind as shallow. Any system is going to be imperfect regardless and we need to accept that. But I feel it is imperative we consider the content of what we’re hearing and how it impacts our culture more broadly. That’s no less important than how a song sounds.

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    It is beyond me how monotonous the tempo and production is on Aldean’s latest album.

    What made the latter half of “Old Boots, New Dirt” mostly enjoyable to my ears is that the more up-tempo tracks and ballads were arranged well on top of sounding more thoughtful than deeper cuts from A-listers on average. So it bewilders me seeing how what are supposed to be the ballads come across sounding like mid-tempos on “They Don’t Know” and the same being true with what are supposed to be the more up-tempo tracks. There is a complete lack of identity and distinction between the tracks from a production standpoint and, whereas before I didn’t understand the talking point about “all of Jason’s songs sounding the same” when he did a better job in the past differentiating tracks by mood and tempo, they got that right with regards to this album.

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  6. Mixed feelings.
    Artificial: country radio playlists, on the verge, 50+ week chart runs, the (close) connection between labels & radio.
    On the other side: playlists & charts with a minimum number of female artists will open the gates. What’s next? A minimum of traditional artists or black artists? Gay & lesbian artists? What about disabled singers?
    A bonus for Opry-members or CMA award winners?

    There are too many charts. Radio-play only, sales, sales with radio, radio with sales, streaming this & download that. Too many “new & active”-lists, recurrent songs or christmas charts
    Radio artists like Chris Lane who can’t sell 12.000 albums so far. Artists who sell 100.000+ copies without radio-support. Radio is not the only problem. But it’s a big part. The influence of iHeart & Cumulus is too big.

    New Album: The Viper Creek Band – Just Press Play – 10 tracks – The Viper Creek Band – Released (08/26)
    Australia is the home of the Viper Creek Band. Four guys with the second 10 track album (+ two Ep’s).
    The first single (“Rockstars”) was a medium hit on the Country Tracks Chart. The sound is a mix of (modern) country with pop & rock elements. The majority of songs are harmony driven & radio friendly tracks like “Feeling Right Right Now”. No real highlight. 6/10.

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  7. Quotas are very rarely a good thing in any industry so your third and fourth suggestions are non starters for me but numbers one and two I would definitely support (especially the maximum week allowance). At first this would be fought tooth and nail but eventually the labels would adjust and stop pushing these songs for so long.

    As for the last one the problem would be what is country and why do these people get to decide. Was Sonny James country? Was Anne Murray country? Was Ronnie Milsap country? Hell, for that matter was Patsy Cline country? In their time there were people that would have said ‘HELL NO, THEY AREN’T’.

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    • I acknowledge why affirmative action was important in previous generations when the civil rights movement was only then making headway, but I just agree that I don’t see it working well in this context.

      We all agree that women are institutionally discriminated against on countless fronts in country music. But as a transgender woman, I can’t help but feel that the bigger picture is often grossly overlooked when it comes to pushes for diversity. And it wouldn’t feel like an actual accomplishment if we were to implement a three transgender minimum rule for weekly charts. It would actually feel insulting to me at least: as I rather want to see broader advocacy and awareness cultivated surrounding attitudes towards transgenders and challenging long-held myths.

      I do wholeheartedly agree with abolishing On The Verge, however. It’s a “program” that can’t even set its own priorities straight as to who would be eligible and has a spotty record in actually achieving self-sustaining results. I’m mostly favorable on the 25-week chart run but with some caveats: namely that we have to acknowledge the zig-zagged manatee in the room that is hierarchy. Labels are reluctant to push artists who are in the early formulative stages of their career development at brisk paces, while anything Luke Bryan releases is pretty much guaranteed to top the chart in no more than four months.

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      • Yeah the 25 week (or whatever number would be chosen) would most likely hurt the newer and more country acts at first as they are the ones that take forever to reach there ‘peaks’. But hopefully what it would do is convince the labels that they may be carrying too many acts on there rosters and pare back some of these performers who really bringing nothing fresh and new to the format and are really only place holders on the charts. There really are about a dozen (at least) acts that could be gone immediately and they would not be missed by anyone other than friends and family and that is a big reason why the charts are so clogged. Open up some of these places and maybe some of the more worthy songs won’t spend 20 weeks bouncing around between 25-40 on the charts and then rising up like we often see.

        And from the other side some of these radio programmers could show some spine and say no to the labels when they bring them the next generic song by the next generic male singer.

        The real big issue here is the way, way too cozy relationship between the labels and radio programmers which leads to radio just playing whatever there buddies at the label send along, no questions asked.

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        • The label/radio teams are cozy, but sometimes that helps (see Pardi & WMM) & the labels want people who will sell. So if more traditional country music is what’s selling, you will get more traditional country on the radio (eventually). Limiting the # of weeks on the chart will open them up in the long run, so it will be easier for newer acts to gain some traction. The caveat on all of this is that if a song tests horribly radio isn’t playing it no matter what name is attached (see Blake – SGAWW).

          And if you are in the mood to hate everything, I just saw the new Luke Bryan video for Move……and omg.

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          • But the Shelton song still made the top ten so it’s not like it totally flopped. That would also be something that would be nice is if they would turn there noses up at songs by established acts which are just bad. They have done it with Rhett and a couple of the younger wannabes but with Shelton, Bryan, Urban, Chesney and the like they just play ’em regardless. Maybe if one of these guys had a song really flop at like #25 or something that would really hit home to them.

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          • Even “Vacation” can’t necessarily be considered a flop when you look at the bigger picture outside of radio.

            Its sales were vastly better than its airplay and it has also been a success with streaming. It all but certainly made more of an impact (at least in the short term) than the latest Top Five hits from Justin Moore, Chase Bryant, Old Dominion and Randy Houser among others have.

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            The definition of a recent flop, to me, would be Brantley Gilbert’s “The Weekend”.

            Obviously it is a complete directionless, hookless mess to begin with. Still, it doesn’t excuse the fact this is performing TERRIBLY in relation to how his previous lead single fared. It does make absolute sense why radio wants nothing to do with this, but on the surface it’s at least he kind of track you’d expect to have cult popularity digitally. And that certainly isn’t the case either with a pathetic 1.6 million streams to date and a current #70 ranking on the iTunes Country chart.

            An unmistakable flop, to me, is something that is underachieving on all four metrics: airplay, sales, streaming and water cooler conversation. Brantley Gilbert used to excel at the latter two with “BG Nation” having a long-standing reputation as being among the most fiercely loyal recent fanbases. But it is clear “The Weekend” is a complete failure between both worlds.

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          • I was mostly referring to radio with regards to ‘Vacation’ being a flop. Rhett has had several #1’s in a row and then to have a song peak out at 30 is not good. Honestly I’m not sure what they were thinking going with that but whatever.

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          • I see what you’re saying, and all I was intending to do was differentiate what I’d consider a bona-fide flop from a song that certainly flopped on one metric but found measures of success on others.

            I don’t understand why they released “Vacation” to radio either. “Vacation” already had a video that accumulated many hits for a non-single prior to its release so it already was doing its job from a cult appeal standpoint. But just because a track may have some sort of cult appeal does NOT guarantee a translation to mass radio success as well. Brantley Gilbert proved this with the re-release of “Kick It On The Sticks” faltering at radio despite its video already having an INSANE amount of total views prior to the decision.

            If I were Valory, I would have released “The Day You Stop Looking Back” or, if he succeeded in getting Louder Than Life’s permission, “Playing With Fire” as the fourth single. Between the two I’d certainly prefer the former in that it actually has a semblance of country in its sound whereas the latter does not, but one could also make the case that “Playing With Fire” would have been the more accessible selection. Either of those two would have assured Thomas Rhett at least another big hit at radio, if not so much streaming and sales compared to the album’s first three singles.

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  8. Also to #3 on your list I will only say:

    Keith Urban 48.
    Kenny Chesney 48.
    Tim McGraw 49.

    I would bet that the top 30 has contained at least two if not all three of these guys every week since they became 45.

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  9. I went on a walk just now and, along the way, I thought more about this discussion and on the point of Airplay Chart Affirmative Action, another analogy came to mind that I think underscores why such an approach wouldn’t address broader issues facing our music.

    The Canadian Country Airplay chart.

    Since 1971, as some of you may know, the Broadcasting Act of Canada among other things mandates a percentage of airplay to be devoted specifically to Canadian music. The regulation was set at 25% in 1971, but was increased to 35% in 1999 (some stations do 40%).

    On the surface, that obviously sounds great. On one hand, as a musical tourist, it’s nice to simply pull up the charts from another nation and be exposed to a panoply of native acts you had never heard of previously. On the flip side, in the age of globalism, it’s nice for any nation to showcase some of its more successful acts with a swelling pride and identity.

    But then we get to the major problem here; which is that just because a certain percentage of artists may be legitimate Canadian acts does NOT assure that they are legitimate Canadian acts of any specific genre or format.

    As recently as 2014, there was a lot of distinctive quality among acts on Canadian country radio………………..even during the peak of the bro-country boom stateside. But since then, the degree of quality among Canadian country radio acts has PLUNGED at an alarming rate. It’s almost as though the side effects of bro-country across the border were delayed by several years, and only recently are they stirring a secondary infection across Canada.

    Listen to Tim Hicks’ “Stompin Ground” and all the pseudo-rapping and hip-hop glitches. Listen to Dallas Smith’s poor-man’s Florida Georgia Line antics north of the border. Listen to James Barker Band’s “Lawn Chair Lazy”, Jess Moskaluke’s “Elevator”, Cold Creek County, Dean Brody’s “Bush Party”………………..it just goes on and on.

    What happened? Well, this also ties in to another separate point I want to make that I’m surprised wasn’t touched on in the original commentary:

    *

    Breaking Up The Songwriting & Producer Monopoly.

    A colossal problem with country radio right now is the homogenization of songwriters on Music Row. The likes of the Peach Pickers, the Beaver Brothers, songwriter/producer types like Shane McAnally, Luke Laird and Ross Copperman, etc. are as ubiquitary on songwriting credits as “Natural Flavor” on supermarket products. The same, familiar faces just keep popping up on most any A or B-lister’s albums while other songwriters yearning for a chance to break it and have something more to say are held back at the gates. Meanwhile, a select handful of producers are operating as songwriters and executives as well and, thus, stifle creative development.

    I truly think country radio is not going to come remotely close to another golden age until it breaks up the songwriting and production monopoly. The stifling of creative development is responsible for the hemorrhaging of quality at Canadian country radio, and is also affecting Texas country to a lesser extent.

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    • You answered your own question last week in regards to the songwriting and producer monopoly. These artists and songwriters are like family to each other as you said. Family isn’t going to tell each other they’re dragging the quality of music down. You really think Luke Bryan is going to tell Dallas Davidson his songwriting can be too sexist and simplistic? No and not only that they don’t see an issue with the way things are at the moment. They’re living the dream, well the artists anyway. Hence why I advocate for “affirmative action.” It would great if these changes happened naturally, but this problem regarding women and older artists is something that is ingrained into the history of the genre. They don’t really make change unless their bottom line is being affected or rules force them. The songwriting will only get better if the artist wants it to or the fans demand it. But I don’t see Bryan fans demanding better than “Move.” This all of course would have been so much simpler if they had just went ahead with their plans to split the genre.

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      • Of course, but though I acknowledge the family affair mentality that is a stranglehold on the country radio environment, I certainly believe more fresh perspective can be attained by widening the songwriting row circle.

        We’ve gotten to the point where mainstream producers are basically CEOs and the most established songwriters are like senators that are entitled to lengthy terms and dictate near single-handedly where the format styles itself as a whole. We need to break that gridlock mentality.

        This latter point is obviously wishful thinking and not meant to be taken too seriously, but I wish we could mandate a Quality Songwriting Policy regulation that forces all Music Row songwriters to take a eight-week class instructed by John Prine that teaches them other songwriting methods that reject non-sequiturs and ad-libbing, as well as an emphasis on proper grammar! And every time they fall back into their old habits after the completion of the course, they are stripped of holding rights for songs from A and B-listers for a month! 😉

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      • yes, of course a lot of the problem is also that a lot of people like songs like Move. And people are allowed to have different tastes, even if I think their taste stinks. In truth the solution is probably to have different stations cater to different demographics.

        Or you can just do what most younger people have done, and stop listening to radio, and instead use spotify or pandora etc and just listen to whatever you want.

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      • Obviously your ‘affirmative action’ plan is never going to happen and in fact it might be illegal I would think. But just to go with it for a minute I don’t see how this would advance the cause of women in country music as most everyone would know which performers were only there because of AA and not because they actually earned their spot. I don’t see how that is good for anyone involved. Just giving someone a place at the table is not a good whether we are talking about men or women.

        The fact of the matter is that there is no easy fix to this as many have pointed out (and follow this more than I) songs by women often test worse than those by men among male and female listeners which would seem to indicate that the customers prefer songs by male singers I guess and radio is a business just like any other. What business would consciously go against the wishes of there customers and hope to survive?

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        • I know. I wouldn’t want an accomplishment handed to me either. It’s definitely one of those things that come off better on paper and in a vacuum over putting it in action. My hope with this affirmative action would be to eventually remove it once listeners became more accepting of women artists and they would be naturally accepted. But that’s wishful thinking at best.

          As far as women testing worse, you’re right, but it’s kind of a self fulfilling prophecy too. The late Windmills Country spelled this out quite well in her research last year. Women aren’t be given enough chances to succeed as men, which goes back to label management. People will obviously be more resistant to something they’re not familiar with.

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          • Please understand I do sympathize highly with your conflicted feelings on what I called affirmative action. As a transgender woman, I obviously lament all the institutional disadvantages me and other transgenders face and I wistfully ache for an organic, dramatic shift to social equity on all fronts. But, in the meantime, I do know it is imperative that to my quality of life, I need to seek out help and opportunities where I can find them as is true with any other disadvantaged community including a strong majority of women as a whole! =(

            Sometimes the way I vocalize points can come across as rather blunt and my intention was solely to express concern with pieces of the bigger picture compromising not just Music Row but the music business as a whole. When I feel such urgency in these situations, I can come across sounding like an interrogator at a hearing. Sorry if the way I tried to articulate any of that felt uncomfortable.

            http://www.shesaid.so/about02/

            Anyway, I still think Music Row direly needs the groundwork set for something resembling the all-female network She Said So. By building and fostering an environment where women of all backgrounds can share skills, encourage each other and integrate them into the broader musical community on all fronts while also playing roles as advocates in shattering industry stereotypes, that’s going to do a whole lot of good as well in the longer term primarily.

            We can certainly agree that we need both short-term and long-term remedies that address the bigger picture and not just who is standing at the microphone and is the name you see credited on the weekly charts. For instance, part of the reason why we haven’t heard from Katie Armiger and her case since the late winter is because Music Row currently lacks the sort of human resource avenues that have only been beginning to be built across pop music as indicated by the Ke$ha case. Because Music Row is reactive to broader cultural trends as opposed to trendsetters, they’re repeatedly several steps behind other musical communities as a whole on various concerns that impact so many of us collectively. And as long as there is a lack of positive working environments for women to turn to in Music Row, women like Katie Armiger are stuck at an impasse. They deserve a hell of a lot better.

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          • ‘My hope with this affirmative action would be to eventually remove it’

            That is what was said about AA on a societal level in the 1960s but yet as time went on there were always reasons why it couldn’t end and then huge infrastructures and bureaucracies were built up to serve it and now they had skin in the game and it just continues and continues and probably always will until the whole country collapses.

            Now obviously this industry is a much smaller scale but you don’t need too much imagination to come up with all kinds of less than desirable problems with this as time goes on.

            This is such a complex problem that may not have an answer. Mainstream country music is probably just one of these industries that will be over represented by men just as there are becoming more and more industries that are over represented by women. Sucks if you are a female country singer but sometimes life isn’t fair.

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          • I’m not saying that things shouldn’t be done to increase female representation and pressure put on radio programmers to play more songs by women but in the end it may just be something that skews male.

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  10. I imagine Josh your first thought when listening to “Heartbreak Song” was “WTF is this sellout garbage” (note I don’t mind it as it’s kinda catchy and Mickey Guyton has such a lovable personality).

    Anyway I do understand Josh your thinking behind a lot of this, but at the same time, a lot I can’t agree with (also how in the world is “80’s Mercedes” struggling, it’s selling decently well and Maren Morris is still a newcomer so she of course will take longer up the chart), I like OTV because well it helped Lauren Alaina probably score her first hit.

    The whole 25 weeks thing also wouldn’t work because holy sh!t they are way too many artists that can get mainstream radio, so essentially it’d be every week another song basically dying.

    The last tidbit of the panel, I feel like it’d never work because everyone has such a subjective taste on what is country music it’d never work.

    I will say I am so sad Windmills Country passed away, she was such a wealth of information. She will be greatly missed by the country music community and especially on Pulse Music board as she was a member of Pulse.

    Sorry Josh if it seemed like I was questioning your logic, I was just offering my view on this article.

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    • There are many artists I want to see enjoy breakthrough success, but I certainly wouldn’t vouch for On The Verge just because it’s benefiting one entertainer I like.

      On The Verge hasn’t even been proven effective in effectively building a foundation for almost any artist it has backed. Look at A Thousand Horses. They got their OTV-backed hit and now they’ve vanished into thin air. Or Craig Campbell failing to produce a Top Thirty follow-up to his OTV-backed “Keep Them Kisses Comin'”. Or Michael Ray failing to even chart the Billboard Hot 100 again since his debut single “Kiss You In The Morning” was artificially vaulted to #1. RaeLynn. Cam. Granger Smith appears next in line. The list goes on and on.

      It’s an ill-advised brand of payola that’s all about instant gratification and nothing to do with developing artists and entertainers. Of all the entertainers On The Verge has backed thus far, Sam Hunt is the only one who has cemented himself into the mainstream in a big way. You could argue Dustin Lynch has as well, but he hasn’t sold much and “Seein’ Red” has been struggling big time so far. Maren Morris certainly has the right ingredients to potentially become more successful, but she’s still stuck trying to get more visibility to mixed results.

      In other words, On The Verge’s track record has been weak in sustaining the names it promotes. And I fail to see how it will be any different with Lauren Alaina and Tucker Beathard. After their current singles peak, they’ll basically be right back to where Michael Ray and Granger Smith are finding themselves now.

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      • Yep, as I commented above just giving someone a spot is not really a good way to make for long term success. If these performers have the right sound, style, luck or whatever then they will rise on their own merits. Having some label guy make a backroom deal with some radio programmer and teaming up to tip the scales in favor of one particular performer is really shady and it doesn’t matter to me how talented they are it’s just not a good way to do things.

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        • And in the case of Dustin Lynch, he had already completed his debut album era and managed to score a breakout hit with “Cowboys And Angels”.

          Granted its two follow-ups did very little, but the point is he didn’t even need On The Verge to get his first taste of success to begin with. He slugged it out over the course of a eight-month chart run and it resulted in a fairly big hit for him. There’s no telling how “Where It’s At” would have performed if it didn’t have the “On The Verge” backing seeing that it came on the heels of two follow-ups that failed to go Top Twenty, but he first got noticed the old-fashioned way.

          Even the net benefit of On The Verge with Sam Hunt is debatable. I mean, if the goal was simply to make “Leave The Night On” a hit and hope that success would rub off on follow-up singles, mission accomplished for sure. But I’m inclined to think he probably would have become a breakout success anyway given the radio climate at the time and his established industry connections. “On The Verge” was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the latter. He had established a close connection with Shane McAnally who is one of the few most ubiquitous names behind the scenes in mainstream country over these past five years and, from there, he made connections with established songwriters like Josh Osbourne. Having McAnally in your corner gives you a major advantage and Hunt has made the most of it. I’m most inclined to think he would have broke out much the same way if not for “On The Verge”.

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          • Yep, I think as we get more of a sample size from OTV it is more clear that the winners would have been winners with out it and those that don’t make it after the boost probably don’t have what it takes in some way.

            The entertainment industry has never been fair. For all we know the world’s greatest country singer may have given up on Nashville in 1976 and went home to Paducah or somewhere and worked in a factory for thirty years and the world’s greatest actress may have given up and left LA for Topeka in 1983 and has raised a family and enjoyed a quiet life.

            The reasons for who becomes a star and who doesn’t are very mysterious.

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      • I don’t know? Is it wrong Nadia that I don’t mind the program since it supports the acts I like?

        But here’s another thing they are so many artists on the charts, I mean holy crap look at how many artists on per label. Also jhomes87 on Pulse has pointed this out, often times for acts that aren’t instant A listers like Sam Hunt and arguably Cole Swindell when they break out, for a lot of the rest of the new acts its kinda like a lottery in the sense that only a select few new artists can see a hit let alone multiple hits. Not many new artists see multiple hits on an album (really very few) so regardless for acts like Cam or A Thousand Horses it is a game of waiting and hoping that radio is accepting. Success doesn’t happen overnight and OTV helps and probably gives some more incentive for radio to play the followup.

        Maren Morris “mixed results”. I feel like I am repeating this time and time again, she has sold pretty damn well, she is literally now in the Top 20 on BB and soon to be MB. Maren also has 5 CMA Nominations (also you can’t expect an artist to blow up like Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, or Taylor Swift) and Hero as a whole has gotten some very high critical acclaim so I think Maren Morris is definitely one of the top new artists all things considered and I feel like she is set up for a big CMA Night, at the veryleast she’ll be performing.

        Please don’t judge or dismiss this cause I don’t mind OTV because it supported Lauren Alaina (she is like one of my favorite artists, so yes I am a little biased). I just wanted to offer my view and once again I am optimistic about Lauren Alaina since she is the type of performer that comes off as once radio gives Lauren Alaina their full support for one song, the others will soon follow and she’ll be a superstar.

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        • No one, myself included, would ever fault you for liking any given artist considerably and feeling passionate about seeing that artist succeed. I completely understand that emotional pang as I’m sure millions of others do when, beyond music even, we see sports fans cheering on their alma maters or nations cheering on their Olympian athletes. I certainly am passionate about seeing, for instance, BABYMETAL conquering the charts with their blend of JPop and numerous styles of rock and metal. Or, in the case of country, Lydia Loveless, Aubrie Sellers, Ryan Bingham and Jamie Lin Wilson becoming staple sensations on the airwaves.

          But most importantly, I wouldn’t want their careers to be mismanaged by an electrical current of instantly gratifying payola without a long-term strategy to complement it. I’d much rather see them just gradually establish passionate, loyal followings, incrementally accumulate buzz, build on that buzz step by step with touring, subsequent releases and other creative means outside the box and then become greater stars from there. What comes up must come down, but when you’ve established a foundation with patience and time, you harness an energy that will nourish you for years on afterward.

          On The Verge isn’t accomplishing that for almost all of its recipients to date. Much like “The Voice” has failed to produce a sustainable, bankable superstar, On The Verge has had a lowly batting average in terms of translating its clients into success stories that stretch beyond that one single. Don’t take it from me: take it from existing chart data to date.

          That’s all I’m cautioning. We live in an era of instant gratification, and it has resulted in a propensity for music executive tastemakers to constantly switch and discard trends much like in fast fashion, as opposed to investing in artistic development. Therefore, it is highly implausible in this day in age to have a mainstream career that lasts at least a decade unless you’re around all the right people and are wicked accurate at interpreting trends. We’re just not raising legacy acts in this day in age like Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson and John Mellencamp anymore that were able to stretch their commercial viability across multiple decades. Instead, we have a bunch of blink-and-you’d-miss-it stories from Tove Lo to Iggy Azalea to Nick Jonas to Meghan Trainor, and even the luckier few like Lady Gaga, Calvin Harris and Drake have significantly less cultural appeal and influence and have already peaked or are peaking early in their careers.

          On The Verge just further exacerbates that instant gratification industrial complex. And it’s unfortunately holding so many entertainers back regardless of overall talent level.

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    • Raymond, i have to disagree again.

      “I like OTV because well it helped Lauren Alaina probably score her first hit.”
      Well…score her first & only hit. The “success” of Lauren Alaina is not organic. “On The Verge” is the only reason the track is a Top 30 hit now. “Road Less Traveled” might be a Top 50 now. Or play merry-go-round with “Undone” & the Gary Allan song.
      Country radio is playing the Lauren Alaina track. But where are the much-praised Runaway June? “Lipstick” is fighting to stay on the charts. Fighting for a bullet. Country radio is not playing more female artists. The open spot went to Lauren Alaina. Not because “Road Less Traveled” is a good “country”-song. It’s the “On The Verge”-push. “Lipstick” is the better song & Runaway June are new act. Lauren Alaina had her chances.

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      • Here’s the thing you can’t just assume that Lauren Alaina will only score one hit. Also just because you don’t find something country doesn’t mean it isn’t country (no offense, there not a strict definition of what is and isn’t country).

        Also “Lauren Alaina had her chances”, well the label stuck with her because she is a recognizable name and has a pretty good sized fan base and people still see ton of potential in her, just radio has never quite gotten fully on board.

        I can give a [censor) if the success is inorganic or not, if it helps an artist that I love, then so be it (also yeah I know the only reason why it is doing so well is because well OTV).

        Also that is very subjective to say “Lipstick” is the better song. I happen to love both songs but I imagine people might not like “Lipstick” and instead prefer “Road Less Traveled”.

        Lets make something clear though Olar, I am not gonna have this be a back and forth argument, you have your views and I have mine, I respect yours and I can only hope you respect mine (feels like you kinda don’t)

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  11. I like your chart a lot better man I hate today’s country radio that play’s so called country music. there should be a 25 week rule. In the 80’s to early 90’s 3 to 4 singles by each singers is released every year but now is 1 or 2 singles were release every year.

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