I’ve been a member of the Nashville music business since the early 90’s. Let me qualify that. I’ve been working in the music business, but largely have been a resident Nashvillian outsider working in the “Americana” and AAA radio formats and non-mainstream country genres. But still, I always tried to integrate what I experienced in working with all my non-Nashville artists, labels and networks and bring some of that world and knowledge back to Nashville’s mainstream country sphere. I live here, have a lot of friends in the mainstream music biz, and wanted it to all grow and prosper. I figured whatever was a trend, innovation, technology, etc. that was happening out in the larger music world should be addressed, adopted and embraced in the country space as well. Pop trends were country’s canary in the coal mine.
Country labels historically have competed aggressively with each other but usually seemed to willfully ignore the rest of the music world as being on some other planet in a parallel reality. This always seems to be evidenced in the reactions of label presidents and radio consultants to the annual country radio/consumer research studies presented at CRS; CMA, CRB studies etc.
The outcome of these studies was typically something like, “majority of country consumers still want cassettes” or most recently, “half the core country consumers don’t have broadband”. All this seemingly presented and received as evidence that the Nashville community had it right and was in step with their consumers. My reaction to these findings has always been, “What? We think this is good news?!?” It seems as if the research was interpreted by the establishment confirming status quo and “business as usual” every time rather than seeing trends in the larger music world as a 5 year sneak peek at the future coming down.
So Nashville has always had a remarkable 5 year preview of broadcast, consumer and technology trends and failed nearly every time to plan and be ready when it comes around to the “core country consumer”. If anyone running a label today thinks it’s a good thing that the “core country consumer” doesn’t have broadband, I simply don’t know what to say. Of course, when the CMA tallies Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatt’s sales as “country” I fail to see how these broadband research findings could even be true to begin with. Maybe they just polled George Strait and Hank Jr. fans? Not sure. It’s kinda like watching the Republicans trot out Rush and Cheney as the future of the party.
I bet that if rock and pop label divisions had the benefit of a 5 year preview of trends they’d retool and change course quickly without waiting for the inevitable to simply happen. And of course, that’s why when Americana began in 1995 the pop/rock/independent labels jumped in seeing it as an avenue to break new artists/music and Nashville majors largely waited around to see what would happen.
Some things never change.