“There are no free passes for these artists. If an artist makes a truly awesome song as good as the stuff that got him here then we play it,” says Gregg Swedburg, program director of KEEY/Minneapolis. “But every time I play a mediocre song from an established artist it means I’m not playing somebody new who has a great song.”
With new talent constantly emerging, programmers must decide which older singers to let go as their fans age out of the station’s target.
That challenge has been around at least since I took mt first country programming job in 1973.
When I took over I was greeted by a ton of calls asking, ‘Where is Stonewall Jackson or Jack Green.’ At the time country was crossing over with artists like Buck Owens and Glenn Campbell so the older acts of the '50s and '60s were no longer being played.
Similar cycles repeated approximately every 10 years until 1989 when a group of new artists including Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, George Strait, and Alan Jackson burst onto the scene, pushing country radio’s popularity to new heights.
But now the fans who championed the class of 1989 are 20 years older and the question of when those artists should move along, like Stonewall Jackson did in the early '70s, is looming large.
They’ve lasted longer than any group in the history of country that I’ve been aware of.
The key to it all, and what makes country also different from other formats, is that country radio isn’t about artists, it’s about songs.
Any artist can have a hit if they pick a great song. That’s what’s cool about country.Many thanks to Chicago-based Media Life writer