Charlie Cook On Air: Radio’s Role In Introducing New Artists

CCook-onair-sm111So I drove to Landover, Md. last weekend to kick off summer with a few of my friends including Kacey Musgraves (not actually a friend as I have never met her), The Eli Young Band, Eric Church and Kenny Chesney. They are also not really friends either but they are terribly nice when we chat for a few minutes. Summer is a great time to see friends, have a pop or two and maybe grill some hot dogs and burgers. It is also the best time of the year for country music and country music radio. The format has the biggest stars touring America with big shows each summer and up and coming acts. Some acts have been away from radio for a while and are out there playing fairs away from the stadiums and arenas.

The No Shoes Nation Tour is a big one out there this year. Kenny puts together an incredible six hour show each year and this, the 2013 version, is no exception. Kenny brought along newcomer Musgraves this year and while about 10 percent of the eventual crowd was in the house when she took the stage at 5 p.m., she worked like there were a million people in Fed Ex Field. Jason Aldean is out with his 2013 Night Train Tour and last year Jason was the spring board to Luke Bryan taking the format by storm, eventually winning the ACM Entertainer of the Year. On tour, Aldean is joined by Jake Owen and newcomer Thomas Rhett. By the way, once concert goers get a listen to Rhett live, there is going to be no stopping this kid.

Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley are Locked and Reloaded with Lee Brice, Randy Houser and Joanna Smith providing the early ammunition. This is another opportunity for your station’s listeners to be introduced to superstar and newer performers. Carrie Underwood extended her Blown Away Tour throughout the year and has done no harm by keeping Hunter Hayes on the bill. Hayes is no longer a newcomer but not all fans have yet to experience him live in concert and when they do, will come away very impressed.

The aforementioned Luke Bryan is out with his Dirt Road Diaries Tour and has Thompson Square and Florida-Georgia Line warming up the crowd. No affront to Ms. Musgraves, who will quickly build a loyal following, but the opening acts to the other tours I mentioned should guarantee fans will get their beer cups filled during breaks and not during warm up acts. There will be no 10 percent crowds for these acts who have established radio track records already.

I could list another half dozen tours this year, including Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, and on and on. Additionally, the best weekend for country music in Nashville will be going on next week during the CMA Music Fest. Plenty of music, not only the four nights at LP Field, but from morning through evening, there will be music stretching from 6th Ave. to the river. The non-stadium shows are filled with newcomers and middle level acts that are great entertainers. The summer is the season for country music.

Back in Landover, the kids were at Fed Ex Field to dance, drink and party as they kicked off the summer in high (word chosen carefully) fashion. Sunday afternoon—late in the afternoon—after they woke up, I’m sure they were still texting and tweeting about the event.

Country radio must aggressively get on board. Take, don’t send, listeners to these concerts. Host pre- and post-parties on-air when the big stars come to your area this summer. Find and participate in the summer fairs that have new, local and established acts. I believe that it is important for the local country station to educate the market about the range of country artists out there. If country radio does it job and “sells” acts like Kacey Musgraves, the fan will make an effort to be in their seats to hear her. This is how we learned about Kip Moore on Church’s tour last year.

I am lucky to live in a part of the country where I am within a few hours drive of many events. In fact, this weekend I am going to go to Pittsburgh and see Brad Paisley, Lee Brice and Chris Young, and maybe meet new friends The Henningsens. I know I will be there in time to see them all perform because my local station has gotten me excited about their music.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MusicRow.)




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