Changing the Name of Nashville’s Marathon from “Country” to “Rock ‘n’ Roll” is Stupid


Look, I don’t want to make too much of this, because in the end, what’s in a name? I didn’t really get too exercised over it (har har) until I saw award-winning songwriter (and #55 on Saving Country Music’s Greatest Country Songwriters of All Time) Don Schlitz tweet out about it, “Hey Mark Buffalino: you’re an idiot. And that’s my nice tweet.” But this has got to be the most dumb and over-thought decision I’ve seen in a damn long time.

So there’s this thing that’s been happening in Nashville for sixteen years now called the “Country Music Marathon” where upwards of 30,000 participants run, walk, wheelchair, or otherwise participate in a marathon and half marathon through the streets of Nashville while 28 stages along the route entertain folks. Pretty cool concept, que no? But this year out of the wild-assed blue yonder, they’ve decided to rename it the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon.” So you know, instead of folks thinking about Dolly Parton and Kenny Chesney when they hear the marathon’s name, now they think of Winger and Imagine Dragons.

Cue the dumb comments from Josh Furlow, the president of the Competitor Group, Inc trying to explain this stupid decision.

“The evolution of (Nashville) . . . .”

Woo woo woo woo woo woo woo woo, hold on a second. As soon as you hear someone start talking about the “evolution” of Nashville, you know it’s time to stop down, roll up your pant legs and shelter the women and kids, because the steer manure is about to get shoveled your way in bountiful quantities. Evolution my ass, but let’s continue forward …

“The evolution of (Nashville) has followed the same evolution as our brand {grumble grumble}. That has been to focus on a key brand, but at the same time cast the net wider from the music genres, from the consumer’s appetite and overall kind of link it directly with the brand that’s already successful in the markets that we do worldwide.”

See now, this is what’s wrong with corporate America in a nutshell. This pointy-headed bean counter is using terms like “key brand” and “market” and “consumer.” Listen bub, this thing’s been going on in Nashville for sixteen years, and it’s not a “brand,” it’s a cultural institution. Nashville isn’t a “market,” it’s a city. And its population isn’t just “consumers,” they are people. And per capita, those people are country music fans more than anywhere else, and that’s why you called it a “country” music marathon to begin with, to give the event some regional flavor.

The problem is that Nashville’s marathon is owned and operated by a for-profit company that also owns marathons in 30 other cities. It sort of boggles my mind of how a company can “own” a marathon, especially one that’s also branded with the St. Jude’s seal, almost implying to people this is a not-for-profit venture, but I guess it’s good work if you can get it.

Competitor Group’s Josh Furlow goes on to say Nashville is “a mixture, still heavily focused on the country music business. But at the same time, there’s still a lot of other music that originates out of Nashville.”

This is true. The Home of Country Music has very much become one of the principal epicenters for all of music in the last few years, and hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. Rock music is just fine, just like all genres are. What I take issue with is the fact that Nashville has become a mecca recently for folks looking to make it in music, and once they arrive, they quickly realize all the money is in country, and instead of learning the trade they simple call whatever music they’re making “country” and nobody gives it a second guess. That’s how the Ross Cooperman’s and Sam Hunt’s of the world are ruining country music, but that’s another tangent.

The point is there’s nothing wrong with regional flavor. Did these morons in a committee room in San Diego really think changing the name of this thing to “rock ‘n’ roll” would make it appeal to more people? If you want to have rock bands play on some of the stages too, then hell yeah I say. And then maybe call it simply the “music” marathon. But somebody didn’t get the memo that the rock format died a decade ago, and that’s the entire reason “country” now encompasses pretty much all of American music as a cultural catch-all phrase. “Rock ‘n’ roll” is the term that is quickly getting phased out.

Anyway, it’s stupid, but it will probably take a committee to change it. So whatever.

Happy running.

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