The NY Times published a story 4/7 on Cumulus’ NASH brand, the rollout across the country and the rising popularity of Country. The Times points out that on the radio, it has displaced Top 40 as America’s most popular musical format. Here are some excerpts:
Country has long been a mainstay of American music. But as the music industry continues to struggle financially and once-dominant types of music like hip-hop recede on the charts, country’s audience has grown stronger, wider and younger — a fact that has not escaped the notice of media companies that have invested heavily in the genre. On Sunday night, country’s increasingly mainstream appeal was on display during the Academy of Country Music Awards on CBS, which last year had 15.5 million viewers, its biggest audience in 15 years, according to Nielsen.
“Nashville has just embraced younger artists and let them pass through the gates quicker and with less resistance than in the past,” said Allen Shapiro, chief executive of Dick Clark Productions, which presented Sunday’s awards show at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. A rival show, the Country Music Association Awards, is held each November.
One company looking to country as an avenue into a multiplatform future is Cumulus Media, a national chain of about 460 radio stations. Last year it introduced a country-themed brand, “Nash,” when it opened WNSH, or Nash FM, in New York, the city’s first country station in 17 years.
Cumulus wants Nash to encompass not only radio but also television, print and online media, and even licensed merchandise like kitchenware and cars. At the Nash headquarters in downtown Nashville, normally drab radio studios have been remade to look like warmly lit television production sets, with high-definition cameras capturing video in preparation for a time when the shows will also be transmitted in multiple formats online.
While country broadcasters typically give their stations names like “The Wolf” or “The Coyote,” suggesting rural stereotypes, Lew Dickey, chief executive of Cumulus, said his new brand captured a broader and more upwardly mobile audience for the genre.
“We wanted to eschew the conventional stereotypes in the format and go with something more aspirational,” Mr. Dickey said. “Nash is cool; Nash is fun; Nash is relevant.”
Country has been one of radio’s biggest success stories over the last decade. While the number of country stations has remained relatively stable over that time, at about 2,100, country’s share of the audience has been gradually increasing, with about a 15 percent share among people 12 and up, according to Nielsen. Broadcasters have been keen to capture that audience; last month, for example, Clear Channel, the country’s largest radio company, held its first iHeartRadio Country Festival in Austin, Tex., with stars like Eric Church, Lady Antebellum and Hunter Hayes.
While country stations have traditionally focused on adult audiences, analysts attribute much of the recent growth of these stations to an increasing appeal to a younger audience, helped by a youthful tilt in the music. As a result, country now reigns as the most popular musical format on the radio.
“Five years ago, the key listener for country radio was a 40-year-old white woman from the suburbs,” said Brian O’Connell, the president of the country division of Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter. “We’re finding out that the audience was significantly younger than that.”
Other forms of media have also taken notice. Rolling Stone recently opened an office on Music Row, a formerly residential strip in Nashville, and is preparing to introduce Rolling Stone Country, a new website. “I am convinced Rolling Stone will provide a lens into the genre that currently doesn’t exist,” said Gus Wenner, the director of RollingStone.com and a son of Jann Wenner, the magazine’s founder.”