Country Music's Road To Commercial Radio

27 November 2023 | 5:21 pm | Mathew Eggleston

Former 2Day FM Content Director Mathew Eggleston looks at country music's rise on mainstream radio.

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift (Supplied)

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Right now, what is the biggest genre of music in the world? Some may say RNB, which is fair, but one that has been on the rise for years and really starting to own the world in 2023 is COUNTRY music!

Pretty amazing to see. Country music has always had some of the best storytelling songwriting. Look no further than the biggest songwriter in the world right now, Taylor Swift, and her upbringing was the country music scene.

In 2008 when Taylor’s song Love Story was released, country music was so far from being accepted by the greater population of music lovers that radio stations had to use a “Pop Mix” in order to play it on the air. Yes! Basically, that just meant adding more of a beat and removing the banjo. Not joking - but it was one of the ways to introduce it to an audience that wasn’t into country at the time.

In 2008 pop and dance music ruled the world. Every genre of music seems to have its time in the sun, whether it be the rock bands of the ‘90s (Pearl Jam, Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers). I fondly remember the emo pop rock phase of the early 2000s (Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco). After that, the 2000s belonged to pop music. Enter stars like Lady Gaga, P!nk, Rihanna, JT, and Britney Spears, to name a few.

BUT, in the past few years has pop music started to push people away?

Listen to any radio station playing new music or current hit playlists on Spotify. The number of covers and samples is mind-blowing. Has pop music lost its originality and creativity?

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Now you can’t paint all pop music artists with the same brush: there are some incredible people doing great original music in the world but the TikTok boom has encouraged a lot of pop acts to chase stardom on that platform rather than making hits that’ll stand the test of time.

Could this be a big reason why country music took over so fast around the world to become as big as it is right now? The songwriting is brilliant, the performers are unique and the music is getting better and better like fine wine.

I asked a good friend in the country music scene for his take and he told me, “Country radio has been the biggest, most-listened-to format in the USA for the last 5 years, at least.” TV is reflecting the trend towards country: both Nashville and Yellowstone are prime examples. Even in Australia, in a time when Splendour In The Grass didn’t sell out, and countless indie and alt festivals are collapsing, CMC Rocks (the biggest country festival in the Southern Hemisphere) is completely sold out.

Maybe country was always going to take over at some point with the quality of the product. Part of me wonders if pop music opened the gates early, with pop music’s priorities changing.