An Open Letter To Ronnie Dunn
October 17, 2013
I've been a fan of yours since the moment I heard Brooks & Dunn's first-ever single, "Brand New Man," in a June, 1991 music meeting while programming KNIX/Phoenix. I distinctly remember that moment; realizing the music you and Kix made on your debut album would help redefine the format.
And it did.
I played all of your singles during my radio career, in three separate markets and while programming Blair Garner's syndicated "After Midnight" show.
I had the honor of working your records, too, while on the promotion team at Arista. Night after night, I watched you and Kix conclude your partnership with style and grace during your farewell tour in 2010.
I have covered your career as well, during my tenure at Radio & Records, Country Aircheck and now with All Access.
So, as someone who has played, worked, reported on and mostly, enjoyed your music for the past 23 years, I want you to know how deeply concerned I am right now. Concerned about you and how you've chosen to air your grievances about radio and the music industry.
I'm one of the 176, 161 people who've liked your Facebook fan page and I like you personally as well. Ditto for the dozens of PDs I talk to every week. But they and others are all asking me the same question: "Is Ronnie Dunn having a public meltdown?"
You posted private e-mail conversations between you and Clear Channel EVP Clay Hunnicutt. You're sharing industry newsletters predicting the company's gloom and doom. You're mad at Clear Channel, radio and others, possibly for not supporting "I'll Kiss You There," your most recent single.
You said this about radio in general: "99% of the people at radio are sincere, GOOD people but when 1% control the 99%, we have a BIG problem. RD"
When some have advised you to be careful about what you say and how you say it, you've responded defiantly, saying things like this: "You're about to see a new paradigm rise from the ashes, shortly. The old school cats think it's suicide to buck the system. The system is corrupt."
There's a lot to absorb on your site, Ronnie, too much to share here. My takeaway from all of it after watching for a few weeks is this:
I don't know what to take away.
One of the dangers of social media is that we can't read tone. Are you mad? Sarcastic? Bitter? Are you punking all of us and we simply can't see it?
I don't know those answers but I do know this: What you see as being salient, relevant and important points are being heard as scattered, random and venomous.
Unfortunately but honestly, the message I take away from this page is: "You kids get off my lawn!"
I don't want you to blow the legacy you've spent so many years building.
I'm no social media expert so I asked a couple of them to help me process all this in the spirit of reaching out to you.
"If you believe in your battle and want to stand out socially, start with your message," said Jacobs Media Dir./Digital and Social Strategies Lori Lewis. "It must be clear and not self-serving. Your fight must point to an absolute ruthlessness that needs to be addressed with an attainable and reasonable benefit from the battle."
Girlilla Marketing President Jennie Smythe suggested to me that you have chosen the wrong venue here; that your site -- a consumer, fan-based platform -- is not the place to dig deep into industry issues. But if you insist on doing so -- which I get, seeing that you have an audience of 176,161 followers -- Smythe advises, "Be prepared to articulate what to say in a digestible form, targeted toward consumers."
Ronnie, if you believe these issues are core to what your fans want to hear, Smythe says, "Then proceed. But if they want to be entertained, keep it light and take the industry conversation where it needs to go."
And so Ronnie, it is in that spirit that I offer you the proper venue for talking about industry issues and that is right here, on All Access. The space for next week's column completely yours to fill with your concerns, suggestions, objections -- you name it.
I want you to be heard because I know you are intelligent, thoughtful and creative.
What is that you want to say, Ronnie?
Please say it here, to a targeted, attentive audience.