Didn’t put forth the effort to watch “CMA Fest: Country’s Night to Rock” Tuesday night (8-4), with performances from Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, Brett Eldridge, and hosted by Little Big Town? Well apparently you’re not alone.
The condensed rebroadcast of performances from early June’s CMA Fan Fest’s LP Field stage in Nashville took a ratings nosedive in 2015, shedding a whopping 37% in viewership year over year, and getting killed in a key demographic.
The broadcast on ABC scored a 3.3 overnight household rating, down considerably from 2014’s rating of 4.3—a 37% plummet. With the key demographic of 18 to 49-year-olds, the viewership declined from 7.27 million viewers (1.9 rating) last year, to 5.19 million viewers (1.2 rating) in 2015 in the 8:00 to 11:00 EDT time slot—a 29% decline. In other words, it was a ratings bloodbath.
“CMA Fest: Country’s Night to Rock” got handedly beat by NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” on the night. The talent show pulled a 2.1 ratings share for 18 to 49-year-olds, and received an estimated 9.9 million viewers in its time slot.
The poor numbers for the CMA Fest broadcast reinforce that regardless of how much we hear about how big country music has become by shedding roots and substance for widespread appeal, the numbers are not adding up. In 2014, the country genre saw a precipitous sales drop of 16.7% compared to the all-genre sales slip of 11.2% according to Nielsen Soundscan. The sales drop across music was mostly due to the move to streaming music by consumers, but country’s drop outpaced the rest of the industry by a serious margin.
Country music also didn’t see one single album sell more than 1 million copies last year, though both Eric Church and Jason Aldean have eeked out platinum status for their recent releases in the last month—well behind schedule from two of country music’s male superstars. Meanwhile names like Jason Isbell, Alan Jackson, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Aaron Watson are scoring #1’s on country’s album charts, but are being ignored in mainstream presentations. Ratings on country radio have also been in serious decline so far in 2015.
Though Bro-Country and acts like Sam Hunt, Florida Georgia Line, and Luke Bryan did very well for country ratings in the short-term, we’re beginning to see an erosion of ratings spanning across multiple measurables and media sources—possibly a symptom of years of mainstream country music alienating the genre’s long-term fan base by virtually ignoring female artists, and not being inclusive with either older artists or country artists of substance. All of these adverse trends were clearly evident during Tuesday night’s CMA Fest presentation on ABC, and the numbers reinforce the signs of a deepening disconnect with consumers.