The Peter Principle
August 15, 2013
There’s this guy, Peter Cooper, who writes about Country music for The Tennessean here in Nashville. He hates the kind of Country music popular on the radio right now. You know, the kind that’s currently driving ratings to historic proportions at Country stations all over the U.S. in all market sizes.
More on that that meanie Cooper in a minute. But to underscore the ratings story, in the recently released PPM numbers for July, Country stations rank # 1 in 11 of the 48 PPM-measured markets. Country cume is through the roof. And if you want a sign of real strength and depth for the format, look no further than Greater Media’s WKLB/Boston, which ranked No. 1 for the first time with its best-ever share, moving 7.0-8.1 from June to July.
Traditionally not a bastion of Country music, the Northeast is suddenly caught in the grips of the format’s recent explosion, thanks to WKLB and other stations in the region like Hall Communications’ WCTK/Providence, which also increased 7.5-7.6 to rank #4. Both have always been solid, well-programmed radio stations that competed with every other genre in their respective markets. Both have strategically embraced the steady flow of exciting new music that is arguably deeper and wider than Country’s last ginormous renaissance, in the early ‘90s.
Based on other stations in other markets that rank No. 1 right now â€“ KYGO/Denver, WYCD/Detroit, WFMS/Indianapolis, KFKF/Kansas City, WMIL/Milwaukee, WDSY/Pittsburgh, KUPL/Portland, WQDR/Raleigh, KAJA/San Antonio and KSON/San Diego â€“ one can easily make a case that Country music is literally sweeping the nation. Or perhaps, wiping the floor with it. As if that wasn’t already obvious, what with Blake Shelton’s successful run on “The Voice,” Keith Urban’s just-announced return to “American Idol” and the countless other television programs utilizing Country music and its artists as an anchor to drive content and thus, ratings.
Keep all of the above in mind when I share more info about Peter Cooper. In addition to despising mainstream Country music, he also hates Country radio and seizes every opportunity to make his case.
Take his August 6th column, for example. Cooper made a clumsy attempt to defend Country music in the wake of comments made by rocker Tom Petty, who, in “Rolling Stone” recently said of the genre, among other things, “I’m sure there are people playing country that are doing it well, but they’re just not getting the attention that the sâ€”tier stuff gets.”
Cooper titled his column, “Tom Petty’s Country Criticism Flawed,” a diatribe equally if not more flawed, thanks to his use of Petty blasting Country as a vehicle to once again bitch about the horrible-ness of current Country music and Country radio. His premise is that the kind of Country music Petty so reviles isn’t really Country music, saying, “There is life-changingly great Country music being made today. It is heard every night in Nashville clubs, and it is distributed around the world via this newfangled thing known as the Internet. It is often not on terrestrial radio, but what does that matter to us?”
So Country music is worth defending, but only if it comes in the form deemed worthy of Cooper. Get it? He goes on to cite The Wrights, Caitlin Rose, Job Byrd and Elizabeth Cook as examples of artists whose omission on Country radio, “Just makes Country radio (even) less enjoyable (if that’s possible).”
And while he was on a roll, Cooper poured it on during this condescending taking-to, further scolding all of us mere pedestrian music lovers devoid of any genuine taste, saying, “Contemporary Country radio is a format, not a genre. Country music is a genre, not a format. Great Country music is an art form.” Right, Peter. And that’s how a bill becomes a law.
Well, he’s right about that last part. It is an art form and comes in all shapes, sizes and sounds. Unfortunately â€“ no, make that fortunately â€“ Peter Cooper is not the arbiter of what is right, wrong, good or bad. You and I can enjoy Elizabeth Cook as much as Luke Bryan or Florida Georgia Line or Caitlin Rose and there’s not a damned thing he can do about it.
But I can chuckle at his niche-driven, fact-less zingers, like: “Country music doesn’t need Country radio anymore.” That statement deserves nothing more than the go-to retort of late when somebody does or says something astoundingly dumb: “Really?”Â
I haven’t talked to one radio listener, programmer, personality or artist, manager or label executive â€“ basically anybody associated with this business - who buys that. In fact, unique to any other music format or genre, Country radio is essential and responsible for helping artists establish careers and the ability to tour consistently. Case in point: There are more headliners now that at any time in the past and that includes the big Country boom of the ‘90s. That is simply not possible without radio airplay support.
Peter Cooper can embrace and advocate any artist or movement of Country he wants to. But I would suggest he occasionally step out of the clubs, get off that newfangled thing called the Internet and take a look around. Millions of people are flocking to Country radio every week in record numbers to hear music they are passionate about, delivered by stations equally passionate. They are coming to find something missing from other formats and genres. They’re young, tech-savvy and listen to many different kinds of music, yet they’re choosing mainstream Country radio as their preference.
Cooper urges readers to “Turn off the radio, turn on the world.” I say go ahead and keep the world turned on, but turn up the radio; it sounds pretty damned good right now.