Charlie Cook On Air: Country Takes Boston

Jason Aldean comes to Boston's Fenway Park

Jason Aldean comes to Boston’s Fenway Park

Something cool is happening in America when it comes to country music. They like it. They really like it. Garth Brooks appeared on the cover of Forbes magazine on March 2, 1992. The slug line read, “Led Zeppelin meets Roy Rogers…Country conquers Rock.”

That was validation that country music had arrived. You might remember this was a really big deal for the format. If New York accepts country music it is okay for the rest of to bask in its glow. Two things happened this year. First, country radio returned to New York and Forbes put another Country artist on its cover July 15th. And Toby Keith looks as much a businessman as a performer. Oh, and he is referred to as the 500 million dollar man.

Charlie Cook

Charlie Cook

Again, having the spotlight on the format out of New York is very important to the revenue side of the format. Anything good out of the Northeast is good for the format.

Last Friday and Saturday night, Jason Aldean rolled his Night Train Tour into Boston’s Fenway Park. Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Jake Owen and Thomas Rhett could have been elected to the city council in Boston come Sunday morning. They were well-loved for five hours on Saturday night. The electricity in the stadium Saturday (I went to the show Saturday but I’m sure Friday was just as exciting) night was like a lightning strike.

The show sold over 70,000 seats over the two shows filling the park with country music fans. In Boston. My cab driver didn’t even know there was a country music station in Boston, as he told me from the airport. To be fair, there are most likely not many country music signals in his home country, so he skipped 102.5 on his scan button.

The format has blown up this year in PPM markets. Every day we see country stations hitting record highs. We expect to see these numbers in Indianapolis, where WFMS and WLHK are No. 1 and No. 2. Indy has always been a really good country market. These two stations are in a real battle and that brings out the best in both stations.

But we don’t expect to see these kinds of numbers in Boston or Pittsburgh, for example. Kudos to Mike Brophey and Ginny Rogers at WKLB and Mark Anderson and Stoney Richards at WDSY, who have put up huge numbers.

The heat Aldean generated in Boston and Brad Paisley and Taylor Swift did in Pittsburgh has paid off. In the coming weeks we’re going to see if the excitement of these stadium and Pavilion shows in major markets will raise all boats in diary markets.

We know PPM and diary are very different animals. If PPM is a throughbred then diary is beat up donkey. Almost everything we see in diary markets can be questioned. Unless of course, my charges do well. Then you can take it to the bank. I understand Portland, Maine; Springfield and Wilmington, Del., all share in the excitement of a Fenway park show but it is not like the event is causing traffic jams in their cities.

I believe the format has the best music on the radio today. But the excitement of your team (an Aldean or Luke Bryan or Carrie Underwood) winning the super bowl is unequaled. (Not that I would know. I am a Lions fan.) Country radio programmers need to remember creating excitement about the music and the artists is what is going to make you a winner every day of the year. You have to do it between the great music otherwise you’re just Pandora.

I don’t want to leave DeeJay Silver off the kudos list. He had the crowd at Fenway at the top of their game. And when 35,000 concert goers sang along to “Sweet Caroline,” you had to get chill bumps.

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

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