This Column Will Feature No Tomato Analogies
May 29, 2015
Jimmy Carter at LAX
On vacation, but even 2,000 miles from Nashville I felt the great "Tomato" explosion. It was a case of an analogy intended for clarity that came off really bad.
In case you have been on a deeper vacation and unplugged, a radio music scheduling/radio consultant did a trade publication interview and it went viral into the mainstream media. Described Country radio like a salad; men are the lettuce and women are the tomatoes. Trying to say it is a male-driven format where female singers are not the majority ingredient. (I am really trying to be careful here.) In a next-day article, he did a great PR move and came forward to clarify. I'm not sure the offended heard him or were swayed, but he got out there and tried to further his teaching moment. Note he did not apologize, but went on stating research facts and experience personally conducting in-person research events.
In the current political climate, all this could not have come at a worse time. The country, meaning our nation, is very polarized on subjects that range from climate change to race ... immigration to health care. Racism, ageism and sexism. Major death by social media issues. Raw passion on these subjects and many more.
Here is where I do not give analogies, but slow the car down to 15mph and drive slowly...
In the '90s, at times it seemed to be all about the women of Country... remember? From Reba to Shania to Taylor and Carrie and now Miranda. Big stars on the radio and everywhere else. In the '60s in pop ... the Group era ... every artist seemed to feature four or five ... After Alabama, even Country music had a small burst of groups ... Trends break out after one person crashes through and explodes. Radio was slow to find Elvis, but TV sped things up ... The Beatles were a multi-year overnight success playing Germany and The Cavern Club before Ed Sullivan helped them ignite into Beatlemania.
Right now due to a desire by radio station owners to chase a younger audience ... programming changed ... older artists were pushed out to make room for the younger "Bro Country" folks. Young guys who attracted young girls. Country radio loved the energy and the younger demo ... so did more ... changed presentation strategy ... adopted the Bro sound and here we are.
Radio is a business, not a movement. It plays what attracts the audience it wants to get. For non-professionals, this is an analogy-free zone ... take Talk radio and teens ... find me a bunch of high school Rush Limbaugh listeners ... you won't ... The Bro Country guys and some girls don't skew older for the most part. Which is just fine for the radio audience some companies are trying to get. It's not pleasant for every taste, but its business...
Consultant Keith Hill did an interview with a trade publication much like this one. His analogy started a war among ... the offended. He even got death threats.
There is ageism operating all over today in our society ... racism, oh yeah. Sexism, you bet. In a perfect world, you don't have those things ... But we don't live in that world, do we. I feel bad for the consultant who is standing his ground. Death threats for an opinion is insane, but today is not uncommon.
Radio tries to get the biggest audience by doing what research and gut and ears tell them to do. You are going to offend some segment ... No analogies, but a good place to put one.
If you hate Bro Country ... this trend will wear down and something else will come along ...Time rolls on ...Young people create music based on their listening experience. Men and women will make new Country songs based on what they grew up with ... Hip-hop of the '90s, you hear in Country shows today ... so fasten your seat belt. Try to think before you speak. Good luck to all the musicians out there trying to make it on to the Countdown. Who said it was going to be easy? Hey, put your material on YouTube like Taylor did ... and see what happens ... if the front door is closed ... try the back ... If the back is closed, go through the chimney. If you go viral, the mass media must deal with you. Force them to change with success! Radio is just the biggest game ... there are others now ... Opportunity to beat gatekeepers has never been greater or more diverse.