This story has been updated (see below)
Once you thought the drama over Sony Records Nashville CEO Gary Overton’s quote about country radio was starting to wind down, it has now hit overdrive. Right before the major powers of country radio convened in Nashville last week for CRS, or the Country Radio Seminar, Gary Overton said to Nate Rau of The Tennessean, “If you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist.” Nearly a week later, and the fallout continues, with now Florida Georgia Line entering the fray.
Texas country artist Aaron Watson was the first to challenge Gary Overton’s quote after his new release The Underdog drew the #1 spot on the Billboard Country albums chart last week. He told Saving Country Music, ““My name is Aaron Watson. I’m not played on country radio. And I have the #1 record in country music this week. I do exist.” Aaron Watson then had a strange exchange with iHeartMedia DJ Bobby Bones surrounding the issue, with Bobby Bones saying Aaron Watson was “Disrespectful to women” after a misunderstanding with one of Bobby Bones’ female producers who was offended by being called “sweetheart.”
Then fellow Texas country artists Kevin Fowler, and most notably, Charlie Robison gave their two cents on the matter, with Robison saying in part on Saturday:
A few words for Gary Overton. I was signed by Warner bros, and Sony during the days I had the patience to smile while ignorant pencil pushing, mullet headed expense account rapists like you ran those labels. I’m on the road right now and just finished putting on a show for the folks in Shreveport. That’s a town u call a blip on ur screen…
I spent so many years in Nashville watching you ignorant wastes of space sit behind your big desk and act like me and all the the Texas/Red dirt artists don’t exist. Well Mr. “I have a job today but as soon as Florida/Georgia line goes out of style,and believe me dumbass they will, you will not exist”. Saying that music does not exist unless it’s on the radio is like saying you don’t exist because you never got laid until you got your two week job as the head of Walmart Records…
Have fun hovering above your tombstone and listening to people say “who the fuck is that?”as they make they’re way to Townes’s grave….
And then on Sunday night (3-1), Florida Georgia Line decided they wanted a piece of the action, publicly rebuking Charlie Robison on Twitter.
Lost a lot of respect for a great songwriter Charlie Robison today. The country music community has always been about respect and support. May we never live in bitterness towards the ever evolving genre that’s been so good to us.
Later Florida Georgia Line also said,
The truth is, one day we probably WILL go out of style and that’s the beautiful thing about music.
As per usual, Florida Georgia Line would have probably been better served by keeping their mouth shut. First off, bringing up the tired argument that country music needs to “evolve” was not even necessary here. Charlie Robison did not say anything about their music. His comments were expressly directed at Gary Overton, and mentioned them because they’re the biggest band in country right now. This also makes the “respect and support” lines from Florida Georgia Line banal and uninformed. Gary Overton was the one clearly disrespecting an entire class of country music performers by saying “they don’t exist,” and Charlie Robison was simply responding in kind. Florida Georgia Line brought a formulaic retort to the table they use for when people criticize their music, when it has absolutely no relevancy to the current topic.
Meanwhile, another Texas country artist Jack Ingram has weighed in, saying in part,
I heard that a Nashville executive made a comment during the Country Radio Seminar last week that “if it’s not played on country radio, it doesn’t exist”. When I look at the list of artists that I just came up with off of the top of my head from music that I listen to often, I just can’t help but laugh at the short sightedness of a comment like that. Some of those artists certainly do exist and will sell 20 million records/downloads/friends/etc. and other artists on that list MOST CERTAINLY EXIST and will not sell a single record/download/friend/etc… I have had points in my career where I have been played often on the radio. In fact, I believe one of my singles was one of the most played songs on the radio for an entire year! I have also had moments of my career where my songs were not played much at all over the airwaves. My music existed at every moment! You can believe that.
UPDATE 3-1-15 9:15 PM CST: Charlie Robison has responded to Florida Georgia Line with, “How do you lose respect for someone who doesn’t exist?”