Country radio is currently enjoying some of the best ratings in its long history, and much of the spike in popularity has mirrored the rise of so-called bro country — songs usually sung by men about girls, trucks and partying hard.
During a panel discussion Thursday morning (Feb. 26) at the 2015 Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, the man behind the viral “Mind Blowing Six Song Country Mashup” made a surprise appearance to ask about the controversial genre’s future.
Songwriter Gregory Todd, aka SirMashalot on YouTube, stood to address the panel of radio programmers and researchers.
He explained that a large percentage of the emails he received after posting the mashup were just wondering where they could download the project. They wanted it on their playlists, he said, and that was coming from country fans and non-country fans alike.
They didn’t seem to care that each of the six songs sounded the same. So Todd wanted to know if songs like Kenny Chesney’s “The Good Stuff” or Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” would ever be popular again.
Much of the talk leading up to Todd’s question was about demographics and how listeners aged 18-34 (millennials) were driving country radio toward broad, nationwide appeal. Luckily, the panelists said, country fans didn’t get the memo about bro country being a bad thing.
July of 2014 was country radio’s all-time peak, but since then, the genre has experienced a sharper-than-normal cyclical decline. So it seems that millennial’s passion levels change with the wind and now appear to be waning. How can programmers keep their interest while not alienating older listeners?
The panel agreed that variety is the key and that country in 2015 has so far been more diverse than it was in 2014. Story songs were coming back they said, even if that’s not necessarily what is selling.
They singled out Brandy Clark as an example of the new variety and wished for an end to country’s fascination with drinking. But in the end, what listeners say they want is all that matters, and for now that has not changed.
Bro country is probably here to stay, at least for a while, but country radio seems primed for a counter-reaction.