WSJ: Why Country Not Only Survived But Thrived
November 19, 2008 at 6:21 AM (PT)
If you tuned in to the CMA Awards on ABC last week to catch performances by young country stars TAYLOR SWIFT, BRAD PAISLEY and SUGARLAND, or by veterans ALAN JACKSON and GEORGE STRAIT, you are not alone, writes BARRY MAZOR in TODAY's WALL STREET JOURNAL. This year's telecast of the country music awards was seen by more than 34 million viewers.
You might have seen the SEPTEMBER telecast of last summer's CMA MUSIC FESTIVAL, too -- the only festival of any musical variety that is broadcast on network prime time. If you're not sure who or what the "CMA" behind those events is, you're not entirely alone in that, either. But the COUNTRY MUSIC ASSOCIATION, based in Nashville, is marking its 50th anniversary this month.
We couldn't have predicted the mass appeal and acceptance that country music has as pop culture today in 1985, when I first came here, let alone when the industry was struggling in 1958.
TODAY, Country music is an exception in the ailing music business, a genre still thriving in tough times. But back in NOVEMBER 1958 it was a commercially endangered species during a pop and rock 'n' roll boom -- and the association has played a key role in the decades since fostering that reversal of fortune.
"There were only 150 radio stations in the U.S. playing Country music then," the bluegrass pioneer and pop singer MAC WISEMAN said. In 1958, he was a hit-making performer, an artist-signing executive for DOT RECORDS, and an officer on the founding board of CMA.
"We're running a $30 million organization with over 6,000 members," said CMA Executive Dir. TAMMY GENOVESE. "We've just announced that we're giving a new million-dollar endowment to the COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME to help offset some of the cost of their music education program, which gets kids to understand what country music is, because our job is to look down the road and protect the future of the music, too. We're working on a major three- to five-year research project to track who our consumer is now and how they are buying music and where that's going to go. And with the Internet making the whole world an opportunity, we'll be able to promote our music and artists to the world better."
"We couldn't have predicted the mass appeal and acceptance that Country music has as pop culture today in 1985, when I first came here, let alone when the industry was struggling in 1958, GENOVESE continued. But there's no other genre of music that's pulled off what we have over the last 50 years."