Yeah, you can keep that.

So there’s been talk here and there of there being another format split for country music, with Cumulus and Big Machine Records reportedly coming up with a “NASH Icons” brand for radio that showcases artists from the last 25 years. All this is amidst the ever-escalating complaints about country music and country radio alienating the older listeners to the point that, in the words of Edison Research president Larry Rosen, “We run the risk that we just are more and more pleasing to fewer and fewer people until all we are is ecstatically pleasing a tiny, unsustainable number of people.”

It makes for interesting speculation, for sure…but you know what this means, right? Go back to the bit about “the last 25 years.” 25 years ago it was 1989. So this would seem to imply that nothing before 1989 is going to be played.

And quite frankly, I for one have a huge problem with this. I know there are a lot of people who seem to be nostalgic for the 1990s-2000s era of country music, but I grew up in the 1990s. I remember the genre’s explosion in popularity. And I also remember how that old music was thrown off the radio to make room for that new music. And from what I remember, it was a decidedly mixed bag. Do we really want to throw Merle Haggard and George Jones off the radio to make room for Mark Wills and Bryan White?

Yeah, I know. “That’s not fair! They were outliers!” Maybe so, but even so, if you’ll remember, the complaints about country music getting more pop started ramping up again — wait for it! — in the mid-1990s, with the rise of people like Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, and the like gaining prominence. “Murder On Music Row” as a musical event came about a full 11 years after this period started!

What am I getting at? Well, other than questioning the possibility of the true classics of the genre getting booted off radio, here it is.

The problem isn’t just that not enough older country music is getting played. The problem is also that the “country music” that is getting played anymore has virtually no connection whatsoever to the country music of the past, and I would bet you that is alienating people at least as much as the fact that older music isn’t getting played as much anymore. That whole “ecstatically pleasing a tiny, unsustainable number of people” bit applies to this as well. What country music is doing right now is playing to the shallow, fickle pop fans who will be on to the next big thing when it comes along as opposed to the people loyal to the genre for however long they’ve been there. And this whole “playing music from the last 25 years” seems to me to be a really short-sighted approach to the issue. I can understand why they wouldn’t be playing that older music; frankly, even as much as a lot of it sucked, playing, for example, Alan Jackson’s “Gone Country” right before Florida-Georgia Line or Jason Aldean would be more than a bit jarring. But that’s just the way it is, and if the “country” “singers” of today actually did respect country music as a genre and made music reflecting that, it would fit in a lot better. It’s the same phenomenon that we saw back in the ’90s, albeit taken to a further extreme.

I understand it, sure. But make no mistake, I still think it’s a crappy situation and this isn’t going to fix it. We don’t just need more old music on the radio. We need better new music too.


6 Responses to “Yeah, you can keep that.”

  1. Peter Says:

    It wouldn’t solve the problem of the crappy music coming out today, but one would think a country version of the Bob/Sam FM stations that play ’70s & ’80s rock would work. Playing music from the 25 years before the Nash Icons music.

    • southtexaspistolero Says:

      Playing music from the 25 years before the Nash Icons music.

      From, maybe, 1964 through ’89? Now that I could live with. It wouldn’t be all that different than what we have today.

  2. Michael Rauch Says:

    I’ve said on another site that this “sounds” like a good idea, but I have my doubts.

    While they’re saying all the right things at them moment about playing new music form these artists, I think it eventually goes the way of classic rock but with a narrower window. While my classic rock station plays stuff from the late 60’s all the way up into the early 90’s, they still don’t play anything new by the artists on their playlist (unless of course you are Black Sabbath or Metallica).

    Fortunately, we don’t have either a Clear Channnel or Cumulus station in our market. I’ll be keeping my eyes on this to see how it plays out, but I agree with you, from what I’ve read thus far, they can keep it.

    • southtexaspistolero Says:

      While my classic rock station plays stuff from the late 60′s all the way up into the early 90′s, they still don’t play anything new by the artists on their playlist (unless of course you are Black Sabbath or Metallica).

      Your classic rock stations have mine beat. They don’t even play new stuff from Sabbath or Metallica. Hell, I don’t think I heard anything off Death Magnetic on the radio when it came out, and that was six years ago on a different town on an ACTIVE ROCK station. (More on that momentarily.)

      The new music from the older artists would definitely be cool, but even so, why would we want to split the formats like that? I just cannot see that as a good long-term solution for the genre as a whole. I’m sure they advocated the same thing with rock with the advent of the classic rock stations back in the ’80s, but you see what’s happened with that. Active rock radio is by and large dead, with their playlists largely consisting of 20-year-old songs from Nirvana, Green Day, and the like, and rock as a commercially and culturally relevant genre seems to be on life support from what I can tell largely because of that. If this format split happens with country, we’re going to be seeing the same thing at some point down the road. I would put money on it.

  3. Michael Rauch Says:

    New rock is not dead. It’s just hard to find. Watching the CMT Music awards tonight (I’ll refrain from snarkiness) the most real thing that happened was Lzzy Hale. It almost legitimized Eric Church’s song.

    Maybe you did or maybe you didn’t read my post on why I thought the Eric Church/Halestorm combo was a good one.

    I’ve been chastised on SCM for bringing up hard rock/metal, but I think it is folly to not understand how the overexposure of 80’s hairbands led to the downfall.

    It’s happening right now in country music. With a caveat, I don’t hear any redeeming qualities in the current state of country music.

    At least we got GNR out of the 80s hair metal. Along with Cinderella and Motley Crue and Def Leppard and Bon Jovi.

    Nothing good is coming out of this.

    • southtexaspistolero Says:

      Nothing good is coming out of this.

      Amen to that. There are a shit-ton of parallels between what was going on in metal in the late 1980s and early 1990s and what’s going on in country now. If I remember right it took metal a good decade to recover from that. I would really hate to see that happen in country. And yeah, they can poke fun, but it’s good to know history so it isn’t repeated.

      I’ll have to check out that post. 😀

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