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Country Music Is the New Rock 'n Roll

Country Music Is the New Rock 'n Roll

A general consensus is forming in the music industry:

Country music is displacing rock ‘n roll as America's most popular brand of music.

“One thing is for sure: if country is not the new rock ‘n roll, it's getting close,” says Thomas Valentino, founder and head of The Counsel, a law firm that represents top music industry artists including Kid Rock, Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson and Uncle Kracker.

Nashville is as rock n roll, if not more, than New York or LA. Just ask the Kings of Leon, the hottest rock act in the world,” which has its roots in Nashville, Valentino adds.

Now, why is it that country music could be displacing rock n roll in popularity in the US?

Could it be that music listeners are sick and tired of the fulsome, industrial-strength self-dramatization, the twisted acting out in rock ‘n roll songs that take on a relentless, infantile, perverse logic all their own?

Could it be that music listeners no longer want any part of the excruciatingly annoying culture of excessive, self-righteous self-indulgence, of narcissistic self-entitlement cemented in many genres of rock 'n roll?

Where listening to these songs is like chewing on Reynolds Wrap tin foil? Where you have to apply Novocain to your nerve endings as soon their songs are over?

Is it that consumers want more, they want to connect, they want music that quite purely and simply tells stories that move the heart and provide a compelling narrative about the human condition?

"Country Music is the White Man's Rap"

“Country music is the white man’s rap,” says Tony Powell, sportscaster on the Don Imus show on the Fox Business network, (a razor-sharp, smart and truly funny comedian, Powell has racked up appearances on “The Chris Rock Show,” NBC’s “Showtime at the Apollo” and a stint as the studio warm-up act for Bill Cosby).

The country music industry is “a community, they share their music and they share their songs,” adds Woody Fraser, top executive producer at Fox News’ the Huckabee Show.

Fraser notes that when he produced the Mike Douglas talk show in the '60s, “it was hard to book a rock star with another rock star on the show to perform, because none of them wanted to share the stage with each other.” But Fraser says that “when I invited, say, Dolly Parton, everybody in country music wanted to perform with her on the show.”

Country Music Rock Stars

It’s widely known that rock ‘n roll has its roots in country music, having delivered two of the top selling solo artists in the history of music, both of whom crossed over to rock in their careers, Elvis Presley, and Garth Brooks, who with more 220 million albums sold now ranks high on the list of top-selling solo artists.

Country rock can also claim such stars as Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, the Charlie Daniels Band, Marshall Tucker, Alabama, The Byrds, Neil Young, the Grateful Dead, The Eagles, and also Poco and Buffalo Springfield. Of course, who can forget songs from The Rolling Stones such as "Honky Tonk Women" and "Dead Flowers?”

Like Elvis (the Hillbilly Cat), and Garth Brooks, other country music stars have also crossed over to rock ‘n roll, including Shania Twain, Hank Williams, Dwight Yoakam, Brooks & Dunn, and, of course, Parton.

The Proof Country Music is Gaining on Rock

Music agent Valentino also cites the following “impressive developments” to show that country music is quickly displacing rock and roll:

According to Inside Radio, country music is by far the most popular format for programming. As of August 2009, 2,014 stations were programming country while 1,323 offered Rock, including Classic and Alternative Rock;

For the last decade or so, country music listening nationwide has delivered a steady 77.3 million adults each week, according to the radio-ratings agency Arbitron;

In 2008, based upon total earnings, according to Forbes Magazine, three of the top 10 acts were country--namely, Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts and Toby Keith;

The Billboard charts for 2008, based upon the number of titles appearing on the charts, lists country music stars Taylor Swift at number five, Miley Cyrus at number seven, Carrie Underwood at number 13, and Sugarland at number 21;

Country music star Garth Brooks appears at a news conference in
Two country acts had albums in the top 10 in 2008: Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift;

The highest grossing musical tours for 2008 included Kenny Chesney, who was number four ($72.2 million) and Rascal Flatts at number eight ($55.8 million), according to Pollstar, a publication that tracks music tours;

According to Nielsen, for the first five months of 2009, country album sales experienced the smallest decline of all major music genres and led in growth for digital album sales. The top selling album this year is Taylor Swift, at 1.3 million units;

Last month, Swift became the first country artist to win an MTV music video award, and her song "You Belong With Me" is the first country crossover to top the Billboard Hot 100 Radio Chart, since Nielsen-BDS has monitored such data in 1990.

Valentino notes this caveat: “Country is genre specific music while Rock, categorically, will usually encompass different styles such as  ealternative, classical and modern," which can torque the numbers.

Looking closer, it’s true that country music had a pretty poor showing in 2008 versus other forms of music in terms of revenue, although it was on track to have better growth in the first half of 2009 than other genres, notes Fox News analyst James Farrell.

Even so, it’s hard to ignore the dramatic ascent of country music in the US, 2006 being a touchstone year when, as album sales of most musical genres dropped, country music experienced one of its best years. In the first half of 2006, domestic sales of country albums increased by 17.7% to 36 million.

Want More Evidence?

Here you go:

In 2008, country music album sales fell 24% - second only to classical music and compared with an overall decline of 14%.

However, consumers bought about 47.7 million country albums in 2008 – 8% of them from one artist, the 19-year-old Swift.

And the country music industry sold 2.35 million digital albums for the year through June 28, 2009 - a growth of approximately 55%. The growth beat all other popular music genres, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Gospel finished second, about five percentage points behind.


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