Things are going from bad to worse in country music radio rankings, and now were starting see the lengths country radio is willing to go to in an attempt to rekindle the magic. Just six short months ago it looked like popular country music was poised to take over the music world and take down pop as the most dominant genre. Now the ratings for country radio’s key demographic continues its precipitous slide.
You know, I didn’t want to broach this subject, because even arguing whether there’s a problem with country radio is such a reduction to the systemic and and bigoted way the institution is run, and it’s better to focus on solutions to these problems, like splitting the country format so conflicts like the ones I’m about to explain are less likely to happen.
Where is talk of the format split on the agenda at CRS? You would think it would be dominating the proceedings. I mean, we’re talking about what would be the largest overhaul of country radio in its existence. But is it even being discussed, or are people more focused on the big Garth Brooks party as he tries to retool after his retirement and make up for now two failed radio singles.
While nobody was paying attention, the Dickey Brothers of Cumulus Media added yet another tentacle to their increasingly tentacle-rich country music venture known as NASH. NASH TV boasts videos and programs from some of NASH radio’s biggest shows. Then you can get extremely niche-like with shows such as “Picks From The Sticks” and “HickXtreme.” Cue the incidental comedy.
NASH Icon is ramping up for a big 2015, making some significant moves on Monday (1-12) to start the year where 2014 ended: stirring conversation about where country music is headed and potentially stimulating a format split that would see more older country music return to the airwaves en masse. The long rumored signing of Ronnie Dunn to the label has been officially announced.
Scott Borchetta’s gamble has paid off, and “Girl In A Country Song” is now #1 on country radio according to Mediabase. The distinction shatters a slew of dubious distinctions for the country format, and helps to slay the absolute dearth of female representation on country radio. It means that country radio has its very first female-led act to hit number one on country radio in over 2 years.
The Americana Music Association has just unveiled their list for the most played albums in 2014, and there’s quite a few surprises, and quite a few names traditionally considered country filling out the ranks. Though 2014 still has another month to go, the end of November traditionally marks the end of the radio calendar in music, allowing us to look back and see who had the greatest impact on the format.
Americana, Americana Music Association, Billy Joe Shaver, Dolly Parton, Jim Lauderdale, Johnny Cash, Lake Street Dive, Marty Stuart, NIckel Creek, Nikki Lane, Ray Benson, Rosanne Cash, Shovels & Rope, Sturgill Simpson
NASH Icon once again is #1 in Nashville. But how is NASH Icon faring outside of Nashville? Sure, Music City is an important battleground as the ‘Home of Country Music’ and the home market for iHeartMedia’s rival flagship country station. But for the country format to formally split, it’s going to take much more action across the country in major markets.
Cumulus Media’s NASH Icon radio concept mixing older country music in with more contemporary songs continues to gain steam, while yet another radio format called NASH Classics is on its way, and some big signings to the label side of NASH Icon appear to be imminent. John Dickey gave the first indication that the media giant could be giving classic country music a bigger home on the radio.
The pieces are beginning to fall together after a troubling incident Friday morning (10-24) where thousands of subscribers to AT&T’s U-Verse television service had their TV’s locked down by the national “EAS” emergency system. The system was triggered by a tone that emanated from radio station 97.9 WSIX in Nashville during The Bobby Bones Show.
Confusion and even panic gripped numerous television viewers in Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Michigan this morning (10-24) when they received an “Emergency Action Notification” from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA, warning viewers to wait for further information from The White House on an active emergency. And apparently The Bobby Bones Show was behind the mishap.
The signs continue to point towards the country music radio format officially splitting in two, with Top 40 country, and “Icon” country covering music from as far back as the 80’s vying for equal share of the country music listenership. Now another local radio station has switched to the new country format, and the verbiage accompanying the format change shows just how much sway NASH Icon is having.
“Tim Pop” Herveyï»¿ was a tower of a man who was the perfect example of selflessly taking of ones own time to take up the charge of serving worthy music to the public that would otherwise go unheard and under-appreciated. He never did it to be cool in a scene. Whenever he heard something that he believed was magical, his very first desire was to share it, so everyone else could take part in that magic too.
Hold the presses. This whole Nash Icon / country music format split business just got a hell of a lot more serious and interesting. On Monday (10-6), the ratings for radio stations were released for Nashville and other locations, and within those numbers was a bombshell for the country music radio world. In Nashville, the NASH Icon affiliate beat the biggest pop country station.
“What will NASH Icon be, and will it make a significant improvement to country radio?” This has been the question on the mind of many country music fans ever since NASH Icon was announced. Now that there are actually radio stations broadcasting the new NASH Icon format, we can listen in and hear just exactly what NASH Icon is.
Alabama, Alan Jackson, Big Machine Records, Chase Rice, Cole Swindell, Cumulus Media, Diamond Rio, Dierks Bentley, Doug Stone, Dwight Yoakam, Florida Georgia Line, Garth Brooks, John Dickey, Kacey Musgraves, Lee Ann Womack, Mark Chesnutt, Merle Haggard, NASH, NASH Icon, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Old Crow Medicine Show, playlist, Ricochet, Sturgill Simpson, Tracy Byrd, Vince Gill
Ever since the partnership between radio owner Cumulus Media and the Big Machine Label Group called NASH Icon was proposed, the big question has been if it will it result in the country music radio format splitting in two. It is time for country to fragment,” John Dickey said plainly on the conference call, while offering more detailed insight than ever into exactly what NASH Icon will look like.
Big Machine Records, Blake Shelton, Clear Channel, Cumulus Media, Florida Georgia Line, Garth Brooks, George Strait, John Dickey, Luke Bryan, Merle Haggard, NASH, NASH Icon, Randy Travis, Willie Nelson
Cumulus Media officially launched their “NASH Icon” brand to radio on Friday (8-15), changing two Georgia radio stations over to the new format that favors country music released from a 25-year “classic” period. Atlanta’s Oldies 98.9 W255CJ has changed over to NASH Icon 98.9, and Sports Radio 102.1 in Savannah will now be known as NASH Icon 102.1.
One of the big stories involving the back end of country music in 2014 has been the potential formation of a brand new radio format to give a home to the older artists quickly being shuffled off of mainstream radio in the movement towards youth. The big question that remains is how the new format for older country music could take shape.
If you’ve ever wondered, “How can people listen to that crap?”, and certainly that phrase has entered most music listener’s minds at some point, it’s because different music listeners inherently want different things from the music experience, and certain songs and artists appeal to those different types of listeners. Now Nielsen has opened up a new field in how music listeners can be measured.
One of the fundamental issues causing the rapid decline in country music has been the massive consolidation in the ownership of country music’s radio stations and other media outlets. As huge companies like Clear Channel & Cumulus lay off local workers to instill nationalized programming, country music becomes homogenized through matching playlists that lock out local and regional flavor.
When the news broke last week that there would be yet another new country music awards show squeezing its way into the already-crowded TV event space, it stimulated a collective rolling of the eyes from many over-saturated music fans and industry types. Really, how many of these things do we need? Buried in the details however was the insight that the Awards wasn’t just the latest ploy….
If Cumulus Media and its CEO Lew Dickey have their way, in the coming years that big ‘N’ will be one of the most recognized brands in North America, especially if you’re a country music fan. The plans that Lew Dickey has for that big brown ‘N’ are ambitious to say the least, and look to permeate just about every segment of the consumer culture of the United States.
Alan Jackson, Big Machine Records, Bobby Bones, Clear Channel, Cumulus, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Jerry Del Colliano, Lew Dickey, NASH, Nash Icons, Rush Limbaugh, Scott Borchetta, Sean Hannity, Shania Twain
As hypothesized when GARTH-FM first hit the air, the radio station has arguably become the first to adopt a new “classic” country format. “The country listener that became a fan in the 1990’s when country really exploded can’t find those songs on the radio in Louisville right now,” says Operations Manager Shane Collins. “It’s a whole segment of the audience that’s being underserved.
The country music radio format that has resisted splintering for years could finally be cleaving into two distinct entities of “classic” and “Top 40” country, initiated at least in part over the Memorial Day weekend when a radio station based out of Louisville, KY became the first to adopt a new “classic” country format centered around a 25-year measuring stick.