Your Take: Country Music’s Future at Radio

Ken Morton, Jr. | March 1st, 2014

Last week, programmers and DJs descended upon Nashville for the Country Radio Seminar. Several programs discussed the music habits of today’s listeners and some interesting facts were shared.  In one program, Edison President Larry Rosin offered more information from the organization’s media research study, including a stat he was hesitant to reveal yesterday for fear of “bumming people out”: “Respondents’ favorite ways to listen to music scored traditional FM radio at 17%, internet options such as YouTube and digital stations at 14% and ‘my own personal collection’ topping the list at 30%.”

In another program, Rhapsody’s Jason Schneck added, “85,000 users on Rhapsody are primary Country users. 350,000 consumers have played Country in the last month. When we do a Country feature, we see a 20-30% increase in that catalog after. Country is growing exponentially for us. There’s a great opportunity there and we’re doing all we can to promote it.”

We want your take: What is your favorite way to listen to music? Do you primarily use streaming services, radio (traditional or satellite) or mostly listen to your own music collection – and is that collection digital, or do you prefer vinyl and/or CDs? If you look in your personal crystal ball, what do you think it will be five years from now? What about 20 years from now?

  1. C. Eric Banister
    March 1, 2014 at 9:57 am

    I listen to a mix of my personal collection and streaming. Out of convienence I find myself listening to music on streaming services that I own in other formats. I even find myself buying albums to support an artist, but listening to it on a streaming service rather than on the format I just bought.

    I don’t think there is any way to predict the options for listening to music in 5 years, and certainly not 20 years. I don’t think physical formats, or even downloads, will be going completely away, though.

  2. Dave D.
    March 1, 2014 at 10:15 am

    The large majority of my listening is split evenly between radio and personal collection. The radio is mostly satellite, supplemented only by the two local university country/roots radio shows. Recent additions to the personal collection are 50:50 between CD and digital. I’d go 100% digital if they would always include a .pdf of liner notes.

    The other 10% is internet, primarily YouTube or an artist’s web site, to hear more about someone I’ve just learned about. No idea about where things will be five or 20 years from now.

  3. Jonathan Pappalardo
    March 1, 2014 at 10:31 am

    I’m usually listening to CDs I’m reviewing whether they’re advanced copies or ones I’ve bought myself. Beyond that, I listen to satellite. I always say Sirius/XM Prime Country keeps me sane.

    On Sunday mornings the local country station (102.5 WKLB) plays a four hour block of ‘Sunday Morning Country Oldies’ that’s just divine. The format has switched to an 80s/90s bent over the ast few years, with 70s thrown in, but it’s still wonderful to listen. The two DJs have been anchoring the show for more than 20 years. Last time I tuned in, they played everything from Tracy Byrd’s “Keeper of the Stars” to Tanya Tucker’s “What’s Your Mama’s Name” to Emmylou, Dolly, & Linda’s “To Knw Him Is To Love Him” plus Emmylou’s “Beneath Still Waters,” among others.

    As far as streaming, I only use Spotify when listening to releases I need to review for My Kind of Country spotlight artists. I should use it more, listen instead of buying new releases all the time, but for whatever reason I don’t.

  4. Andrew
    March 1, 2014 at 10:37 am

    I’m the music director for a country radio station, so I listen to that a lot both when I’m the DJ and when I’m in my car. If I’m out of town or at home I’ll listen to my iPod.

  5. Barry Mazor
    March 1, 2014 at 10:45 am

    There is simply no longer any good reason or business model that has thousands of stations playing exactly the same, limited national playlist–the same list anybody can or will soon hear digitally anywhere anyway.

    If broadcast country radio has a future, it will be in localizing and distinguishing what it does to be an attraction. Varying flavors and even formats and country music reflecting local/regional tastes, time of day, year-anythting smart that matters–live music and talk with local and visiting acts, involvement with the scene. And added income from all over the globe since it can be heard anywhere digitally anyhow–and a reason’s been provided to listen.

    It might work something like-WSM.

  6. C. Eric Banister
    March 1, 2014 at 11:04 am

    I agree with Barry. I think for radio to survive it needs to roll back to what it was. That’s not just “good ole days” thinking, either.

    For example, in my small little town there is a local owned independent station. Over the past few years they have gone to playing the exact same music that all of the stations in larger towns are playing. Their highest rated times were the two weekend “oldies shows” or local sports events. Their change, in what I’ve observed, wasn’t a case of playing what the audience wanted, but more of an inter-industry “keeping up with the Joneses” (though, unfortunately not George).

  7. bob
    March 1, 2014 at 11:26 am

    My wife and I listen to cd’s that we both like almost every morning. (We’re retired) The rest of the day when we listen it’s usually music from i-tunes or cd’s loaded to our laptops. We almost never listen to radio.

    I have a lot of music on vinyl, LP’s and 45’s. If the LP is one on which I still like most of the songs, I do occasionally play the LP. Some I’ve played recently include John Denver, Don McLean, Everly Brothers, Elton John, Joe South, B.J. Thomas, Larry Gatlin, Johnny Rodriguez and the Eagles. If I no longer care for most of the album, I buy the few songs I like on i-tunes.

    RE streaming, we recently saw Melissa Manchester and Brandy Clark shows on Stage-It. We both check you-tube occasionally.

    I have no idea what the future holds for radio but i hope i-tunes and cd’s are going to be around for a long time. I’ll be too old to embrace a new technology.

  8. luckyoldsun
    March 1, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    I live in a city that did not have any country station for more than ten years–Then something called Nash FM came in. It plays current country, but I hesitate to even call it a radio station, as it seems to have no DJ’s and seems to be run by a computer. If you listen to the station there’s nothing about it that indicates place or time. The hour you listen to on Sunday at 2 pm could be the same feed that was played at 2 am a week before. But I couldn’t even listen to an hour because the station seems to have a constant drumbeat of noise designed to drive anyone over the age of 16 insane. I don’t even know what it is–It must be something the sound engineers concoct.

    A short time later, I got a new car that came with Sirius XM radio, so I finally have something listenable. I don’t know if that Nash noise is still even on.

  9. nm
    March 1, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Nash FM is a Cumulus chain. A bunch of stations in different places given the syndicated shows.

    I think this is the wave of the past.

  10. Barry Mazor
    March 2, 2014 at 6:02 am

    And when WHN AM was the New York country station–and the most listened to country station in the US, by the way–it had a format that was unquestionably country but skewed towards the tastes of those around the metropolitan New York area most likely to go for it–so it was current pop country, some traditional, some that might be called Americana now. The mix was devised by smart programmers at the radio station that understood their own audience–not any imposed fake sophisticated national corporate-meets-focus group notion of “what works, everywhere–period.” And no, not presented by robots.

  11. Janice Brooks
    March 2, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Has anyone been listening to online stations such as what I run on Live 365. You might hear the same song tuning in different hours but my mix is anything but what you will find on commercial radio.

    What country radio needs is more Bluegrass and Western Swing.

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