For the first time since the early 1980s, country recently scored the top two songs of any genre in the United States. The last time that happened, Eddie Rabbitt and Dolly Parton were number one and number two respectively.
Well, definitely our top two artists for “Last Night” and “Fast Car” are Morgan Warren and Luke Combs. There was a time when country programmers were reluctant to share their songs in other formats, but I believed then, and still do, that this dynamic was only suitable for country radio. Pop stations playing country music only strengthen our brand and reach. People new to this service will want to know more. Billboard now calls country the new pop.
So how do you take advantage of the country’s recent surge in popularity as a format? Let’s start with the basics. Make sure your country crossover song finishes its chart run with strong and balanced rotation and isn’t buried in a rarely played category.
Worried about burns? Country songs rarely catch fire. (Exception: “Achy Breaky Heart” flared up beyond recognition.) If you think a song burns, it probably doesn’t. Real hits usually either go off the air or have to be ruthlessly killed to lower their revs.
Also consider the balance of crossover songs. If the two are in short categories, separate them for better balance.
Don’t forget the core rural life group, but remember that another life group is now in sync. As long as it doesn’t alienate the core, you can adjust the content to make it more appealing to the masses.
In the early ’80s, ratings skyrocketed for country stations that spread their appeal between songs. You can too.
The masculine appeal of music has become stronger, and country has also heated up. I have always said that for rural stations to perform well, the men must be strong.
Outside the broadcast, take a cue from what the NFL did years ago. At the time, the league appealed primarily to older men, so the NFL entered places they never expected, such as festivals on college campuses and art shows in metropolitan areas. Now is the perfect time to put on your set-up and swag and be in a place where people aren’t expecting to find you. The rock station gives out tickets to country shows. Be there when Taylor Swift is in town.
I feel that this national uprising is not a passing fad. It rests on a solid foundation of musical and lifestyle identity. There are also newcomers like Zach Bryan who have such a strong and broad appeal that they’re sure to fill arenas and get airplay even if his music doesn’t get tested right away. From a historical perspective, Shania Twain’s first song didn’t test well either. Because she had a revolutionary new sound. HARDY, Jelly Roll, and Lainey Wilson are also pop artists with mass appeal.
America’s cultural divide may also be contributing to fueling the country’s flames. It’s no coincidence that Morgan Warren went from mid-level artist to superstar after being effectively canceled for this behind-the-scenes act. Historical parallels: Kenny Chesney became a superstar after being arrested along with Tim McGraw for riding a police horse on the run in Buffalo, New York.
Enjoy your ride. I don’t know how big this thing will get. — Joel Raab of Country Insider, email@example.com, Joel Raab.com