Margo Price and Country Radio
I know now that this category of posts is the least popular thing I write about, but writing about Artists and their relationship to various Audiences, popular, critical and professional, is at the heart of this blog, even if it's not something readers are particularly interested in reading about. I did a post last week about how Margo Price's debut LP was the first record to make it onto Billboard's Top Country Albums chart without having ANY prior presence on Billboard's Top Country Singles chart in the history of the Billboard Country chart itself (dating back to 1962).
Even as I was writing that post there were meetings happening between Margo's management, label and a couple of important radio players. Obviously, Sirius/XM is the first target, if only because they are the only legitimate target for most of the bands I've written about. Specifically, Sirius XMUn is the only national radio stations that other bands on this blog can hope to reach. Margo Price, because she is a country artist, has a wider range of targets, including, importantly, the Highway. The Highway is among SiriusXM's most popular channels, with "more than 27 million" according to Wikipedia.
That is a characteristic of the audience for mainstream country music that makes it a favorable one compared to other genres of popular music. This huge, monolithic audience target is waaaay preferable to the audience for indie rock, radio rock or electronic music. I think the ease of entry is best explained by the Billboard article about her top 10 chart debut. One opinion that often comes up when people are talking or writing about country music is that album sales are king, and her speedy integration reflects that wisdom.
The other initial national radio target for a Country artist is the Iheartradio network. Iheartradio is a successor to Clear Channel, which had to split itself up as part of an anti trust decision (I think?) Iheartradio is a network of 300 stations of all genres. They also do national branding with the Iheartradio App and televised special. Again, as a target for the other artists I've written about, interfacing with Iheartradio is essentially impossible. Dirty Beaches is never going to be played on an Iheartradio station. In the best of situations, for an indie band, you are looking at long odds, even if you sell records.
The flagship program for the country division of Iheartradio is the Bobby Bones show, which broadcasts from Nashville. Yesterday, he invited her to the show, via twitter, and that also was the product of a meeting between management, label and network. But there was nothing nefarious about what happened, and it wasn't some kind of major label conspiracy. Simply a representative of her label and management, meeting with representatives of Iheartradio at their headquarters.
I'm not saying either event would have happened without the meeting. My sense is that the amount of attention you get from either entity without a prior understanding of some kind is minimal. You can get onto a station like SiriusXMU to a limited degree, but you can't get any kind of serious attention. At the very, very least, both entities want direct access to the Artist on "most favored nations" terms. This includes interviews and concert appearances at favorable rates.
I don't think it can be overemphasized that these meeting were scheduled prior to the Billboard article about her chart position, but held after that article was released. The meetings were organized by her management and her label was directly involved. Margo Price has accomplished all this firmly within the confines of the Indie record label universe. I can personally vouch that Third Man Records is a 100% legitimate independent label, with deep pockets of course, but 100% independent. This success is a success for indie bands everywhere, whatever their genre of music.