Aug
15

George Jones Proves People Still Want to Listen to “Grandpa’s Music”

August 15, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  13 Comments

george-jones-16-biggest-hits“Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music.”

These were the words spoken by reigning Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year Blake Shelton as part of his broader, now notorious “old farts and jackasses” spiel first spoken on a GAC special, and then later published by Saving Country Music in late January of 2013, sparking off a public uproar.

Well George Jones may haves something to say about that, even though he’s been deceased for nearly 4 months.

George’s 16 Biggest Hits album was certified platinum yesterday, meaning it has now sold 1 million copies according to the RIAA. This comes 15 years after the album was initially released, and 11 years after the album was first certified gold for selling 500,000 copies.

Right after George Jones passed away, sales of his music skyrocketed, and have stayed curiously strong since. 16 Biggest Hits re-entered the Billboard 200 Albums chart at #42 the week after George’s death, and six other George Jones albums also re-emerged on Billboard’s “Hot Country Albums” list.

But as much as George Jone’s death was to blame for the spike in sales, so was George Jones’s older fans who are one of the last bastions of CD-buying consumers. Most younger music consumers, i.e. Blake Shelton fans, stream their music, or download individual songs—a practice that means much less revenue for both labels and artists.

As was asserted when first publishing Blake Shelton’s “old farts and jackasses” comments, Music Row is ignoring one of the last segments of the American market that actually buys physical music, and one that makes up one of the largest segments of consumers. Announced last month, music sales are at historic lows, while a recent analysis by country DJ Charlie Cook shows that country radio continues to ignore older consumers more and more as time goes on.

But George Jones’s postmortem sales success was not all due to older country music consumers.

As big as the success of George’s 16 Biggest Hits has been, one of his signature songs, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” enjoyed an even greater resurgence, re-entering Billboard’s Hot 100 Country Songs chart at #21 the week after George’s death—33 years after the song was initially released. But how would this be possible if a majority of George Jones fans are technologically-illiterate elders? Nobody is selling 45′s of “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

It is because younger, technologically-savvy consumers were also participating in the George Jones revival, buying up 34,000 digital copies of “He Stopped Loving Her Today” the week after his death, and streaming it a whopping 783,000 times. So it wasn’t just old farts and jackasses, it was download-savvy Gen X’ers and Spotify-streaming millennials wanting to listen to George Jones.

Another album crafted by gray-haired guys and featuring old music—Vince Gill and Paul Franklin’s cover album Bakersfield—also had surprising success last week, coming in at #4 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. So bereavement isn’t solely to blame for consumers buying up classic country music. When given a reason, and when given an album worth listening to, classic and traditional country fans of all ages are turning out to purchase music.

As the music industry continues to contract and deal with the dwindling revenue foisted on them by the emerging age of streaming music, they can’t afford to ignore any segment of the music buying public. Of course the younger demographic is always going to be the biggest driver in the music marketplace, and country music must evolve to stay relevant. But country also must offer choice, and balance if it expects to survive the expanding adversity the music industry faces.

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George Jones is set to release a posthumous Gospel album called George Jones- Amazing Grace on September 10th through Bandit Records.

13 Comments to “George Jones Proves People Still Want to Listen to “Grandpa’s Music””

  • That is some encouraging news. A very, very small glimmer of hope. But some hope nonetheless.

       8 likes

  • Warms my heart really does nobody stops and thinks about the older demographic out there that still buy physical media and they love Classic country classic rock etc. Also you see a lot of physical cd sales in the Texas/Red Dirt scene even by the younger fans, especially at live shows. Why because, they want to support their favorite artists and they know buying the CD from the merch table gives the artists the biggest chunk of revenue possible from the purchase of the album. Very hopeful sign.

       7 likes

  • I listened to my local country radio station for several hours the day that George Jones died and not once did they mention his passing or play one of his songs. It was really sad. That’s when I knew something more was going on then just country music “evolving”. These are conscious decisions to bury the past and erase the influence of legends.

       10 likes

    • George probably passed 2 or 3 days after the stations pre-recorded “current TOP HITS” play list was recorded.

         0 likes

  • I grew up on music we called real country, it don’t matter whose in Nashville George Jones is still the king!

       3 likes

  • The thing that’s cool about this is while a bunch of people could say, “I don’t like country music, but I like Johnny Cash.” You can’t really say that about George Jones. He IS the sound of country music.

       3 likes

    • Indeed he is. And the other nice thing? As much as Cash is a legend in his own right, it’s doubtful there’ll be a bunch of posers that jump on the George Jones bandwagon now that he’s gone, like they did with Cash. It’ll be the true fans that’ll continue listening to his music, not the 5-minute Johnny Come Lately Cash fans that liked the hits when the movie came out, then by now have forgotten all about their supposed “fandom”.

      For my money, The Possum is still the greatest, and all you need to do is listen to pretty much ANY song the guy sang. We won’t be seeing the likes of that again, sadly.

         2 likes

      • You are right Canuck. Many fans jumped on the Cash bandwagon after his death and the movie. Cash had an image and was a deep person with outspoken views on religion and politics. Jones never had an image and rarerly ever got into big spills on religion or politics. He just kept being George Jones and kept on being the greatest country music singer to walk this earth.

        I think George’s greatness is evident with the words of other country music legends:

        Cash : I was asked once who was my favorite country singer, and answered “Do you mean besides George Jones?”

        Waylon: “if we all sang like we wanted to, we’d all sound like George Jones.”

        Roy Acuff: “I’d give anything if I could sing like George Jones”

           2 likes

  • Would love to see Sony/Legacy release one of those mega box sets for George’s Epic Years (1972-91), like they did for Johnny Cash on Columbia. His catalog from this era is in pretty rough shape.

       0 likes

  • I’d also like to add its wonderful to see that idiotic Blake Shelton is now eating his ill thought out words. Jackass deserved it.

       1 likes

  • Heck I’d still rather listen to Grandpa Jones-the one from Hee Haw-than most of the current mindless drivel. Grandpa Jones’ funny songs at least had some wit and variety, and certainly weren’t offensive. And he and the gang understood the Gospel side of country, which seems to be a lost genre.

    And the current crop can’t touch one of the greatest truck/CB songs of all time-CW McCall’s “Convoy”. OK, it’s not exactly the same thing. But they knew how to tell a story then, and never once resorted to a cliche. People’s frames of reference, their worlds, have certainly shrunk in this age of global communication and mass media. How ironic.

    And I miss the Kendalls like nobody’s business.

       0 likes

  • Hank Sr wrote his songs for himself, from himself. Of course he wanted a hit-he wanted to be heard, he had something to say. That’s one of the differences. He lived what he wrote and had a story to tell.

       0 likes

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