Study Finds ‘Countryphiles’ Shy Away From Digital Downloads

Brody Vercher | March 6th, 2009

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  1. [...] yesterday’s news roundup, Brody listed some of the more interesting statistics published in the Country Music [...]
  2. [...] Hank Locklin, a country legend who The Tennessean’s Peter Cooper says is one of the greatest and most influential tenor singers in country music history, died at the age of 91 on Sunday in Brewton, Alabama. Locklin has been a member of the Opry since 1960 and his hits include “Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On” (listen) and “Please Help Me I’m Falling” (listen). (Rick shared another obituary in the comments yesterday) [...]
  1. Zach
    March 6, 2009 at 11:15 am

    I had a chance to watch Jamey’s webcast last night. Posted a little about it last night but figured it was worth a repost since you asked!

    Holly Williams opened at 11 a.m. and was terrible. No stage presence, bad voice. This is the first time I’ve seen her perform and it was via webcast, so maybe my perception is skewed, but she was bad.

    Jamey Johnson started at 11:30 p.m, opening with “High Cost of Living” and essentially playing down the album, adding in a new song (“Nothing Is Better Than You”) that all should hear. I’m not sure if it’s online anywhere yet, but it is some solid stuff. He even busts out the Jamey growl during it, showing some intense passion in the song.

    After finishing his album, he covered just about every authentic country artist to complete his three hour set. Yes, he played for three hours. In the middle of the show, he called his dad on stage, who looks nothing like Jamey. No beard at all! He gave him a late Christmas present, which was a nice leather Harley jacket.

    Jamey covered Patsy Cline, Jennings, Jones, Cash, Haggard, Seger, Coe, Gosdin, etc. He played his version of “Give It Away” and “Write Your Own Damn Song”, which was ironic seeing that it bashed radio executive during CRS week. He pretty much took requests from the shouting audience and played songs from the artists they were yelling.

    Needless to say, it was an entertaining three hours. One of the site admins said they were going to put some of the clips on his Web site, so hopefully they stay true to their word. It’s definitely worth checking out if it happens.

  2. J.R. Journey
    March 6, 2009 at 11:19 am

    That’s a really interesting study – even though it didn’t tell us anything new. I think they may be off with their digital download numbers though. According to CMT Insider, digital downloads were actually up in country music this year, as album sales themselves dropped some 14%.

    The most thought-provoking of their findings has to do with ‘loyalty’. It is said that fans still feel widely betrayed by the Dixie Chicks – but are willing to give crossover artists like Jewel and Jessica Simpson a chance. Weird.

    So, kudos to the CMA for conducting this study, but methinks the results clearly reflect a red-state mentality that country music has needed to break free of for years – but this study only reinforces it.

  3. Zach
    March 6, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Here’s a decent quality video of Jamey Johnson’s “Nothing Is Better Than You”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtiUutoAvfc

    Looks like it’s from the Downtown Shutdown event. Definitely worth a watch.

  4. Zach
    March 6, 2009 at 11:26 am

    That was the crappier link. Here is the right one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shEZUgGFbj4

    Sorry for excessive posting!

  5. Brady Vercher
    March 6, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Why does country need to break free of any perceived red-state mentality?

  6. Jon
    March 6, 2009 at 11:57 am

    “I think they may be off with their digital download numbers though. According to CMT Insider, digital downloads were actually up in country music this year, as album sales themselves dropped some 14%.”

    There weren’t any numbers in the Tennessean story, and the observation doesn’t really contradict what you got from CMT Insider. What the study itself showed is that about 2/3 of of country music consumers are “CD-dominant,” and about 1/3 “Digital-dominant” – and, parenthetically, that those who are the latter tend pay for much less of their music than the former.

  7. nm
    March 6, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Actually, the study didn’t show that country listeners are “predominantly Caucasian,” except in the sense that the population of the U.S. is predominantly Caucasian. Instead, it showed that non-Hispanic white people and Hispanic people of any race listen to country music about in proportion to their presence in the general population, blacks listen to country music far less than other groups, and “other” folks listen to country music more often than other groups. (There’s a pie chart in the Tennessean showing the breakdown, which is easy to compare to general population figures.) I want to know why “Other” loves country music so.

  8. Marc
    March 6, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    More than likely country fans fall into the older and less educated/hip to the tech. Seems kinda obvious, really

  9. Razor X
    March 6, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    “More than likely country fans fall into the older and less educated/hip to the tech. Seems kinda obvious, really”

    Seems more like an old and tired stereotype, really.

  10. Marc
    March 6, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    @Brady: Break free of mentality? A lot, sadly. For better or for worse, the stereotype does exist.

    Outspoken right wing goons like John Rich don’t help. (Same can be said for many far left wing goons, don’t think I’m playing sides!)

    Musical content, while more recently venturing more into love, has traditionally been more right/red centric; jesus, rural and small town America.

    I’m not saying these things are necessarily bad, but the image is there for a reason.

    On the “perhaps” bad side.. Taylor Swift is probably helping more than anything else bring the youth and left side of things in.

  11. Marc
    March 6, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Razor, you don’t think more digital music is bought by rap/r&b/hiphop/pop style kids than country? Ask itunes.. I bet you’d see it.

    I’m not saying old ignorant people, I’m saying people who don’t use/understand digital music.

  12. Brady Vercher
    March 6, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    I’m not saying the stigma isn’t there, I’m asking why country needs to break free of it. To say it needs to break free implies that the stigma is negative.

  13. Marc
    March 6, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Brady, ahh understood. Is it there because the reds want to keep it, or is it there cuz the blues don’t want to be associated with the reds? ;)

    Frankly, the older more stereotypical mold of country doesn’t appeal to me as much. Blasphemy around here sure, but that’s how it is.

  14. Razor X
    March 6, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    “Razor, you don’t think more digital music is bought by rap/r&b/hiphop/pop style kids than country? Ask itunes.. I bet you’d see it.

    I’m not saying old ignorant people, I’m saying people who don’t use/understand digital music.”

    Marc,

    Visit the 9513 forums sometime. I think I’m probably the oldest regular poster there and I seem to be the only one who buys a lot of music via downloads. The 16- to 19-year-olds seem to be particularly resistant to MP3 downloads.

  15. Marc
    March 6, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Razor, I think that kinda lends towards my point.

  16. Marc
    March 6, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    ..that Country type people aren’t as interested in digital. You may in fact be the exception, but I’d say you’re not the rule.

  17. nm
    March 6, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Marc, since the study finds no particular income or age differences between country fans and other music fans, I’d say your assumption is wrong on the face of it. Isn’t it more likely that living in small towns (which the Tennessean points out is more prevalent among country listeners) means less access to broadband and that that accounts for less downloading?

  18. Razor X
    March 6, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    “Razor, I think that kinda lends towards my point. .that Country type people aren’t as interested in digital. You may in fact be the exception, but I’d say you’re not the rule.”

    Your point was that country fans don’t buy digital downloads because they are older and less educated than fans of other genres.

  19. Jon
    March 6, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Before folks get too deep into discussion of details and implications of the CMA report, it might be worth going beyond the Tennessean’s coverage to read the CMA’s press release about it, which can be found here: http://www.cmaworld.com/news_publications/pr_common/press_detail.asp?re=821 .

  20. Paula_W
    March 6, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    I am definitely a country fan. I love the ‘old’ traditional country (a lot of it recorded before I was born) and some of the new stuff as well. I venture slightly into other genres, but not much.

    I may or may not be “older” (I’m 47). I’m certainly not uneducated or computer illiterate, nor am I in an area where broadband and therefore digital downloads are not easily accessible. I’m female and though I wont tell you what income bracket I’m in, it’s well above the median income for my geographic location.

    I prefer physical cd’s to digital downloads. I simply like having that physical product in my hot little hands. There is no rhyme or reason to my madness – that’s just me. :-)

    Does that make me an exception, or part of the ‘rule’?

  21. Marc
    March 6, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Eazor, then you missed it.

    NM very much also a part of it, especially again compared to urban situations where “urban” music is more popular, and is also much more considered a youth area of music.

  22. Paula_W
    March 6, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    From the article: “The results were culled from a phase one sample of nearly 7,500 individuals; a second callback sample of 1,850; and 10 focus groups from three regions of the country including Charlotte, Chicago, and Phoenix.”

    That doesnt really make it an all-inclusive study does it? 7,500 people?

  23. nm
    March 6, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    That’s pretty large for a market research study.

    Marc, it would help if you had something other than some preconceived opinions to back up your claims.

  24. Brady Vercher
    March 6, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Surveys usually don’t include a huge number of people, but rather a representative portion of the population and typically come with a sampling error of a few percentage points. 7,500 sounds like a fairly large survey, though.

  25. Noah Eaton
    March 6, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    I’m 25, thus am all but certainly among the youngest visitors here and am, more or less, approximately two decades younger than the mean country-music audience demographic (most statistics I’ve seen list the mean country-listening demographic between age 42 and 46)

    I listen to many genres of music, but country music appeals to me particularly because, while while it’s not a bad thing rock and roll, in particular, tends to tap into more of the spontaneity and jugular aspects of life, I’ve found country music, despite being more simplistic in structure and style, nonetheless tackles deeper truths and revelations regarding our most purest, unembellished experiences, emotions and livelihoods, in a way that demonstrates how the simplest aspects of life are the stillest waters running deep.

    That, coming from a particularly young listener here, is what attracts me to country music. And I don’t think many young demographics around my age tend to shy away from the country genre more because they simply dislike the music, but more because either 1) they’re only seeing a mere, watered-down facet of the genre that’s not exactly representative of the genre’s wide, diverse essence or 2) sometimes appreciating the topical beauty and poignancy of the genre doesn’t come immediately to many listeners, and it just takes time to “get” what distinguishes country music from other genres, so to speak, on a thematic level primarily.

  26. Noah Eaton
    March 6, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    By the way, you can count me among the five percent surveyed who are regular country listeners but also haven’t latched onto the digital downloading bandwagon. I have yet to purchase my first digital single (not dissing the rising digital market, by the way, I just find it unnecessarily complicated regularly pull out my debit or credit card on individual occasions to purchase individual tracks, while also concerned about the lack of privacy protection from services like PayPal in the process of each transaction)

  27. Matt B.
    March 6, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    I was at The Stage last night and I can tell you that Jamey is now playing with ‘house money’ in the industry. It was a veritable who’s who at the show. While they let fans into the show (there was a line wrapped around the block), it was mainly Artists, label and radio and other industry folk enjoying the show.

    As for Holly, she is a great Piano player and works better when at the piano there. Still, She did well and was obviously nervous with playing in front of an industry invite-only crowd (“the public” was allowed into the show only after she was finished). The sound mix was being worked out while she played as well, which obviously didn’t help.

  28. Drew
    March 6, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Umm.. what is a countryphile? I sure hope it has nothing to do with pedophiles.

  29. Matt B.
    March 6, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Drew: -phile= a Greek root for love/strong liking of something.

  30. Brady Vercher
    March 6, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    I hope it’s not related to necrophilia, either…

    -phile
    a combining form meaning “lover of,” “enthusiast for” that specified by the initial element: Anglophile; bibliophile; demophile.

  31. Jessica
    March 6, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Got to see the webcast last night but boy was it late since we’re on Eastern time. I stayed up through Mary Go Round and had to go to bed so I could get up early to get to work. One of my friends watched the whole thing and mentioned that Jamey did a long show. I’ve seen him perform “Nothing Was Better Than You” but NOTHING compared to the sure intensity as it was last night. Wow, talk about power with the emotion.

    We’re heading to NC to see his show Saturday night. Will try to post a report over on the forums whenever we get back! :)

  32. Lee S.
    March 6, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    As part of the 18-25 age group, I go against the grain it seems, cause I buy a LOT of music online. Maybe it’s cause I go to school in a town with nothing but a Wal-Mart to buy albums from (and I’m too darn impatient to get it off Amazon), so I pretty much have to use iTunes.

    Also – does Jamie Johnson have a minimum facial-hair quote to get into his band or something? I mean, dang!

  33. J.R. Journey
    March 6, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    “I’m not saying the stigma isn’t there, I’m asking why country needs to break free of it. To say it needs to break free implies that the stigma is negative.”

    Isn’t any stigma negative by definition? The correlation of country music to a ‘red-state mentality’ is negative because it perpetuates the stereotype of the country music listener. To me, that implies that the music being made and labeled country is directed at conservative white Christians from the south. But country music goes so far beyond those boundaries these days that I think it’s almost insulting to assume that anyone who listens to country music fits this criteria. (Whether that’s good or bad is
    purely a matter of individual taste.)

    I thought country music broke free of its hayseed image long ago, but so many artists today seem to be exploiting a ‘country’ way of life – and in the process dumbing down the lyrics – that the image of the ‘backer-chewing redneck’ who listens to country music has returned. And he’s competing with the soccer mom audience for radio time.

  34. Brady Vercher
    March 6, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    By definition, sure, but it’s just a poor word choice and any negativity attached to the “red-state mentality” seems to be born of personal prejudices. The survey was based on the country audience, and if it demonstrates to you that that audience is “red-state” then what’s wrong with country music reflecting the ideals of its predominant audience?

    But country music goes so far beyond those boundaries these days that I think it’s almost insulting to assume that anyone who listens to country music fits this criteria.

    Who is making those assumptions?

    I thought country music broke free of its hayseed image long ago, but so many artists today seem to be exploiting a ‘country’ way of life – and in the process dumbing down the lyrics – that the image of the ‘backer-chewing redneck’ who listens to country music has returned.

    If that’s what you equate with a “red-state mentality” then I find that to be naive and insulting. I think the kinds of songs you mention are dumb as well, but you’re generalizing a bit much with this statement.

  35. Rick
    March 6, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    The “red state mentality” of so much country music in the past is what I like about it. The blue state mentality applies more to the Alt. Country and Americana scenes since so many of the exalted practitioners in those realms are blue state ideologues (ie liberals). But I digress….

    As for “Roughly 5 percent of American adults aged 18-54 qualify as “countryphiles,” and they’re not big fans of digital downloads.”, it’s nice to see I fit in somewhere. Music fans who love high quality audio are called audiophiles, so this new term hopefully describes audiophiles who love country music, like me. A well produced CD sounds better than an MP3 at a 256kps or lower bitrate. I prefer CDs because I just like hard copy items with inserts and a collectible disc. Browsing music stores has always been a hobby and when CDs go away so will that experience.

    Trent Summar’s first recorded musical incarnation was in the short lived “Hank Flamingo” band on the now defunct Giant label. Any fans of Trent’s music need to track down a copy of that album just to hear the covers of “Baby, Its You” and “White Lightnin'”.

    To include Chet Atkins in the top sessions guitarists article and not mention his inspiration Merle Travis is sinful. Without Merle’s influence Chet Atkins would never have become the stylist he did. Tsk tsk…

  36. Jessica
    March 7, 2009 at 6:01 am

    It looks like the ACM Top Artist things have been announced…
    Juliane Hough
    Jake Owen
    Zac Brown Band

    I hate that it was fan voted as I hoped that Ashton & Jamey would have won in their categories. But hey, Jamey DID get Album of the Year nominations as well as the slew of others. :-)

  37. Vicki
    March 7, 2009 at 6:56 am

    Yeah I voted for Jamie and Ashton too. I knew it was going to be hard for Ashton to beat Julianne but I thought Jamie had a chance. I thought Zak Brown was a good choice and I hope they win the main award on the ACMs.

    Looks like it’s between “Fearless” and “The Lonesome Song” for album. I imagine though “Fearless” will get it mainly due to it’s weeks and weeks at the top. Besides, I have to admit, there are some well written songs on there. It would be a deserved award if she wins.

  38. J.R. Journey
    March 7, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    If that’s what you equate with a “red-state mentality” then I find that to be naive and insulting. I think the kinds of songs you mention are dumb as well, but you’re generalizing a bit much with this statement.”

    I probably am generalizing too much. But I’ve always been a bit touchy with the whole ‘only rednecks listen to country music’ stereotype. And in defending the broad listenership of country music, I may have stereotyped ‘red state’ listeners myself.

    Any negative prejudices aside, I still think it’s very narrow-minded to assume that anyone who appreciates country music is white, Christian, and conservative – no matter what the study says. But that’s exactly what this study is saying. And it’s going to cause more and more people to assume this is the only demographic of the country music fan.

    Reading the entire article, its evident the results show more conservative listeners than liberals. This is very clear when they start talking about ‘loyalty’. It says fans are willing to give artists like Jewel, Jessica Simpson, and John Mellencamp a chance – as long as they’re here to stay. Still, the same people cite the Dixie Chicks as being ‘unloyal’ to the genre based on that same old statement from nearly 6 years ago. That visibly tells that most country fans are conservatives.

    And maybe I’m just bitching too much about it…

  39. nm
    March 7, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    It’s true; Americans don’t understand statistics.

  40. CMW
    March 7, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    64 percent of all the world’s statistics are made up right there on the spot
    82.4 percent of people believe ‘em whether they’re accurate statistics or not

  41. Leeann Ward
    March 7, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    “Statisticians Blues”!

  42. Stormy
    March 7, 2009 at 7:37 pm
  43. Matt B.
    March 7, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    When studying Statistics (my math class of choice) in University, we had to read “how to lie with Statistics.”

  44. Rick
    March 8, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    On the topic of the ACM fan voted “New Female Vocalist” category, here’s what nominee Sarah Buxton had to say in her latest MySpace blog:

    “I learned that Julianne Hough won best new artist the other day and I have to say CONGRATULATIONS to her!!! And for those of you who did vote for me, I have to say THANK YOU!!!! What an honor to have been nominated! The month that I spent “in the running” was a lot of fun…..it’s such a kick to dream of what it might feel like to actually win and I can’t imagine Julianne’s excitement this week, now that she found out!”

    Rick’s comment: Sarah Buxton is a class act all the way round, no denying that fact. As much as I like Sarah and her music I’ll admit I voted for Ashton Shepherd as this was a vocalist award. Of course it turned into a Top 40 “AirHead Country” popularity contest, but hey that’s where the mainstream market is these days. Oh well…

    PS – Julianne’s brother is releasing his “Ballas Hough Band” debut album this week and it was featured in Target’s Sunday advertisement today. Across the front of the CD cover picture was a banner that said “From Dancing With The Stars!”. I wonder how sales will compare to Julianne’s album? Hmm…

  45. Rick
    March 8, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Sad Breaking News from the folks at the “Heart of Texas” record label:

    I am sad to report that Grand Ole Opry legend Hank Locklin passed away. Hank was a great entertainer and the oldest active member of the Grand Ole Opry family. He worked our Llano Country Opry four years ago and was a frequest guest on our Hillbilly Hits Radio show over KNEL. He will be missed.

    Hank Locklin (born Lawrence Hankins Locklin, February 15, 1918, McLellan, Florida) is an American country music singer-songwriter. Born in the Florida Panhandle, he is one of country music’s Honky Tonk singers. He first recorded for 4 Star Records and had a long recording career with RCA Victor. A member of the Grand Ole Opry, Locklin’s biggest hits include “Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On”, “Geisha Girl”, and “Please Help Me I’m Falling”, which went to No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop music chart. Billboard Magazine’s 100th Anniversary issue also listed it as the second most successful country single of the Rock and Roll era.

    Other hits for Locklin included, “Happy Journey” (1961), “Happy Birthday To Me” (1962), and “The Country Hall Of Fame” (1968).

    Locklin had a strong following in Europe, and in Ireland – his popularity was such that in 1963 he recorded an album called Irish Songs Country Style. He has a fan club situated in Langeli, Bjerkreim, Norway.

    In 2006, he appeared on the PBS special, Country Pop Legends in which he performed “Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On”, and “Please Help Me I’m Falling”. Until his passing in 2009, he was the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 91. Locklin recently released his 65th album, By the Grace of God, a collection of gospel songs.”

    Godspeed, Hank….

  46. J.R. Journey
    March 8, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    RIP, Hank Locklin.

  47. Razor X
    March 8, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    I’m sorry to hear this. Two Opry legends within a week. Go rest high on that mountain, Hank.

  48. Jon
    March 8, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Locklin was a fabulous singer, and he lost hardly any of his abilities over the years. Sorry to hear about his passing.

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