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.”
“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?