2014? ... You Said It!
December 1, 2014
Wow! What a busy year. So much so, everyone seems to be asking the same thing: Where the Hell did it go?
2014 headlines included but were not limited to: 'Bro-Country," the format's continuing "Female problem," Country's fragmentation and three Country Radio Hall of Famers who walked away from the biz on their own terms.
These were just a few topics that dominated the conversation whenever All Access talked with industry leaders and newsmakers during the past 12 months
Below is just a portion of what all of you had to say about the format we all care about so much. Hopefully it provides a thumbnail sketch of 2014's narrative, one quote at a time.
As the year draws to a close, I want to thank everyone we talked to for the candor, wisdom, vision and most of all, accessibility you provided All Access Nashville this year.
Here now is the quote book for 2014:
"I continue to just be honest every day and share my feelings every morning, popular or unpopular. I'm an ass, but I also consider myself a really nice guy. I do have a short fuse though and I am very impatient, like I believe most humans to be. Of course, all of those qualities get me in trouble at times, but it's who I am and I can't hide it." - Bobby Bones, host of Premiere's Syndicated "The Bobby Bones Show."
"It's ridiculous that we just do radio the same way, and never do anything different or exciting." - Christian Miller, Regional Market Manager for West Virginia Radio's Northern Division, on the launch of "Tailgate," a genre-busting radio station in Charleston, WV.
"The deals have lived up to expectations. Everybody now is focused on the new digital rates and it's a challenge, but there won't be that much time between what's going on now and the moment we all realize that it's all broadcasting -- be it terrestrial or digital --and every spin in the digital and terrestrial space is going to have a value ... and hopefully an equal value." - Scott Borchetta, Big Machine President/CEO, on how revenue sharing deals with radio companies is working.
"We operate under a decades old consent decree with the U.S. Dept. of Justice that has not kept up with the demands of the modern, digital rights marketplace. We are working with the DOJ by providing them with meaningful data that can illuminate the need to meet the needs of this dynamic landscape and convince them to amend the consent decree. Because streaming music is the preferred method of consuming recorded product, we see this issue this as paramount." - Jody Williams,Vice President, Writer/Publisher Relations, BMI Nashville.
"This is based on solid metrics; the depth of the artists, the attraction of the artists and the low burn of their music and the fact that they're not present on the radio. When all these factors come together, you have the makings of a format that has legs and can stand side-by-side with mainstream Country and not cannibalize it, but grow the total share of Country." - John Dickey, Cumulus EVP/Programming and Content, on development of "Nash Icon" format:
"All of us can come up with a musical formula to fragment the format but will anyone listen? Will anyone buy advertising on it? For some reason every time I've seen alternate approaches tried on Country radio over the years I'm always reminded of the Edsel. It was a good car that nobody wanted." -- Bob Glasco, Glasco Media Programming Consultant,
"Who doesn't want to be an icon? But it feels more like someone inventing a new catchphrase." Craig Powers Cameron Broadcasting VP/Programming,on using "Icon" as format descriptor.
"If someone chooses to use Classics, Legends or Icons to brand a gold-based Country format, more often than not I think it's whatever rolls off the tongue best, rather than anything strategically chosen for the mission (unless you are somehow trying to own a position -- but even that gets fuzzy)." Howard Kroeger, Kroeger Media CEO
"It depends upon the feel of the song; lyrical content is a part of it, but so is the production value. There's a certain sound that a lot of these songs have and it can be hard to describe. I don't think we have any Jason Aldean in there; some Luke Bryan songs have it and some don't." - Fritz Moser, WLHK (HANK-FM)/Indianapolis PD, describing the criteria for coding "Bro-Country" songs.
"It's tough, but it's been tough for a long time. There was a time when females were not making the best music; that's what got us into this mess in the first place. Once that started to develop into a pattern, the cart got in front of the horse. Now we're definitely seeing, among some of our radio friends, a mindset that there could only be so many female voices on the radio at one time. I hate that notion, but the way to dig out of that is to come up with superior music." -- Mike Dungan, UMG Nashville Chairman, on the difficulty in breaking female artists.
"I'm not really sure why. It's something everyone is aware of and I don't think there is any conspiracy out there. I revert to my answer about everything being cyclical. It won't last forever. For whatever reason, that's just the way it's trending at this moment." -- Grover Collins, WUBE/Cincinnati PD, on breaking new female artists.
"To me, the joy of being a PD is hearing a song, knowing it is a hit, and rushing to the control room to get it on the air so the audience can hear it. I have been wrong on some songs, but I always feel the marketplace needs to help decide and not just a couple of people in a corporate office somewhere. Know your market! Know your audience. Program to your listeners, and not to your own ego. Always ask the question, 'What do my listeners want?' and give it to them." Mike Hammond, recently-retired WCYQ/Knoxville PD and Country Radio Hall of Famer.
"You just don't quit an air shift like I've been doing for over 45 years, and 40 in Louisville and not feel a little sad about the ending, however as I've said, in my heart I felt like this was the optimum time to leave. I did not want to hang around till they decided to kick me out the door and I feel at peace that it was my decision and mine only to hang it up." Coyote Calhoun, WAMZ/Louisville PD/afternoon personality and Country Radio Hall of Famer(Who will retire at year's end).
"People tell me their mom listened or they grew up listening to me; it's satisfying. It makes you feel old, too. But my kids have grown up with me working here as well." Barry Kent, retiring WTHI/Terre Haute, IN morning personality and Country Radio Hall of Famer.
"John Curb said to me on more than one occasion, 'You can get more done with a teaspoon of honey than a teaspoon of vinegar.' I've always believed that and have tried to follow his advice." Bruce Shindler, retiring Mercury Nashville regional.
"The lessons he taught me are with me every single day. And it's pretty significant that our favorite times together were driving four hours to Nashville just to hear The BIG 98 and Y107 (now "The River.") To this day, we still never have a conversation where we don't talk about radio." - Michael Bryan, WSIX/Nashville PD, talking about his father, Darrell, also a career radio professional.
"Be absolutely original. Be influenced by the music you hear without regurgitating the last thing you heard on the radio. Remember: the most respected songwriters in history were, and are, one of a kind. The only place you can get their kind of song is from them. When you do that, a franchise is born, and a long career is launched." - BMI's Jody Williams, offering advice to aspiring songwriters.
"One thing I was told when I first started to write was that a movie tells the entire story and a song tells a glimpse of the story; a moment in life. When I heard that, it totally changed my songwriting. Songs do tell stories, but they don't have to give away the whole story. Every song is a moment, a thought." - RaeLynn, Artist/Songwriter, Valory Music Company.
"You do want to do a good job. And when you sing it and do a good job, everybody forgets about you. But if you screw it up, everyone is pointing and laughing and watching YouTube for a few days. Most singers would tell you more than being hard, you don't want to mess it up. So I like hearing it, but not performing it." - Jerrod Niemann Arista Nashville artist, on why he doesn't like performing the National Anthem.
"We have to open our minds to more than just spins. Spins are important -- don't get me wrong. But we need to be more aware of how we are branding our artists with the radio stations that are playing their music. Big picture, win-win partnerships. It is less about the big add, more about the REAL airplay." - Ryan Dokke, Curb Records Nashville VP/Promotion, on what can be done differently in promotion.
"If this had been a duet with Jesus Christ himself, it couldn't possibly have lived up to the hype," -- Tony Randall of the syndicated "Tony And Kris" morning show, on the Garth Brooks "People Loving people" single.
"We will treat Country the way we treat every other subject we cover. We will take it seriously, we will look beneath the surface, and we will always focus on what brought us here in the first place -- the music." -- Gus Wenner, Rolling Stone Country editor, on how RSC will be different.
"You have to be your audience. Do events where your audience is already going. Don't try to drag them to events they would never be at. Be real, and be proud of where you are." - Matt Bradley, KWEN/Tulsa PD.
"If you don't balance your music and presentation it has and will continue to hurt the 35-44 females. There aren't any format lines and 35-44 females will find product that is appealing to them in or out of the format. Music style is cyclical and we are going through an infusion of music that targets the 18-34s. I think you have to play the BIGGEST records to play to the 18-34s but still maintain a base that is core to the 35-44s." -- John Thomas, VP/Marketing & Entertainment, Boomtown Entertainment - on whether younger musical skew hurts core females 35-54.
"We want to enhance a station's jock lineup, not take away. I'm not a fan of 24/7 syndication on stations because I think local radio is a vital piece of a great station. However, Country music fans are the most interested fans in the music and the artists. Our CMT radio shows tap into that fan passion. Listen, when it comes to local and national, the beauty of it is, stations can have both." - Cody Alan, "After Midnite" and "CMT Radio Live" host.
"Radio will have to continually adapt to competition and lifestyle changes. The latter is having an impact on TSL and the competition is not only coming from within radio but from the new devices and delivery methods available to everyone. Also the syndicated vs. live-and-local issue is going to be interesting to watch. Finally, smaller market stations are going to have to embrace the social media tools available to them in a much greater capacity." - Jeff Walker, Aristo Media President.
"Well the drum loop world is here and very relevant in the format. Pop style recording is flavoring our radio right now. We need to be prepared for that to get old. People grow up and the next generation wants something else. The next big thing is to start cutting records again and break artists and stop cutting singles. You can have a great singer singing a great song and people will buy that song but if we can't sell records how are we going to sell out stadiums? I don't see 40,000 people showing up at Wrigley Field for a few good singles." -- Michael Knox, record producer on what's the next big thing for Country music.
"Two things stand out: (1) It seems like there is almost never a week where there is not a major going for adds. I don't know if we just have more majors, or they are going deeper on albums. (2) When we positioned WCTK as a landing place for people who don't like hip-hop, I never imagined we'd have actual hip-hop songs to ponder in the format. It's made the position more challenging, but also more definitive. Our core knows we have to make the choice, and so far, have rewarded us for sticking with the position." -- Bob Walker, WCTK/Providence, RI PD, on how the format has changed in the last four years.
"I'm proud to be a female; I don't hold anything back from that. But if I were asked, "What would you like to be known for -- as the best female label president in town or the best label president?" I'm going to say the latter." - Cindy Mabe, UMG Nashville President.