Thursday, November 17, 2005

It's Over. Cash In Your Cow Chips & Go Home

Disclaimers: the writer is a life-long New Yorker, a life-long fan of country music, was a “personality” on two country radio stations, both of them in New York and was a charter member of the CMA, the Country Music Association.

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We were inundated recently by the run up to and the hosting of the CMA Annual Awards here in New York.

The association placed its programming on New York City’s non-commercial educational station, WNYE.

They closed Times Square for a day to set up for a Garth Brooks TV live-shot, which was no less packed with people than on New Year’s Eve.

A Grand Celebration of American Roots.

The recorded music sells well in these parts. The live shows are well attended. So why hasn’t country music radio succeeded here?

There are two and a half reasons.

Here’s the half: Madison Avenue won’t support something that doesn’t “sell well.”

Here’s the first full reason: no country music station (and there have been nine of them in the area at one time or another) gets near the top of the ratings, and no owner is satisfied with the concept “we have no shot at the top, the best we can hope for is something out of the top ten.”

Here’s the second and most important:

We don’t relate to the lifestyle. We New Yorkers don’t “get” country.

The tunes are generally pretty. So are the performers. The words are generally clever in a corny wordplay kind of way. The production is as elaborate as any rock concert, and generally better executed.

It’s the hayseed persona and the hayseed patina that turns us off.

That’s hayseed, not blue collar. Blue collar built and continues to build and runs New York.

The average New Yorker thinks of “country people” as dumb, artificial, superficial, uneducated primitives who go to church every Sunday, and then do nasty things to sheep and cows, cousins, siblings and neighbors’ wives and husbands on Monday, get into a disproportionate number of bar fights and spend most of the rest of the day in either the truck or the double-wide.

You can say most of that about ANY culture and be at least part-right.

We mostly don’t care whether that’s going on in our midst unless it hits us in the face.

But in the case of “country people” there’s an emotional recoil built into it.

We just don’t like the so-called Nashville/Austin sensibilities.

The unsophisticated acts of “early” or post-war country didn’t make a dent around here. Hank Williams, Senior, Hank Snow, Hank Thompson, Kitty Wells, Loretta Lynn, Webb Pierce and the like couldn’t cut it in New York.

Even Elvis wasn’t a hit around here until he ditched the moveable feast of pink Cadillacs.

The industry is a lot slicker and less “down home,” now. But it won’t make a difference.

The afterglow of our one night stand with the Confederates won’t last long.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2005

1 comment:

John G said...

Well said. But New Yorkers will say, "So what?" That's the problem.