On March 29th, Clear Channel Radio threw their inaugural iHeartRadio Country Festival in Austin with many of the genre’s biggest mainstream acts performing, including Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, and Luke Bryan. Apparently behind-the-scenes, the festival caused a big stir with artists, managers, and the Academy of Country Music, whose own big event, the 49th Annual ACM Awards, is set to transpire on Sunday, April 6th on CBS.
According to the New York Post, the iHeartRadio Country Festival was originally set to be taped live in Austin, and then air on television April 5th—the day before the ACM Awards. This plan did not sit well with many in Nashville.
“A lot of people in Nashville are upset,” a source told The Post. “The iHeartRadio Country Music Festival was going up against the Academy of Country Music Awards, so they pulled it.” Another source states, “Managers and artists in Nashville were very supportive of the [ACM] and were horrified [about the conflict]. They were aggressive in letting Clear Channel know that.”
The iHeartRadio Country Festival was eventually streamed on CMT.com the day of the festival, though in the initial press release for the festival, NBC was listed as a primary sponsor of the event. NBC is also the only one of the four major American television networks that does not host a major country music event, and it is where iHeartRadio is airing their upcoming music awards show on May 1st. ABC has the CMA Awards that happen every November, and recently Fox began broadcasting the ACA Awards. CBS not only broadcasts the Academy of Country Music Awards, but has very intimate ties to the ACM.
A spokeswoman for Clear Channel said to The Post, “When we realized how crowded the country music calendar was this spring, we decided to give some space between the dates because, at the end of the day, we wanted to do what’s best for the artists.”
The issue shines a spotlight on just how crowded the country music landscape is becoming as nearly every major media outlet in America looks to cash in on the rising popularity of popular country music. This invariably will create even more conflict in the midst of a country media arms race.