The Season of Discontent in country music that has marked one performer after another and even Big Machine Records’ Scott Borchetta coming out and criticizing the sameness and lack of substance in today’s country music, has now stretched into 2014.
In today’s Billboard Country mid-week newsletter, “The Stark Report” with Phyllis Stark polled a selection of important and influential country music radio programmers from across the country and asked them what aspect of the country music business they hoped would change for the better in 2014. The people that pick what the masses are exposed to through radio surprisingly sounded off on how they wanted more substance, better variety, and new blood in the country radio format, tasking the country music industry to deliver them a better product.
Mark McKay from WGH-FM in Virginia Beach, VA said, “From a creative standpoint, I hope some substance returns to the music next year. I like fun, party songs as much as the next guy, but I fear that with so many of them in the last 18 months, we’re at the saturation point.”
With many of the same music writers penning many popular hits, KMPS Seattle’s Program Director Ed Hill said he wanted to see “more writers use a wider variety of lyrical themes in the songs. I would [also] like to see some sonic differences in the production.”
Program Director Bob Walker of WCTK Providence, R.I. says, “As long as artists and labels make a big portion of their money from touring, we are going to continue to get a lot of disposable songs that pound out beats per minute, and burn just as quickly. If we do not have a solid library of gold from this era, we will pay the price in a few years.”
“Phathead” of JVC Media addressed the lack of new, rising stars in country, and the lack of equitable talent evaluation, saying, “I’m holding out hope that some of the amazing new or unknown acts in country will gain some traction.”
Radio consolidation is also weighing on the minds of program directors according to Sue Wilson of WQMX Akron. “Although I have much respect for the big groups, I’m always sad at the continuing downsizing and the monopoly that is corporate radio. I’m happy Cumulus has brought country to New York, and yet, feel bad about that NASH brand overtaking local programming in so many markets. People continue to lose jobs. I hope that smaller groups can pick up some of these stations that are getting spun off, and we see a return of local radio, local air talent and more live bodies on the air serving their markets.”