On New York City Losing Its Only Country Radio Station
I know what you’re going to say. “NeW yOrK CiTY!” like that guy in the old Pace Picante Sauce commercial. Or if you pride yourself in having any sort of semblance of taste, maybe you’re wondering why anyone in 2021 would still be listening to mainstream country radio, no matter what city or town they live in.
But the loss of New York City’s only country radio station is a pretty massive development, if only from a symbolic standpoint. And losing it to a hip-hop station—and a classic hip-hop station no less—is pretty significant too.
During Cumulus Media’s big push to rebrand the United States’ 2nd largest radio station portfolio into a country music-focused direction, they launched WNSH “94.7 Nash FM” in New York in January 2013. It also became the flagship country station for the company, with a morning show that featured Blair Garner, Chick Wicks, and Terri Clark. Sunny Sweeney also hosted briefly. “America’s Morning Show” was set up to be the alternative to “The Bobby Bones Show.”
But when the ludicrous plan by The Dickey Brothers of Cumulus to launch a whole “NASH” branded “lifestyle brand” to include restaurants, frozen foods, even furniture and paint fell through, “94.7 Nash FM” began to falter. Cumulus and The Dickey Brothers also had the only real plan ever launched to split the country radio format in two, with “NASH Icon” appealing to older and more contemporary classic country, including with an ill-fated record label as a partnership with Big Machine Records that once had Reba McEntire, Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn, and Hank Williams Jr. signed to it.
Eventually though, the Dickey Brothers were let go, their grand “NASH” scheme was shelved, and WNSH was purchased by then Entercom (now called Audacy) from Cumulus in March 2019. The new owners then changed the station over to “New York’s Country 94.7,” which it remained until Friday, October 22nd at 1:00 p.m. local time when the station switched to a classic hip-hop format. Now for the first time in nearly a decade, the biggest radio and media market in the United States is without a country radio station.
Looking back at the ratings of WNSH, they actually weren’t terrible, not just for New York, but in country music. On a given month, they would pull about a 1.3 to 2.5 rating according to Nielsen Audio, which put them at the back end of the Top 20 in the market. In September, they were the 21st ranked radio station in the New York region.
But with the size of the market, their audience was massive. WNSH was country music’s top rated radio station according to Nielsen when it came to “cume,” which is the estimated number of different people who listen to a station during a given part of the day. Per week, some 903,300 people would tune into 94.7. That is better than any other country station in the United States, or the world. In other words, country music just lost it’s biggest radio station to a classic hip-hop format.
Ultimately, this is less about listenership, and more about real estate. In the largest media market in the country, if a radio station isn’t performing at the top of the game, they have to try something new. Of course the natural question many will have is, “How many country music listeners does New York City really have?” Well, according to the numbers, it had nearly a million, which is quite a bit.
New York’s country fans will get by though. These days, listeners have a myriad of options when it comes to what and how to listen to music. They can pull up streaming playlists on Spotify. They can listen on a phone or computer to virtually any radio station from around the country. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that at some point a country station will crop up again. Before 94.7 Nash FM was launched in 2013, New York didn’t have a country station either.
The more interesting point is what this says about mainstream country music in general. First, country radio is continuing to fail to hold enough of an audience to remain viable in the long term. The loss of 94.7 should be a big wake up call, while it also means 900,000 less people will be listening to commercial country radio each week. Aside from Texas, and some small independent stations throughout rural regions, mainstream country radio pretty much sounds exactly the same no matter where you go. If country music in New York was ever to succeed, it would probably need to be a bit more catered to that particular market.
Along those same lines, the fact that country music just lost its biggest station to a classic hip-hop format should tell you just how far behind the times country music is. The Dickey Brothers of Cumulus Media in 2013 were onto something with the idea of splitting the country format into classic and contemporary. It was just their implementation that was all wrong. Classic rock was one of radio’s most successful formats for decades, and with the currently interest in 80’s and 90’s country from many listeners not connecting with the country music of today, the way the population is aging and older listeners are the ones more likely to listen to radio, the consumer appetite is there.
If there is a classic hip-hop format that is more viable in a market with ample hip-hop competition compared to a format that’s playing today’s mainstream country music with no competition, that speaks to just how far mainstream country has slipped, even in a market like New York City.
It also speaks to just how much country music has slipped in cultural relevance. American culture is hip-hop culture. Country music represents a tiny sliver of the mostly rural and Southern United States. And even when considering some of the top songs and artists in the country format, they’re mostly hip-hop as well, or at least hip-hop influenced. The biggest song in “country” music at the moment is “Fancy Like” by Walker Hays, which is a hip-hop song. However, when listeners hear the song, it’s so weak, it will never compete with actual, competent hip-hop, so consumers will switch over to the hip-hop station for the real thing.
In fact, country music loves to promote hip-hop in hopes it can cleave off some of its cultural relevance, when it truth the exact opposite is what is happening—hip-hop is cleaving off cultural relevance from country. CMT has been promoting the rapper Nelly (despite 3 credible accusations of sexual assault) more than many actual country artists lately. The longest-running #1 country song in history is held by a New York-based hip-hop infused pop artist in Bebe Rexha with Florida Georgia Line, who collaborate with Nelly regularly. Meanwhile, you don’t see hip-hop artists and stations taking time to promote country artists.
Right now there’s a lot of talk by the the intellectual class and media about the lack of inclusion in country music. But not only is mainstream country music more inclusive than ever with artists such as Kane Brown, Blanco Brown, Breland, Mickey Guyton, and scores others, these folks calling for more inclusion—and saying country should invite hip-hop artists into the format to fulfill that objective—aren’t looking at the bigger picture.
Country music could probably benefit from better integration, and should be inviting to everyone. But when talking about representation in popular music overall, it is overwhelmingly dominated by black and Latin performers, with the country format being one of the final places some white performers not named Adele or Taylor Swift can be heard, while the format continues to lose market share by the day—the loss of WNSH in New York underscores this.
Look, you can say it’s only one radio station in one radio market that’s not exactly known for country music (get a rope). But 94.7 WNSH happened to be country music’s most listened to station in the biggest radio market in the United States. What the long term implications could be might be hard to determine in the here and now. But without question, they are big.
October 24, 2021 @ 11:00 am
WNSH’s audacy counterpart in chicago, us99, gets similarly big numbers, and is basically crap, but when they aren’t overly promoting overly large blake shelton arena shows, or playing the latest walker hayes poop, they do give listeners a chance to see, say, margo price or payton smith up close and free.
And by contrast, it’s probably going nowhere because audacy already has separate top 40 and hip hop stations in the market.
October 24, 2021 @ 11:34 am
Payton Smith! There’s a name that I haven’t seen on SCM yet.
October 27, 2021 @ 3:47 pm
I was disappointed to find they took it off the air. I enjoyed Kelly Ford in the morning. I wish they’d bring it back. There’s nothing else that’s decent.is there another way to get them
October 24, 2021 @ 10:22 pm
Uh. Wouldn’t a country station usually promote a country artist show in their city?
Especially after no concerts for a year and a half. How dare they. I’d rather hear anyone else then Margo Price.
October 25, 2021 @ 12:24 pm
We’re “blessed” with another Audacity “country” station in Detroit, 99.5 WYCD. With their music selection and their crappy jingles, they’re basically a Top 40 station with a little (but not much) twang. The alternative is a Cumulus ex-Nash FM station which is a ratings bottom-feeder.
Fortunately I live where I can pick up one of Midwest Communications’ “Duke FM” stations from the Lansing/Jackson area.
Linda J Dixon
October 26, 2021 @ 2:10 am
I am literally sick over this change! I am 58 years old and always listened to Classic Rock, Mellow 70’s, etc. for 50 years! But needed to stop listening to the same old songs forever. I remember when I first heard Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” and my world changed! I live in New York City and this was the ONLY country station and became a fan of so many country artists! I just bought a home in Florida and they have several country stations which I love! Why do New Yorker’s need another HORRIBLE RAP Station! This is just another reason why I want to move south for good! Too bad I am my 85 yr old Mom’s caretaker and can’t leave! THIS SUCKS!!!!!
October 28, 2021 @ 3:43 pm
Audacy SUCKS…. they keep changing the standard formats…idiots
October 24, 2021 @ 11:26 am
No need when you have Outlaw Country on SiriusXM.
January 31, 2022 @ 7:52 am
I love outlaw country. Sometimes they play songs I got to pull over to write down artist name.
October 24, 2021 @ 11:30 am
The dwindling relevance you describe is a terrifying development, considering country is the last bastion of misogyny, all sorts of phobias, and glorification of violence. How will the performative country activist journalists fund themselves when theres no more genres to resist?
October 26, 2021 @ 2:12 am
Jake Cutter, are you for real????
October 26, 2021 @ 10:42 pm
I’m for real journalists.
Linda J Dixon
October 28, 2021 @ 5:14 pm
Jake Cutter. In my opinion, you have bad taste in music. RAP music replaced the country station. How can you possibly say that RAP is music?
October 29, 2021 @ 8:23 am
I allegedly have bad taste in music that isn’t music because of an obviously sarcastic comment. Amazing.
October 29, 2021 @ 5:57 am
excellent grammar, i see.
October 24, 2021 @ 12:45 pm
Per week, some 903,300 people would tune into 94.7. That is better than any other country station in the United States, or the world.
Makes me think of the slogan of the old WHN 1050-AM in NYC. “The most listened to country station in the nation.” They got decent decent ratings too, but the listenership tended to be older and so not as attractive to advertisers. My Dad would listen to it in the car sometimes and I would sometimes if I was driving one of the family cars, which would only have an AM radio. Typically, I would be hoping for something approximating country/southern rock.
October 24, 2021 @ 1:41 pm
At this point, mainstream country radio programming is a niche market. But what makes that market so valuable is it’s attractiveness to advertisers. If you listen to mainstream country, you likely fall into the “work hard, play hard” demographic that are reliable consumers of corporate beer and domestic made full size pickup trucks. In New York City, those demographics aren’t as reliable, as so it makes it a difficult buy for advertisers.
October 24, 2021 @ 3:26 pm
The article said that New York City had no country station before “The Nash”, but you—quite correctly—point out the old WHN station, which played that style of music from 1973 to 1987.
October 24, 2021 @ 3:58 pm
When “NASH FM” was launched in January of 2013, there was no other active country radio station in New York. Did not mean to imply there was never any other country radio stations in New York, period.
October 24, 2021 @ 7:25 pm
There’s at least 5 or 6 hip hop/ rap stations in the area, we really don’t need any more of them…,
October 25, 2021 @ 8:32 am
And from 1996 to 2002 there was Y107 which was branded New Country. Unfortunately it was just an amalgamation of signals that surrounded the city. You could get it decently in the Bronx, a bit in Staten Island but not in Manhattan.
October 25, 2021 @ 12:29 pm
This year is also the 25th anniversary of the last time New York lost a full-market country station, when 103.5 WYNY (the successor to WHN in a roundabout way) flipped to, interestingly enough, a Dance/Disco music station as WKTU (reviving the call letters and format of NYC’s legendary Disco station from the late ’70s). History repeats itself…
By the way, WMAQ (today’s WSCR) in Chicago would probably have taken issue with WHN’s claim to be the most-listened to country station in the nation, especially being on a 50,000-watt clear channel. Remember “WMAQ is gonna make me rich”?
October 24, 2021 @ 1:10 pm
THIS IS TERRIBLE!!! I LOVED THE COUNTRY MUSIC STATION. EVEN THE YOUNGER COLLEGE KIDS WERE LISTENING & LOVING THE MUSIC!!! YOU GET SICK OF THE SAME MUSIC WITH COUNTRY IT BRINGS A WHOLE NEW MEANING & WITH EVERYTHING GOING ON IN THE WORLD IT WAS BEAUTIFUL TO LISTEN TOO!!! PLEASE PUT IT BACK ON!!! EASY LISTENING TO COUNTRY..INSTEAD OF ALL THE HYPER STATIONS‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️🙏
October 24, 2021 @ 1:16 pm
Well this is depressing. Not that I listened to the station of live in New York. But in the Bay Area we had a country station in the 90s. That went away their was a brief replacement but I recall that went away because it was not “the image the Bay Area wanted to promote”. Which is dumb as rocks because 10 miles outside the major cities is pretty DAMN country even with gentrification. Maybe classic rock is more prevalent overall with all these ex-hippies but there is a STRONG country/bluegrass contingent. I mean SF has the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, which while many headliner lean away from that overall it is a bastion of the real deal.
It is STILL an uphill battle with many friend on the prejudices about what the THINK country music is. Even after playing them great stuff on my stream. The talk by rock fans around about the lack of women in country laughable and exhausting when classic rock/rock radio has been playing ONE token woman rocker the past 40 years (Heart).
Radio will do whatever they think their doing that they think people want. It is frustrating but honestly, most of my friends are listening to the streams of their DJ friends on Twitch or Mixcloud. Yeah it dilutes the audience pull but it supports friends and my crew all LOATHE corporate and how lazy and phoning it has become because they can’t keep making the same millions they made in the CD boon etc.
I think things will have to turn to local communities and will have build those bases string because national pull seem to be dying. Even our local classic rock radio station The Bone (which pulls such huge number we have Atlanta asking us for advice could be axed because the $$$ are not high enough).
(Sigh) At the end of it all I just hope people keep making quality country music (or quality music in general) despite whatever Wizard of Oz show the mainstream is shilling on tik-tok or some dead award show.
October 24, 2021 @ 1:43 pm
I think the future of radio is live and locally owned. People are done with big syndicated radio shows and playlists curated from on high. They want to feel like they know who is speaking to them. That’s why people like Twitch and Mixcloud.
October 24, 2021 @ 3:41 pm
Seeing a lot of this all over. Our little city in Appalachia has 4 or 5 locally owned stations now. If we can do it then anyone can.
October 25, 2021 @ 6:56 am
The other thing having live and locally owned radio stations is the hope that local talent can be spotlighted on those stations, along with the long-standing classics, instead of just having the same mechanical current “hot” Nashville playlist parlayed 24/7. I know you can’t leave Music City out entirely; but some kind of balance needs to be struck for the country genre to remain relevant in this day and age (IMHO).
October 25, 2021 @ 7:56 am
October 25, 2021 @ 10:52 am
I completely agree with this. And in a wierd twist this USED TO BE back in the 50s and early 60s when DJs were local celebrities. Even in the 90s we had KFOG and the DJs were in a way like family/friends. They knew the area and the local sport and could speak to the local weather. The one snafu I see though is having to annual annual fees to cover the DACA or whatever it is. This is not cheap.
And I agree about local talent the SoundwavesTV people I work with are basically doing just that a show focusing on local musicians. And I think across the country we will likely see the rise on strong thriving local music scenes with their own takes. Kinda like eat coast punk vs west coast punk or southern rap and east coast rap. Or like all the blues genres that start out as local flavors. Just take a trip on bandcamp in any major or semi-major city and you will find AMAZING stuff. Again the tricky part is money because some local scenes have more expendable money than others to support those scene.
Bob From NY
October 25, 2021 @ 5:34 pm
96.1 on Long Island is a country station, while it doesn’t reach the NYC audience, Lower NY still has some exposure to Country Music. Believe it or not the majority of Long Island consists of conservative working class citizens (Except for the Hamptons and a few North shore towns) who find country music very appealing and have for many years. But the jokes on 9.47 cause I’m a Sturgill fan who never listened to country radio anyway.
P.S. Upstate NY is country to the bone (yeah that’s right NY has Rednecks) them good old boys just want some recognition
October 24, 2021 @ 1:22 pm
In terms of losing relevance, I think current radio-play country music is its own worst enemy. Today’s country music is less genre and more instruction manual. “Here is what it means to be country, let us list the ways one-by-one.”
In trying to explain what country is, these songs just end up being a caricature of country.
I grew up on a farm and I can’t help but cringe as these songs go through their list of cliches.
Growing up, we sat on the tailgate because it was often a convenient place to sit. That’s all. No cultural statement being made.
Perhaps there is some way to wax poetic about a tailgate, in which it transcends location and culture, but you won’t find it in any current country song. There is no insight being offered other than “country folk good, city folk bad.”
But, quick, pack up the truck because the supermodels (and there are lots) in my hometown of 500 people are wearing short shorts and bikini tops to go bow-fishing for carp. Just follow the long winding dirt road and look for where the lifted 3/4 ton diesels with hella $$$ in engine mods are parked.
October 25, 2021 @ 3:49 am
You got it.
October 28, 2021 @ 8:44 am
Agreed! Former local radio DJ, top 40. Occasional country (Nash) listener. Issue is…’country’ music seemed to become a basic format. They started to all sound the same and lame. I love this bar…Beer never broke my heart. Funny to some of us. Relaxing to listen to. Country radios demise means more listenership for Light FM. Perhaps in some way…radio is going back to its roots. Local news, local stories, local ads, Local events/interests/interviews with easy to listen to music in the background.
October 24, 2021 @ 5:52 pm
I was listening to country music in the morning and then got done working Now it change to rap shit it suck I used listening to 92.5 fm xtu phila please bring my country music nyc that we love!,,
October 25, 2021 @ 5:10 pm
I remember when WXTU used to be a pretty good station as recent as the early 00’s. What I always loved about them was that they always played a bigger variety of 80’s and 90’s recurrents along with the then latest stuff. It’s a shame to hear they’re pretty much like every other “country” station now.
October 24, 2021 @ 6:10 pm
I haven’t listened to terrestrial radio in at least five years — probably longer. And I’m over 50.
October 24, 2021 @ 7:14 pm
Im comin up thar an closin’ my cowboy boot store! Now look at them boots
October 24, 2021 @ 10:30 pm
We finally have a real country music station in Sacramento California! Mostly older stuff from Waylon, Willie, Cash and Merle. They play a tiny tiny bit of new stuff like Luke Combs or Justin Moore but no fancy song or anything like that you have to worry about. They even played The dollar by Jamey Johnson recently. 103.5 is the station.
October 25, 2021 @ 8:32 am
I just returned from a dream trip to Nashville only to find out that my favorite radio station is no more!!!! Really!!! That’s awful. NYC has plenty of loyal country fans, but just another indication of how we don’t count!
I’m sad! Truly sad. What will I listen to in my car? Have to subscribe to Sirius Radio I guess
October 25, 2021 @ 12:49 pm
Just another reason to get out of New York. Cannot stand the crap that is played on most of the stations. What bonehead thought that the million listeners do not count ?? Very short-sited. Advertising executive take note. Less people to hear from you!
October 25, 2021 @ 1:40 pm
Should have left the British keep NYC.
We lost a battle trying to protect the place, the British left 17,000 American prisoners of war die on their ships in the harbor, and it is about as anti-Jefferson’s vision as an American city can get.
I have been there five times. It is not as great as people are led to believe.
October 25, 2021 @ 2:57 pm
Classic country stations do exist… we have one in my neck of the woods and that’s the only terrestrial country station I dare to listen to. Plenty of pop country stations. I’d gladly trade one of them to NYC so we’d have one less station playing Walker Hayes, Dan + Shay and Niko Moon.
There’s a Nash Icon station in a neighboring county but I can’t get it because its signal gets blocked locally by a Christian music translator. Anyway, Nash Icon plays too much contemporary stuff for my taste. It’s not worth having to sit through the latest adult contemporary wallpaper by Brett Young or Gabby Barrett to hear the good stuff. (Thank God they don’t play “Fancy Like” though.)
October 25, 2021 @ 5:35 pm
I remember when Ny City had two …WHN and WKHK…
October 25, 2021 @ 7:21 pm
And WKHK became Lite FM, which it remains to this day. It had been WRVR, a jazz station, and the jazz fans cried loud when 106.7 went country. Well, at least the jazz fans still have an option in Newark’s WBGO.
October 25, 2021 @ 7:25 pm
And going farther back there was WJRZ 970 AM out of Newark and later Hackensack, which played Country from 1965 to 1971 (when it flipped to Top 40 as WWDJ). If I’m not mistaken that was the first full-time country station in the Big Apple area.
October 25, 2021 @ 7:38 pm
Black should be capitalized. Always. You white people refuse to treat us with dignity. Shame on y’all!
October 26, 2021 @ 7:19 pm
Well, then, shouldn’t that be White people?
October 25, 2021 @ 9:02 pm
My theory is the “Rock Era” died somewhere around 2009 (except for mainstream country music, which is basically dollar store southern rock these days, in addition to the outright pop/hip-hop songs like “Fancy Like”). Around 2009 was when rock songs basically stopped appearing in the Billboard Hot 100. The “hip hop era” has been around since the 80s, but it firmly replaced rock around 2009.
October 25, 2021 @ 9:19 pm
Correction, I mean around 2009 was was when rock songs basically stopped appearing in the TOP 10 of the Billboard Hot 100.
October 25, 2021 @ 10:09 pm
Also, I’m defining “rock songs” as having REAL drums and guitar and usually bass. I don’t really consider acts like Imagine Dragons or Twenty One Pilots to be rock.
October 28, 2021 @ 6:53 pm
We like to keep it down home up here…
October 29, 2021 @ 5:39 am
who wrote this uninformed article? Country music is huge all over the country. hate to surprise you, because it even surprised me, but remember with Garth Brooks came to NYC? everyone thought like you. but his concerts sold out in minutes, just like every country artist today that comes to NYC. only thing to agree with is how mind boggling that Blake Sheldon has a career. and FYI, the only people listening to terrestrial radio are older folks.
November 7, 2021 @ 12:06 pm
I was in the park when Garth was here. That was over 2 DECADES ago. No surprises here,…other than the station lasted so long….Country has been a hard sell here because of it’s niche status in NYC (It has bumped around on AM anf FM with no consistency over the years) This market is a money and prestige market and the monopolies of media companies here want visibility and profit. Country music and New York are a whole lot different. And as far as “hip hop”, that is an influencing… no make that overwhelming and dominating force in everything now, from mainstream pop music to commercials for consumer goods and fast food. Even country has sold out to it. At least back when Garth was here, country was a saleable and appealing product. Today it is not, but like everything else at miserable extremes, it is either miserable pop junk or Americana snobs who know it all. Country had one of its rare moments during it’s revival from 1989 to 2002 and that ship has sailed….and sunk.
November 7, 2021 @ 9:24 am
Bring back country music to NY / Long Island.
Country Music Fans Lives Matter.
November 7, 2021 @ 1:04 pm
Even NASCAR comes to NYC for banquets. That doesn’t make it popular in NY. And as far as your hypocritical, elitist and “ageist” remark about only “older folks” listening to terrestrial radio, then why are media companies falling all over themselves in competition? Though streaming is huge, not everyone can sit and childishly 😒futz with their iPhone and stream, TikTok and tweet all day. Some people listen in traffic, on their jobs, doing their laundry etc.. or just don’t have the luxury of access or funds for broadband on every corner, do they now….so much for that now.
November 7, 2021 @ 1:16 pm
I’ve been fighting ageism in country music for a dozen years. It was simply a comment on the demographics of radio listeners, which ANY study on radio listeners will verify trend older.
November 7, 2021 @ 10:24 pm
My comments were directed to “Christine Brady” as far as the ageism and terrestrial radio. Agree with you “radio” trends older though – but still substantial enough for media companies not to acquiesce yet. Ageism in music, let alone country is par for the course. As far as NYC (proper) and country, it’s just love/hate. Other than a hand full of fossil rock and lite stations, NYC is hip/hop with no variance what so ever and that’s that….sign’o the times….
November 9, 2021 @ 9:06 am
You can get Thunder 106.3 around NYC sometimes. It’s a NJ Country station though.