Time to Slice Up the Country Pie?

Back in June I posted about how much older our core demo is gettingIt was based on research that I had read about and the concern was that we may be chasing the older demo off the cliff and the future with them.  We’d be in a tough place wondering how we let the younger generation slip away and regret not reaching out to them early so they will stick around for life.

Well, we now have successfully saturated ourselves with younger artists, with younger skewing music, and celebrity driven culture.  The music industry pendulum has swung and everyone seems to be chasing the young un’s all over town.  That’s as dangerous as letting your aging demo fade away into Oldies land. 

Now the debate is which is better – aiming for a fickle younger demo who could be here one moment and then gone the next or not letting the perpetual adult core of the Country format get away?  Good reason and relevant arguments on both sides.  The younger demo could leave us with our hat in our hand and ratings in the toilet when they decide to chase the next hip format and the older demo could squeeze us from ever capturing the next generation of listeners and record buyers.

The subject is once again a hot topic and was recently covered in an interesting article from Sean RossThe question is back.  Do we split the format up or keep it all inclusive?

On one hand I think what we need for the time being are level heads and balance.  This format has always had an amazing variety of sounds, artists, and music.  It hasn’t always been presented in the best way, but there is so much opportunity now to showcase how diverse and inclusive our format is.  There are those that think we can still remain solidly Country and include both demos, without leaning to far one way or the other. 

On the other hand…..if we can somehow make two country formats work, imagine the opportunity for new artists.  It would theoretically open up the playing field to so many deserving and talented artists that aren’t getting the break they deserve.  Some in radio will wonder if there are enough quality acts to wrap around Taylor Swift on a younger 18-34 Country format and I say absolutely yes!  I’ve heard so many fresh new artists in Nashville that challenge anything currently on the radio including Taylor.  Most have no idea the powder keg of singers and songwriters in Nashville.

Does playing to the middle of both adult and younger demos cause a dilution of our format to the lowest common denominator?  Do we need to split the format up to make let it be all that it potentially can be?

I’m torn between the two, but for the first time in my career I see a solid validity for a “Hot Country” and “Mainstream Country” or whatever you wish to title them.  It could solve the problem of what to do with all of the celebrity artists flooding over from American Idol, Nashville Star, and various other launching pads.  It would also insure George, Alan, Reba, Vince, Martina, Tim, and countless other relevant mature artists are carrying on the country tradition and satisfying the adult demos.

The timing may be right to test the waters.

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3 Responses to Time to Slice Up the Country Pie?

  1. Pingback: The Bobby Bares Are Collaborating on Tribute To Shel Silverstein | The 9513

  2. Peter Kohan says:

    Mike – I think the problem to be faced is one of radio investing in talented, younger artists who, frankly, won’t be signed to major labels and be able to exercise a major promotional push (at least not on the scale of a Taylor or a Carrie). You know all too well that indie labels can come and go in a heartbeat, even if the artist roster is delivering surefire hits. The revenue model(s) within the record industry – and within the radio industry – have changed so much the last 10 years.

    I would hope there would be some courageous stations willing to take a chance on some innovation in these precarious economic times. What better time to shoot the moon than when the business is tanking already. Give something new a shot. Play some new music. Get behind a regional artist. Refocus the playlist. Develop some innovative promotions. Etc…

  3. Pingback: The Bobby Bares Are Collaborating on Tribute To Shel Silverstein - Engine 145

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