Zach Bryan Makes Significant Move at the Top of Country Chart
The big story last weekend in country music was how Luke Combs, Cody Jinks, Zach Bryan, Morgan Wade, and Kameron Marlowe all combined to help pack some 63,000 people into the Ohio Stadium, a.k.a. “The Horseshoe” in Columbus on Saturday, July 23rd for the Buckeye Country Superfest.
There was a lot of bluster from the promoters about how it was the biggest crowd for a concert in the stadium’s history. “You set the record for the largest crowd to see a concert at The Shoe!” the fest proclaimed. But this is not exactly true. Genesis in 1992, Pink Floyd in 1994, Billy Joel and Elton John’s Face To Face Tour also in 1994, and George Strait in 1998 with a big host of openers all drew larger crowds according to records.
There was also a viral image of Cody Jinks standing in front of the crowd making the rounds that proclaimed, “Cody Jinks and his band just played a concert to 63,000 people. They did it without the media, a record label or FM country radio support. Outlaw country music is alive and well.” But that’s not entirely true either. Sure, Jinks is no longer on a label. And though places like 95.9 The Ranch in Fort Worth and Saving Country Music were early supporters, Jinks hasn’t received a whole lot of mainstream media or radio support, at least not yet (stay tuned).
But that also wasn’t Cody’s crowd. Jinks still got to play in front of them and it was a cool moment, but that was the crowd of Luke Combs, with some Cody Jinks and Zach Bryan fans helping to fill it out. Luke Combs is the massive superstar in country music at the moment, only running behind Morgan Wallen in regards to popularity. But this week, a seismic shift occurred that could disrupt the pecking order at the very top of country as one of Luke’s openers at the Buckeye Country Superfest made some moves that could have him poised to take over the Combs position at #2, at least according to one metric. And it wasn’t Cody Jinks.
Zach Bryan released a nine-song EP on July 15th called Summertime Blues that debuted at #7 this week on the Billboard Country Albums chart with over 17 million songs streams, and 16,009 total consumption in albums, downloads, and streaming equivalents. Not bad for what Zach was characterizing as a followup EP to his massive 34-song album American Heartbreak released in May. But it is what American Heartbreak did this week that is so significant.
As new releases come down the pike in country, the vast majority tend to spike in sales for the first week or two, and then taper off significantly. Then there is a very small and select few that get stuck at the very top of the charts and end up remaining there for sometimes years, like Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album has done for well over 1 1/2 years now, Chris Stapleton’s Traveller has done since 2015, Purgatory by Tyler Childers from 2017 has done, as have numerous titles from Luke Combs.
American Heartbreak by Zach Bryan has been showing all indications of being one of those “sticky” albums, selling another 24,803 in albums and equivalents again last week. Even more interestingly, the album retook over the #2 spot from the new Luke Combs album Growin’ Up two weeks ago—an album Luke released on June 24th, which was a month after Zach Bryan’s American Heartbreak. Zach edged out Combs again this week by about 1,400 album equivalents to hold the #2 spot that he held for weeks after the release just behind Morgan Wallen. American Heartbreak also debuted at #1 when it was first released, and became the biggest debut of 2022 at that time.
All indications are Zach Bryan’s American Heartbreak will remain at #2 on the country charts for the indefinite future. And this isn’t just an album phenomenon for Zach Bryan. Similarly to American Heartbreak, his song “Something in the Orange” continues to be one of the most popular songs in all of country, once again coming in as the 3rd most streamed song last week, as well as #5 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and it continues to chart on country radio with no promotion, rising from #59 to #58 this week. Zach Bryan also regained his position at #1 on Billboard’s Country Songwriters chart this week.
What do all of these stats mean? There is still much to hash out and determine, but we continue to stare down the very real possibility that Zach Bryan is blossoming into the next major country superstar, right up there and even besting the biggest of the big dogs at the top of the charts. This is no longer about the independent, non radio-supported underdog disrupting the mainstream, this is about outright dominating the mainstream.
Of course, Luke Combs is still far and away the bigger draw in concert. He proved that this last weekend. And just like Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous, Zach Bryan’s American Heartbreak album benefits from being a double release with more tracks to help accrue spins each week. Luke Combs is still edging out Zach Bryan in physical album sales by a slight margin. But more and more it’s looking like it’s only a matter of time before Zach Bryan will be able to pack his own major venues and draw his own massive crowds even bigger than he is currently, and that it might be sooner than later.
2022 is quickly becoming the year of Zach Bryan.
July 27, 2022 @ 8:16 am
The realistic numbers here are what came in for his *normal* length project. Not a 34 song Magna Carta. There’s a reason Morgan’s normal length album floats around 17k every week and his double is at the top. It’s basic math. More songs on a project more streams for the project. Luke’s is what, 12? Yes it is the year of Zach by all means. But it’s hardly fair to play this chart comparison games when the margin of songs are so wide. We’re all dying for morgan’s to sod off anyways and it likely never will based on its volume.
July 27, 2022 @ 8:49 am
First, as I have always done when broaching the subject of “American Heartbreak” and its numbers, I’ve clearly iterated the amount of tracks is important to its chart placement, just as it is to Morgan Wallen’s “Dangerous.” But so is the wild popularity of these two artists. 34 tracks could very well impede people from listening to your project. In fact, those were a lot of the predictions before the release. The only way those 34 songs go to work for you is if people are listening, and over, and over, and over again. They are doing this with Zach Bryan. He’s not selling any physical albums. His downloads are virtually non existent. This is all streams. This is a younger audience racking up these tracks over and over.
“Summertime Blues” was not a *normal* project. Zach is characterizing it as an EP, though at none songs, it’s fair to dispute that. It was clearly meant as a compliment to “American Heartbreak.” I think it will take weeks to determine both the impact of that release, and the wisdom of its timing. But if anything, its release boosted attention to “American Heartbreak.” There is a reason EPs in an artist’s catalog are dealt with as “also-rans.”
Also as explained here, Zach Bryan has a hit with “Something in the Orange.” This is one of the things that is significantly driving the metadata behind “American Heartbreak.” You also have the snowball effect here. The album is at #2 on the charts. This draws attention, and boosts name recognition. So more people listen. It’s now beating the new Luke Combs record that’s a month newer. So more people listen. Hook or crook, if you get to the top of the charts, it has a massive impact. Zach Bryan took a big gamble releasing 34 tracks. The project could have imploded under its own weight. Instead, it took off like a rocket.
July 27, 2022 @ 9:16 am
“We’re all dying for morgan’s to sod off anyways …”
Not all of us.
And, not by a long shot.
July 27, 2022 @ 10:29 am
I don’t know where the comment is you quote above, but wherever it came from, it is stupid. Many of his songs off his record-setting album are as good “mainstream” songs there are currently. I knwo that is a relative statemetn, but it is true in my opinion. Some just can’t get past their internal bias.
July 27, 2022 @ 4:57 pm
Yeah, no. The game is the game. And Lainey Wilson is the new LeeAnn Womack. Country boys and girlls.
What can sod off is cynical bullshit like class-status posturing cancel culture.
July 27, 2022 @ 7:39 pm
July 27, 2022 @ 9:02 am
I too am amazed at the success of Zach Bryan. I saw him fill in for Tanya Tucker at a festival in August of last year and wasn’t impressed. At the time you could tell he had very little experience playing with a full band. He sounded like he would have been better suited for an open mic night at a local bar. But the younger crowd didn’t seem to mind, they loved him.
July 27, 2022 @ 9:12 am
I saw Zach Bryan in September of 2021, and I saw him a few weeks ago. The difference in both him and his band was night and day. I agree it started with a very amateur feel with a beer league band backing him up. That’s not the case anymore. It’s still difficult for singer songwriters to become A-list live performers. But the improvement in Bryan is significant.
July 27, 2022 @ 5:54 pm
You know though, that was the beauty of last fall. It was a shotgun wedding (I love the beer league band too) and that’s what made it awesome and something I’ll never forget. Totally organic, flawed, but emotional and real. I was amazed by the connection Bryan had already established with his fans in those early days of that tour. Other artists work their whole life and very few succeed at doing what Bryan did in a matter of a couple DIY years.
July 27, 2022 @ 4:59 pm
It’s the Dylan thing. People don’t admire and respect Bryan. They believe him. Like Cash.
Let the boy run.
July 27, 2022 @ 7:28 pm
That is as good an explanation on him as I have read. And you said it in two sentences.
July 28, 2022 @ 9:56 am
It’s the authenticity. The first time I saw one of his homemade videos I thought he was going to be huge because he had Haggard/Cash levels without any of the in character posing they (and Dylan) did for the stage. The big differnce here is not in talent but in how his career developed in the new paridigm. What Zack first become known for was an iphone video recorded in back of his barracks. It would be like if Cash had one in back of his barracks in 1952 or Haggard had a video of him singing one of his songs in jail in being a similar stage in their musical development. Cash was similar in that he and Luthar were total amateurs and really had no idea what they were doing when they started. But then they Sam Phillips so the production was of the highest quality from day one.
Playing live on tour is what makes pretty much all bands sound great if they are capable of it. But we all got to see Zack develop from amateur to pro in way we never really have before because self produced YouTube was his medium.
July 27, 2022 @ 5:01 pm
I am such an old man. I downloaded American Heartbreak. I have only streamed Summertime Blues because this old man is still trying to process American Heartbreak. As an old guy(54), I have a love hate thing with Zach Bryan but for the most part I am a fan and Happy that this is what the kids are listening to.
July 27, 2022 @ 7:38 pm
When is Tim McGraw doing a PSA about Monkeypox?
July 27, 2022 @ 8:22 pm
I’m sheltering in place until Tim McGraw tells me what I can do. Should I put a mask on? Should I get another booster?
July 29, 2022 @ 1:48 pm
We will have to shut down until after November.
July 29, 2022 @ 3:42 pm
Smart move. Safety first.
July 28, 2022 @ 11:19 am
What, is McGraw in that, uh, demographic?
July 27, 2022 @ 11:23 pm
Vasco Rossi, an italian singer, (don’t mind listen to his music) regularly draws 80.000 every couple years.
July 28, 2022 @ 1:50 pm
Still not the biggest Zach Bryan fan here, not for lack of trying (maybe I’ll get there), but I’m sure grateful he’s been helping push Charles Wesley Godwin to a larger (and well deserved) audience. Can’t help but think CWG will up his game going forward after touring so frequently with ZB. Expecting that inevitable third album from CWG to be a banger.
July 28, 2022 @ 2:33 pm
Charles Wesley Godwin has definitely benefited from the Zach Bryan phenomenon, and probably will continue to into the future, esp. after guesting on one of the new songs from Zach’s EP.
July 28, 2022 @ 4:08 pm
Y’all sleeping on Marlowe! He rocked that stadium!
July 31, 2022 @ 9:05 am
Good voice. Stapleton sure has opened the door for more country soul.
August 1, 2022 @ 12:06 pm
His bluesy version of Folsom Prison Blues just popped up on my Amazon Music feed. Good enough that it made me come on SCM looking for any reviews or comments!