Spring 2007 appears to have been the country format's latest peak. The distance between the biggest hits by today's superstars and the rest of the pack of current songs has never been greater. Now, just today, a couple of new 'country rock' fragmenters named the Rebel and Hank launched to join Earl, the Bar, et al.
The rumor mill reports more are coming.
Meanwhile, the top country station in Dallas just hit a 2.9 share.
Fortunately, leading country stations from Seattle to San Diego to Charlotte are still solidly ranking #1. PPM seems to love country in Houston and Philadelphia. So, clearly, country is still very strong as a format, but - in many markets - it seems to me that there are just too many country stations trying to divvy up a "flat" (at best) share.
It baffles me why at this time in the format cycle anyone would go for anything but a WIN.
That costs money, of course, and takes time, I guess, two commodities in short supply with many public companies these days.
The alternative, shooting for a 60% male audience with classic country, trying to turn country into a hybrid format or cutting back entirely on new music, has been attempted many times over the years and - up to now at least - country remains the format which simply doesn't fragment in these ways enough to build salable shares.
Each time we hit this point in the cycle I always say "maybe it will work this time and if it does, I am going to learn something."
Thus far, what I have learned again and again is that hybridizations are a very tough sell in an 18-49 and 25-54- domninated sales world.