Country music fans will soon be able to listen to the Grand Ole Opry on the Internet. Discussions about broadcasting the historic radio show on this newest and most youth-oriented medium have been underway for some time, sources confirm.
presence may help the Opry rebuild an audience that has been gnawed away by many factors, chief among them the aging of its
core listenership and the closing two years ago of the traffic-generating Opryland amusement park.
"[Going on the
Internet] is something they're in the works on," says Opry publicist Jessie Schmidt, "but it's not a done deal yet. There
are still some legal issues that they have to deal with before it becomes final."
Like everything else, the degree
of the Opry's Internet participation is also still up in the air. "I'm not sure whether they will do the entire show," Schmidt
continues, "or just portions of the Friday and Saturday night shows . . . It could be several months before this is all set
and done, or it could be just a few weeks. They're trying to work out the situation with the unions and all that. So we're
not sure of what kind of time frame we're looking at."
Randy Ford, secretary-treasurer of the Nashville chapter of
the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), says both his union and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
(AFTRA) have had discussions with Opry managers about the impending online broadcasting. Talks will resume next week, he adds.
But he says he knows of no target date for the actual Internet launch.
In recent years, the Opry has attempted to
reach younger fans by adding younger and top-selling artists to its roster (including Garth Brooks, Alison Krauss, Vince Gill
and Trisha Yearwood), but this has not greatly altered the perception that the Opry is still a program by and for old-timers.
In one effort to counter that perception, Opry management will replace older members of the house band with younger players
(see Opry Dismissal). Determined to create the same sounds they have on their records, the Opry's newer members tend to use
their own bands, rather than relying on the staff musicians.