Charlie Cook On Air: Country Climbing in PPM Markets

Charlie Cook

Charlie Cook

This is a “well, darn things are going great this summer for country music and country radio” article.

Country radio stations are leaping to the top of the pile in PPM markets. I don’t mean just markets like Dallas, where KPLX is inching its way back to the top of the heap, or Atlanta, where both stations are healthy, or Indianapolis where both stations are as hot as climbing the “Soldiers and Sailors” Monument on an August afternoon.

No, Country stations are at the top in markets like Milwaukee (to be fair Kerry Wolfe has accomplished this many times). Ditto for Tim Roberts in Detroit on WYCD. In Pittsburgh, where the only thing bigger than Country music this year is the Pirates, and Boston where the ‘A’ in Aldean is pronounced with a broad ‘A’. The concert season has helped drive ticket sales and radio ratings.

The difference between the Boston and Georgia accents did not stop over 70,000 New Englanders from filling Fenway Park (also pronounced with a broad ‘A’) to see Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, et al. It was one of the most electric nights they have seen since, well, I don’t know when, because the Red Sox won both recent World Series titles (2004 and 2007). This was followed by Taylor Swift coming to town at the end of July for two dates.

The charge from the concert season is bigger than I can ever remember it being. The CMA Fest, in Nashville, had its biggest crowd near the beginning of the Summer and things have rolled on since. CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night To Rock, which aired Monday night, set viewing records for ABC-TV, up 44 percent over last year’s show and set a record for the network overall since it began airing the special in 2006.

Not only Aldean and Swift, but Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Eric Church and Zac Brown Band have all been apostles of live music this summer. All of the big acts are out this summer. All of them are creating incredible excitement from city to city. That kind of excitement would not be possible if not for the fact that the music is as good today as it has ever been for radio.

I have written before that Tim McGraw and Blake Shelton have released, arguably, the best music of their careers this time. And, kudos to Warner Brothers Records for deftly handling the release of Shelton’s singles this time. It seems like they are giving radio enough time to expose a song and not coming right on top of the chart-peaked song. Radio always has a fresh Blake Shelton song and the listeners are responding to all of the music.

The music this summer has been the best in a long time. I hesitate to do a list for fear of leaving someone out, but Florida Georgia Line, Hunter Hayes, The Band Perry and Randy Houser have all set personal bests this summer. And have introduced their music to a whole new group of fans as parts of bigger tours.

“Cruise” has become an anthem, enough so that FGL was spotlighted on the Teen Choice Awards and fit right in with One Direction and Selena Gomez. Hayes came off the Carrie Underwood tour and has not missed a beat playing fairs and medium venues from coast to coast. He, and FGL, are guaranteed pop radio play going forward and that is going to help expand the genre even more.

Everything swings back so there is no guarantee next summer can be this big for the concert season or for country radio, but the format has laid the seeds with younger listeners, so the music and the experience leaves them with a new attitude about the format.

If WKLB is now a button in 10 percent more cars this summer because of the excitement, at least the format is in the game today where two years ago it might not have been.

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

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