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The Changing Demographics Of Country Music
By Jim Moulton

Country radio with it's tight rotations and arsenal of new male and female artists is grasping at straws. They seem to have stumbled on a couple of new acts that keep them going, the muzikmafia with "Big and Rich" and "Gretchen Wilson".
Both these acts are much more rock than country, but rock music is what sells. They talk of putting the CMA awards in New York City, this city doesn't even have a country radio station. If country music with it's pedal steel and fiddles don't sell, add a lot of rock guitar and histrionic stage performances and you get attention with the younger folk. Country radio aims at a target audience of 20 to 30 year old females.

I stopped listening to country radio quite a while ago, but I follow the scene to see who the Next Big Thing is this month.
Vince Gill is at the peak of his career and just released his best CD with "The Next Big Thing." He shares his insights on Nashville in the title track and also on "Young Man's Town". He made a great statement by stepping down from hosting the CMA's after what seems forever. His CD didn't get much airplay even though it had seventeen great tracks and at least seven were radio worthy. While pop artists Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney fill arenas, Vince plays to much smaller venues these days.

Martina, Patty Loveless, Reba McEntire all recently released incredibly good country CDs, all five or six songs deep in radio material, but not getting the airplay.

Shania and Faith (both good pop artists) get lots of airplay. You see, there is a ton of great country music out there, it's just not on the radio. I'm listening to my favorite country CD this year "The Notorious Cherry Bombs", Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell at their best. You won't hear this on country radio, it's just too rootsy and country.

And oh by the way, let me mention the unmentionable. Yeah, The Dixie Chicks, three multi-platinum CDs. Honestly "Wide Open Spaces" is just plain one of my favorite CDs period. Their last CD, a double live set, fantastic live CD including their best material only went Gold after their first three CDs sold twenty seven million units. These gals burst on the scene bringing back real country music and now are basically finished. I reckon they are going to have to change formats, possibly to rock, just can't see them making another country CD. When they fell, it left an enormous void, their first two CDs had incredible radio depth, though "Home" was a bit sparse for country radio. 

When they were banned from country radio, it really showed the weakness of country product, mediocre pop acts like Rascall Flatts, Lonestar and Brooks and Dunn. I don't agree with the Chicks' view point, but this is America, the land of supposed free speech, if they said what they did in a communist regime, they probably would be killed. Honestly though, they picked the wrong genre' of music to say something so unpatriotic in such an untimely manner. Only time will tell if they can recover from it, they keep up the same behavior, going on the tour to oust the President, so we will see. Country music fans are like myself for the most part really conservative. 

So, while radio country music continues to evolve into more pop and rock, I ain't buyin' it. Forgive me, I did forget we still have two great traditionalists around that garner airplay; Alan Jackson and George Strait.

I love real country music, I remember for about a year when I started out reviewing indie artists. You know, these guys didn't have the best recordings, but they had loyalty to their craft, real country music and sung their hearts out. They didn't care whether they were going to make it or not. 

Thanks to labels like Dualtone, Lost Country, Rounder and Sugar Hill, plus many more, there is plenty of great Americana and bluegrass music to go around. Thanks to the major artists that stick to the stuff. 


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