Hearne: Hold Your Noses & Admit It — Country Is King

TNTHard as it may be for many of us to admit, in Kansas City today country music is king…

I almost can’t believe I even wrote the above words.

Look, I grew up here in Kansas City and worked for many years as a merchandiser of grain – corn, wheat, milo and soybeans, to name four. I worked closely with farmers and grain elevators throughout the midwest and south. I even was trained in the inspection of grain by the USDA grain inspector in Cairo, Illinois. And I still buy country ham and moonshine on my yearly swings through Kentucky and Tennessee.

The flip side of all that: I ran and built up The Pitch during its most critical formative years and was a key player in promoting alternative rock bands like Green Day in Kansas City and Lawrence – long before anybody in radio here had the guts to roll the dice on an alt station like The Buzz.

So country music has always been something of an anathema to me.

Now check out this headline in The New York Times:

 “Young, Rich and Ruling Radio, Country Walks a Broader Line”

I’ve been listening TO radio programmers and execs espouse that thinking ever since KFKF FM began going after then longtime country music powerhouse WDAF 61 Country.

And yeah, I basically bought into it but it’s always been a little hard to shake the stereotypes of country listeners being “hillbillies with green teeth who drive pickups and shoot animals,” as one local radio exec characterizes them.

No mas, claims the Times.

“On the radio, (country) has displaced Top 40 as America’s most popular musical format,” its report begins. “Its biggest star is Taylor Swift, a 24-year-old phenomenon who last year earned more from music than any other singer — nearly $40 million, according to Billboard magazine. And in June, Rolling Stone, the rock ’n’ roll bible, will introduce a website devoted to the genre.”

2013 MTV Video Music Awards - ShowTrue story, adds the insider.

“Country music is as hot as it has ever been. Taylor Swift just replaced Madonna as the highest paid music entertainer and the New York Times article on the growth of this music as appealing to young, upscale and hipsters.”

Allow me to insert my two cents.

While there’s no arguing that a new demographic of listeners has propelled country music to its current lofty levels, without it’s core crowd of pickup-drivers and animal shooters, I seriously doubt it would be where it is today.

“I’ll tell you what blows my mind,” the radio expert says. “Nashville, which is the capital of country music, isn’t even the No. 1 radio market for country. It’s not even in the top three. And the top three radio stations in Nashville are not country.

“Kansas City used to be considered a cowtown but today it’s a country music town and it has been for years. And the people who drive pickup trucks have been joined by a lot of different life groups, millennials and Generation Xers are big into country – more than they ever have been before.”

More than 15 million people just watched Academy of Country Music Awards on CBS – its biggest audience in years. By comparison, barely 10 million tuned in to MTV’s VMA Awards last summer to watch Miley Cyrus add the word “twerk” to their vocabularies.

Still not convinced?

“You might think to yourself, yeah, country music is the top radio format because of all those cities in small town America,” the exec says. “But we have three radio stations right here in the City of Fountains that garner over 17% of all radio listeners, KFKF, Q104 and WDAF The Wolf.”

Anybody up for shooting some animals this weekend? 

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44 Responses to Hearne: Hold Your Noses & Admit It — Country Is King

  1. Hot Carl says:

    Let’s face it, while the number of casual country music listeners might be up the vast majority of country’s demo is still made up of rednecks and bumpkins. Modern country music panders to the lowest common denominator – fat, blue collar/rural, moronic white people.

    • the dude says:

      Cuntry music today is so horrible it is laughable.
      Hank would be glad he never lived to see his music crapped up the way it has.

      • admin says:

        I dunno, dude…

        Most of the parents I knew growing up weren’t into their kids music either

        • the dude says:

          But their music didn’t totally suck ass for the most part either.

          • admin says:

            With all due respect, dude – it totally our music totally sucked to my parents and many of my friends parents as well.

            If people always liked their parents music we’d still be rocking to “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain When She Comes”

    • admin says:

      That’s kind of what I was suggesting, Hot Carl.

      The thing with all this New York Times hoopla is they seem to want us to believe that the hicks have moved out and the hipsters have moved in. Like you, I think the truth lies somewhere in-between.

      And while I can’t really say, I suspect that half or more of country listeners are the traditionalists rather than newly minted ones.

    • radio dude says:

      Hot Carl,
      Been to a a Little Big Town, Keith Urban, Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood concert? Talk about beautiful people (in Cowboy hats and boots). No doubt the country music listener still includes the rednecks and green teeth. What music genres doesn’t have undesirables….rock, urban, alternative?
      Also, Country music has changed…so has rock, pop and every other musical type.
      It’s pretty obvious Country artists and their producers and labels have figured out how to create a broad appeal across multiple demographics.

      • mike t. says:

        not that the change wasn’t already underway, but they can thank garth for busting those doors wide open.

  2. the dude says:

    No tribute to the Ultimate Warrior Hearne?!?!?!?

    • admin says:

      Believe it or not, I watched WrestleMania Sunday and saw him briefly.

      What an odd way to go out; right after his Hall of Fame induction

  3. Alphonse Tooty says:

    Tweak? It’s twerk, dumbass.

    • admin says:

      Get over yourself, Alphonse…

      Obviously it’s twerk, I didn’t catch that my auto spell correct changed it. In fact it took me fours passes to get it typed correctly here.

      Geez, do you have a life?

      • Alphonse Tooty says:

        Yeah, right.

        • admin says:

          Honestly Tooty,

          Do you think anyone alive on this Earth missed the ten million times the word “twerk” was used last summer?

          Or perhaps that I was in a hole somewhere?

          Maybe you don’t have auto correct on your computer but the majority of weird typos I experience are when I’m flying low and don’t notice the auto correct.

          For example on my radio ratings column I used the term “cume” like 20 times. And MORE THAN 20 times – including just now – I had to go back and retype it because my computer converted it to “fume”

          But whatever gets you off, I guess

          • Alphonse Tooty says:

            I think you got the words mixed up … kind of like my grandmother does. Of course, I wouldn’t have called her a dumbass.

  4. newbaum turk says:

    Sorry, but what they call “country” today just isn’t country. Just because some talent agent finds a good enough looking guy, puts a cowboy hat on him, and has people right him some songs, doesn’t make it country. I listen to Outlaw Country on satellite radio and haven’t listened to country on the radio since I heard an awful song called, “She thinks my tractors sexy.” That was it. I was done with new country. If one of these pansies today got into a bar fight with Billy Joe Shaver they would get their ass kicked.

  5. expat says:

    I’m with the others: what they call country today isn’t country. It’s lukewarm pop music that appeals to the People of Walmart. (Sadly many in my family.) It’s not just a question of older people not liking younger peoples’ music: my grandparents didn’t like rock because it was rebellious, modern country is bad because it’s mediocre in sound, writing, emotion, etc. There are some modern bands playing in the old style but they don’t get big radio air play and are pigeon-holed as Texas Country or some other sub-genre. You have to search.

    Americans in general are lukewarm these days. Instead of living with vigor they want to pat themselves on the back for knowing all the coolest newest internet memes and soap operas, and what’s on the radio reflects that. Have a look at these old country music photos; Emmy Lou being angelic, David Allen Coe with a pistol shoved in his back pocket. Where is the vitality in country music today?

    http://selvedgeyard.com/2014/02/28/the-epic-austin-music-history-chronicles-photography-words-of-scott-newton/

    • newbaum turk says:

      Nice pics. I like Guy Clark’s Peaches Records T-shirt he’s wearing.

    • StillAtMyMoms says:

      “I’m with the others: what they call country today isn’t country. It’s lukewarm pop music that appeals to the People of Walmart.”

      This. You succinctly summarized my thoughts on contemporary country, expat.

      “It’s not just a question of older people not liking younger peoples’ music: my grandparents didn’t like rock because it was rebellious, modern country is bad because it’s mediocre in sound, writing, emotion, etc.”

      Another +1. Being young myself, I actually don’t mind listening to country–when it was actually country. From my understanding, country singers actually stood for something and sang with passion back in the day, as you said. They had a drinking problem, performed at dives countless nights and didn’t pride themselves on being a pop star. They seemed comfortable being in their niche of music. Nowadays you have these glitter shirt-wearing, Republican shills writing the most contrived standards in the genre’s history. I bet a majority of them came from the suburbs, too. Modern country “artists” are indistinguishable to me. They’re all generic and straight out of the corporate conveyor belt to appease the docile “rural” America.

      • expat says:

        Lol excellent. I’m only in my early 30s but love me some Waylon. We have to be careful about romanticizing the past – there was a lot of drek in previous decades too but it’s been forgotten by now – self selection bias – but otherwise I’m with you.

        • the dude says:

          Yeah man, give me some Hank, Hank Jr,, Waylan, Willie, about the only modern stuff I would care for would be some Hank III and Yoakam.

        • admin says:

          Expat, I remember when I first heard Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee” and thought what a narrow-minded, redneck loser Haggard was.

          It certainly wasn’t considered hip at the time. It was an old school country and western hit putting down everything that lots of young people at the time thought was way cool.

          Like smoking pot, protesting war, sex outside of marriage, and following the current fashion tends, including at the time, long hair on men.

          Well, fast forward however many years and now a lot of the people who thought Haggard was a total loser view him as a music icon.

          Who knew?

          • expat says:

            It was #1 on the country charts when it came out so I’d say a lot of people did… It was covered by the Grateful Dead.

          • expat says:

            You’re also missing the point that music today is qualitatively different. (Not all of it but the mainstream stuff…) Crushed to death with dynamic range compression, semi-literate and flat out boring consumerist lyrics, etc. This goes way beyond people not liking something new – it’s like when New Coke came out. You could say ‘oh people complained about the old Coke when it came out’ and bury your head in the sand or you could admit something is wrong with the new formula.

  6. bleary says:

    what’s this “radio” thing they’re talking about??

    I like Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody, Itunes, Google Play.. but ..radio??

    ooh..wait– that’s that thing in my car I’ll turn on a few times a year..

    to catch Royals and Chiefs games…

    does this “radio” thing play music, too?

    • newbaum turk says:

      Radio used to be this great thing where DJ’s picked what they wanted to play and there were good stations like KY102 and the Lazer out Lawrence. Then deregulation of the 1990’s came along and ruined it all. Airlines and the financial industry were deregulated too and look how well that has worked out.

    • radio dude says:

      You shouldn’t project your personal tastes and habits as representative of a total market.
      Those who choose Spotify, Slacker and Pandora are certainly growing but are still only a small percentage of the population.
      Radio still rules in number of people it reaches (91%) and how much time they spend (2:38 per day).

      • admin says:

        Excellent points, radio dude.

      • bleary says:

        “You shouldn’t project your personal tastes and habits as representative of a total market.”

        ???????????????

        my post began : “I like Spotify” yadda yadda..

        don’t see anything in my post saying everyone else does..

        but.. hearne ruled “Excellent points, radio dude.”

        so.. I must be wrong..

        I’ll continue..
        but now –

        time for a commercial break from a loud car salesman!!

        • Radio dude says:

          Read your post again…point taken.
          Everyone has a right to their personal tastes, you only mentioned yours.

          • admin says:

            I get your point, bleary…

            Technically you are correct, but the between the lines on your comment was that radio was now passé and has been replaced by the Internet.

            So while you get a get Out of Jail card, I think the radio dude’s stats set the record straight lest someone mistakenly assume you were trying to say that radio has been overtaken and is now irrelevant.

            Incidentally, nobody works the Internet and their iPhones harder than my 17 year-old daughters, but more times that not…when they are not listening to music on their phones in my car via bluetooth, they listen to The Vibe. Actually, they mostly listen to The Vibe and maybe The Buzz.

            Go figure

  7. Rico_suave says:

    not looking down on people who enjoy country..I’m sure they’re hardworking, decent, etc..

    but I can’t STAND to listen to it.. (or NASCAR talk shows)

    but– country singers ARE rich — the theory being their fans aren’t into downloading, file-sharing or streaming ..like most rock and alt fans

    so they actually go out and still buy their CDs at Walmart, etc..

    CHA-CHING!

  8. JPL says:

    I’m not a big fan of it but considering the state of rock, I totally get the shift to Country (ok, let’s be real and call it country-pop-rock). Modern rock of most styles used to have some charm. Some thoughtful and interesting songwriting, production, and orchestration. There used to be guitar solos, sometimes really soaring or virtuosic. But, post grunge, it seems that the only place they could think to take rock was the same direction as postmodern art – nihilism and minimalism: No harmonies, and no guitar solos. Dull 3 chord songwriting, with no orchestration and almost no production. Rap rock, sludge rock, and all the other dirgey, thoughtless and lame crud on rock radio gets old after a few listens. There isn’t much there. Country found the vacuum in musicality and ran with it.

    It still cracks me up that 40 year old music remains at the forefront. Look at the music mags and what they cover – Phil Lesh of the Dead and Fleetwood Mac are the headlines of this week’s Rolling Stone. Look at the t-shirts at Spencers, it’s all Zeppelin and Floyd. In the 80s, 40 year old music was Bing Crosby and Glen Miller and that stuff was not headlining the magazines.

  9. hot harley says:

    again hearne…you’re not looking at stats or data for your information.
    You’re just another cut and paste writer trying to get people to think
    that you know e erything about radio…well running a teenage magazine
    like the pitch with the record guy…or promoting some small time at the
    the time stars in Lawrence don’t make you an expert in anything.
    Todays country is not your daddys country music. It once was in
    kc wdaf fm with david drawing the old crowd and the big numbers.
    But I spoke with one of the top music promoters in the Midwest
    recently (used to be heavily involved inkc) and discussed current
    trends.
    Taylor swift is not country. She may win all the awards for country
    but lets look at here crossover appeal. She ‘s played on mix 93/
    KPRS (yes,,,she/miley cyrus/etc are played on an urban station)
    …why…because that urban station competes with mix93/and about
    4 other stations in the market. Its not that country is so popular…its that
    the music has melded into crossover power so that its played across the
    board and appeals to a huge group of listeners. Country artists were once
    thought as “hillbilly” but watch the top music competitions and the
    main judges and most popular are blake Shelton and keith urban…country
    artists.
    And lets be honest…all music has taken a huge hit. Fewer new music being
    played…venues eliminated for young artists….and the internet taking over
    radio as the main outlet for new music.
    I know the owners of the largest country music bar in kc…spoke with them..
    and told me 4 years ago that they were seeing the huge numbers of new
    country music fans.
    8 years ago taylor swift would not have gotten the air play she gets…nor
    the tv exposure she gets….hwo many country music stars have had the
    #1 spot on a major movie award program to perform in the past….sorry
    I can’t remember almost any….except taylor this year.
    and she got a standing ovation.
    your bogus non business related numbers about country music
    are again ridiculous and if you asked any of your advertisers whether
    they gave a damn about 6-18 year old listeners they’d kick you out thye door.
    So your amazement about country being so popular is OLD HAT. ASK YOUR
    DAUGHTERS…THEY’VE GOT A BETTER FEEL FOR IT THAN YOU DO.
    Take bieber…he’s played on urban station….the crossover effect is rampant
    because airtime is so valuable right now…that the record companies
    need the crossover play to really get a hit act.
    And country artists put out a new release almost every year…rock bands
    take 4 or 5 or more years for a new release…so the music gets stale
    while country has a fresh flow of new releases to play…while the other
    stations play old rock for guys like hearne over 65 and the newer
    releases for the 18-34 year old male.
    But the treal growth in country has been females. Obviously you think
    you’re some big time promoter with your few bands like green day or
    your running a sloppy unscuccessful alternative magazine featuring porn
    but again you’re not including many facts and data in your article.
    another fact country is #1…which you hearne failed to realize or note:
    country station formats outnumber the nearst other new music format
    by at least 2.5.3 to 1….a huge difference when you consider that country
    has so many outlets…from kfkf which appeals to senior tradiitonal country listeners
    over 55 like hearne…to the younger oriented,fresh new country listeners like
    those 18-34 year old women.
    And let me school you jagain hearne while I’m on the keyboard…look at
    some of the rock stars who switched from rock to country…why? exposure
    and money. My good friend ms. crow made the move to Nashville…
    and many more have also donethis.
    and being the music aficionado you think you are…this transition has
    been going on a long time…everyone from the eagles to Jackson browne
    ajd other artists have moved in the “country’ direction to broad en their
    audience because with fewer slots for rock music they had to do it to
    maximize their exposure.
    went to whiskey tango as a friend of the owner…and was surprised at the
    people there. These were not country people of the 80’s or 90’s…these
    were upscale/good job people (met doctor/nurse/attorneys/) who probably
    6 or 7 years ago would have never listened to the old country music.
    Saw a replay of the first 2 seasons of American idol….the country singers
    got clobbered…now they win most of the competitions….guy from belton…
    phillip Phillips….while today the country artists do really really well (may be
    because 40% of he votes on these shows come from the young southern
    females).
    It appears in your third article on country music (when was the last country
    concert you’ve been to …mine was keith urban) and you’ve gotten a little
    better at analyzing trends…but its purely trends in music we’re seeing
    that come and go.
    but again…if you need any reference points or data about this or any
    subject onkcc…I have thedata availablitly so you don’t continue to look like
    a fool.
    also..please stop acting like you ran a huge newspaper operaton. The pitch
    was hardly a majorpaper in this city…what 20,000 free papers…no one
    paid for it because it was so thin and the articles were stupid. New Times
    had some great articles that geerated some good stories…but lets be honest
    …both were small time alternative papers nothing compared to their
    contemporaries in Denver or dallas. I would be leery about putting those
    things on your resume…of course with your inheritance you don’t
    needto write a resume…you’re hearne Christopher !!!!!

    • kansas karl says:

      At one time the differences between rock, pop and country were pretty clear, now only the extremes are identifiable, most falls into the nether region of looking for the best/most familiar song on at any given moment. Darius Rucker had one of the largest pop/rock songs ever and now he is making waves in a Stetson and his music has changed little if any, maybe adding a pedal steel is all that is required to make it country. The point is media responds to the consumer and the consumer is saying they will listen to any genre as long as it is popular with others, the sheep are still sheep. All the new players are interchangeable just add or delete the pedal steel or fiddle.

    • radio dude says:

      Harley,
      Man you do go on and on. I cannot take the time to read your BS…where do you find the time?
      You must have the thickest skin on earth. Everyone makes fun of you on this site and you keep coming back.
      Please be more focused and succinct in your posts and someone might take the time to read them.

  10. nobody special says:

    Anyone wondering just how bad today’s “country” music is just needs to watch this video to understand:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WySgNm8qH-I

  11. admin says:

    Since my little buddy Alphonse thinks I got the word “twerk” with “tweak” mixed up where Miley Cyrus is concerned, I decided to illustrate how (newly) common the word is by treating you guys to the Daily Mail’s

    TOP WORDS OF 2013

    1. 404
    2. Fail
    3. Hashtag
    4. @Pontifex
    5. The Optic
    6. Surveillance
    7. Drones
    8. Deficit
    9. Sequestration
    10. Emancipate
    11. Filibuster
    12. Nano
    13. Twerking
    14. Deadlock
    15. Franken
    16. Meme
    17. Stalemate
    18. The Cloud
    19. Phony
    20. Comet

    Frankly, I’m surprised it came in that low!

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Thanks clarrifying this; it made me start tweeting in my car.

      • Hearne says:

        Looks here, even Paul Wilson can make a bad word choice.

        See, I know Paul pretty well and I’m certain that he meant to say, “beating.”

        Don’t believe me? Ask that chick he hooked up with in the comments section on his last piece

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