Charlie Cook On Air

Too Few Songs Have to Stand Alone

I was listening to an AC station in the West Virginia radio chain that I work for and heard “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry. Of course, they also play “Need You Now,” selected Taylor Swift songs, Keith Urban, Shania Twain, Tim McGraw and even a recent Kenny Chesney. I was thinking how lucky they are to be able to play only the cream of the format.

As an AC station they also play P!nk, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars and a bunch of other stuff, some of which is pretty good. I like Katy Perry and an occasional Bruno Mars song, but let’s get back to the Country Music they play.

Just think how cool it would be to pick and choose what you wanted to play.

When a new record from (fill in the blank) comes out, you play it. It goes to No. 1 in 14 weeks and then the following Monday there is another record from the act on your desk. Tuesday you’re getting emails and phone calls telling that you should add this one out of the box because the last one was No. 1. You want to yell, “Please give the listener a minute to digest the last song.”

In Country Music there is a connection between one record and the next. It is not as strong as promotion people want you to believe, but it is there. It does not come in 14 week sections, but it is there.

Still, what if every record actually stood on its own?

I like the Band Perry. They are talented. They are good kids and I trust that they will be staples in our format for years to come. But they may never have another AC hit. And whether they do or not, “If I Die Young” is not diminished in the listener’s eye. This was their time on AC radio.

Here’s my point. I am saying that AC programmers get to listen to Country Music with a clean slate and chose the songs they think best fit their stations. Country programmers get hammered to play everything by a particular artist because either that artist has “earned a place” on their station (I have heard that more than once), or because it is on 40 stations (mostly played in the evening or overnight) and, “we are working this one all the way to the end.”

Good songs get lost in the shuffle because they are not on a major label or they don’t have tour support for the song’s airplay. I understand that if a newbie act is on a veteran’s tour and the label can provide tickets for the show, then the new act gets extra attention. Too few songs are forced to stand on their own in our format.

Some are obvious: “Remind Me,” “Honey Bee,” “Knee Deep.” Those are no-brainers. Some are not so obvious but there is often an entitlement argument from the bigger acts and the bigger labels. That hurts smaller label acts with good music.


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