Well it finally happened. America’s largest radio station owner iHeartMedia filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the wee hours of Wednesday night/Thursday morning. But just like the recent Cumulus Media bankruptcy, the fact that this is a Chapter 11 means little will change in the radio landscape.
iHeartMedia will likely be filing for its own bankruptcy soon enough, but the situation is so difficult for the radio giant, they can’t even come to a resolution with creditors to file for bankruptcy protection at the moment. Cumulus Media used Chapter 11 to resolve some $1 billion dollars in overhanging debt, iHeartMedia’s debut is a whopping $7.7 billion.
American music radio as it is currently constructed will implode, and likely in the next 12 to 18 months. No amount of headlines and recent news should be needed to influence anyone’s opinion on that. If you’ve been paying attention to the quarterly numbers of America’s two largest radio station owners, you would know this already.
Just in time for throngs of Americana fans to flock to the city for the annual AmericanaFest the third week of September, a new radio station has launched just south of the city in Murfreesboro, and the signal and talent is strong enough that it may ultimately become the flagship for the still small, but quickly-rising Americana format.
This is not another article about Chris Stapleton. This is an article about mainstream American country music radio. Yes, Chris Stapleton won big, again. But Chris Stapleton’s impact still remains paltry on mainstream country radio. The question is, will country radio listen? Or will country radio be left with anybody listening to it?
The two largest radio station owners in the United States—iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel) and Cumulus Media—both have billions in debt, are both looking to restructure that debt to avoid bankruptcy or default, and are both dealing with dwindling profitability. Even when the companies are able to post strong quarterly earnings, the interest on the debt they owe makes it impossible to see a way forward.
How people listen to music is clearly changing, but much of the country music industry isn’t following suit. In a town that employs scores of people just to push songs to radio, Nashville doesn’t know how to behave any differently than they did 60 years ago. Entire companies are based around trying to sell songs to country radio. The difference now is radio is no longer the only game in town.
If you’re wondering what the Dave Cobb-influenced mainstream country world might sound like after the success of Chris Stapleton, take a good sniff at “My Church.” The arrangement and grainy production quality could very well be that of Lindi Ortega or Nikki Lane, but this is a major label artist looking to gain the attention of the fickle mainstream country music fan.
Camayo, Charles Kelley, Chris Stapleton, Dave Cobb, Hank Williams, iHeartMedia, Jamie Lin Spears, Johnny Cash, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban, Kelsea Ballerini, Lindi Ortega, Maren Morris, Mickey Guyton, My Church, Old Dominion, On The Verge, Review, Taylor Swift
Granger’s incredibly generic and pandering new single “Backroad Song” has just been sent to mainstream country radio proper. And with a big Nashville label behind it now, the single has become the 2nd most added song to country radio stations in the last two consecutive weeks, and is about to get yet another power boost of infinite proportions.
NASH Icon once again is #1 in Nashville. But how is NASH Icon faring outside of Nashville? Sure, Music City is an important battleground as the ‘Home of Country Music’ and the home market for iHeartMedia’s rival flagship country station. But for the country format to formally split, it’s going to take much more action across the country in major markets.
iHeartMedia’s pop country über DJ and morning zoo host Bobby Bones, who currently can be heard in nearly 90 markets across the country and is the biggest DJ to ever serve the country genre, revealed yesterday that he’s launched his own television production company. That’s right, Bobby Bones is coming to a boob tube near you, though in what capacity has yet to be determined.
The pieces are beginning to fall together after a troubling incident Friday morning (10-24) where thousands of subscribers to AT&T’s U-Verse television service had their TV’s locked down by the national “EAS” emergency system. The system was triggered by a tone that emanated from radio station 97.9 WSIX in Nashville during The Bobby Bones Show.
Hold the presses. This whole Nash Icon / country music format split business just got a hell of a lot more serious and interesting. On Monday (10-6), the ratings for radio stations were released for Nashville and other locations, and within those numbers was a bombshell for the country music radio world. In Nashville, the NASH Icon affiliate beat the biggest pop country station.