Charlie Cook On Air: ACM Weekend

A couple of times a year the Country Music industry celebrates its success with a national audience. The Country Music Association owns the Fall season and has made the broadcast from Nashville a glittery night for the format’s stars and fans.

Spring is the domain of the Academy of Country Music. The ACM has grown, in the last 10 years or so, from a TV show to an event that captures the entire country lifestyle. There are a number of reasons for this growth. The two major reasons are Bob Romeo taking over as the force behind the ACM and Daniel Snyder’s company buying Dick Clark Productions and installing Orly Adelson in the position of president of the division.

The team of Orly and Bob have pushed the envelope at every stop.

Bob’s vision to take the show to Las Vegas and beyond and Orly’s willingness to support the ACM’s growth and to bring the TV show along with that growth has allowed the organization to grow and become a force with the fans.

The CMA has spread the exposure across two seasons with the incredible success of the Music Fest in the summer and the continuous push to support Nashville school children, in the Fall, with their musical education. The CMA is the also the reason that the Country Music Hall of Fame was able to expand into its soon to be world-class facility.

The ACM has taken its Lifting Lives program to new heights and is doing important work for needy people in and around the music industry.

Before I get further into this note I want you all to know that your organizations are in great hands. Steve Moore and Bob Romeo are fabulous stewards of the format and you should all know how lucky we are to have these guys running the shows. I don’t think it is a coincidence they both come out of the “promoter world.”

Anyway, I reached out to a couple people to ask their opinions of where we are today with the format.

Most of you know Jaye Albright. She is the Seer from Seattle. What Jaye says about Country Music and Country radio reverberates throughout the industry. Iasked her what she saw in the future for Country music and thus Country radio.

“One of country’s greatest strengths remains truer than ever – the fact that older listeners whose tastes in music on radio otherwise are all songs from their youth love both the newest music and also their all time favorites. As always, the young side of our target isn’t as fond of the country hits from much longer than 3-5 years ago. And, when those moons align – as they have done for the last two years – we get an exciting new group of superstars which drives growth. Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown Band, Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, Taylor Swift and Luke Bryan, for example, are more than enough to build a new format on, while some very savvy heritage superstars like Brad Paisley, Toby Keith and Tim McGraw have found songs that have kept them in the mix as well.”

This is like bringing the best rookie, or in this case ALL the best rookies, to a team stocked with seasoned veterans who have been winning Super Bowls for years.

Mt. Wilson Broadcasting (KKGO Los Angeles) owner, Saul Levine cautions us to not take anything for granted though. “Country Radio is riding high now. Great songs and great artists. We have to make certain that this is not another fad. This has happened before where the format ran out of steam. It is important that we encourage and develop ongoing new talent.”

KKGO can do that being the leader in the format. Saul also specifically addresses what radio stations need to do to make their program more appealing to the radio user.

He added,”We need to respect our listeners by not running an excessive number of commercials. And, we must serve the needs of our local audience, as the local hometown stations in our communities.”

Jaye addressed Saul’s concern about this possibly being a fad. “Boom years used to last five to seven years, but everything moves so fast in this culture, the question now is how long will this last? Will it be like the early 1990s boom? Or, more like the brief one in 2006, which peaked in just over one year? Thanks to the fact that all of our “new big seven” stars are all doing exceedingly well in touring, as are many of the historical stars, I am optimistic that as long as we don’t push too much mediocre music at listeners, we’re going to have a good run, driven this time by the emergence of Generation Y, the largest generation in American history, whose values are going to drive everything for the next decade or so.”

As you watch the ACM show this weekend look at the balance of young and tested performers blending to make this the kind of format that has a great future. Add non performers Steve Moore and Bob Romeo into that mix and our future is as bright as the Las Vegas Strip.


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