What country radio is doing wrong!

What country radio is doing wrong!

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What country radio is doing wrong!

I’ve never been invited to speak at a radio conference to industry insiders.  Despite many attempts to win nominations and awards for the radio station, we fall short to larger markets and individuals who I assume have superior audio samples and better schmoozing skills.  Our station has an excellent track record of serving the community, attracting and maintaining large masses of listeners and spotlighting Today’s Best Country on a daily basis.

However, in the wise words of Jason Aldean, the Sioux City radio market is flyover country when it comes to pats on the back from Nashville.  I’ve come to terms with it (kinda) after working 2 decades on air in Siouxland.  I can proudly say our on-air staff and product are among the best the industry has to offer. That helps me sleep at night as soundly as Kenny Chesney in his old Blue Chair in the Virgin Islands. When I head to the Country Radio Seminar next month, I will be armed with this little nugget of knowledge whilst watching big ego and awarded Program Directors brag about their accomplishments.

KSUX does NEW MUSIC DISCOVERY better than every panelist I’ll see there at the Omni Hotel in Music City.

Our station story dates back to January 8, 2016.  That was a day of awakening for me.  I was standing at a sold out show at the Anthem venue inside Hard Rock Casino Sioux City.  There, I was surrounded by passionate fans mostly under the age of 35 singing along to EVERY WORD from an artist I had just heard for the first time about 3 weeks ago.  He was a star on You Tube and social media.  He was not a star on country radio.  His name was Kane Brown.  It pained me to know I was sitting in a venue representing about one percent of the metro population of Sioux City and the vast majority of attendees discovered this guy on muic outlets that were not my radio station.

I made a promise to myself that night.  I did not want to have this feeling again.  KSUX needed to be more proactive and be the source for new music discovery.

The next Monday, I hatched a plan with our energetic star of an on-air personality Josie Cooper and Brad Streeter, the Entertainment & Vibe manager of the Hard Rock Casino Sioux City.  The next week we launched Friday Night Spotlight at 7pm.

Here was that first week’s playlist:

Used to love you sober – Kane Brown

Hangin’ Around – Josh Abbot Band

Humble & Kind  – Tim McGraw

Suitcase – Steve Moakler

American Love Song – LANco

Girl Next Door – Brandy Clark

Freaks Like Me – Joe Nichols

Leavin’ Nashville – Charles Kelley

Oh Tonight – Josh Abbott & Kasey Musgraves

Southern Boy – Jordan Rager & Jason Aldean,

By The Way – Lindsey Ell

Ex To See – Sam Hunt

In one quick year, we played over 600 new songs on the station.  600!

Where did we discover all those songs in the country format?

This is where I utter the words people in radio try to minimize.  Pandora.  Spotify.  Pollstar.  You Tube.  Facebook.  Twitter.  CMT.  GAC.  Also, the songs on the charts placed beyond the Top 40.  I wanted KSUX to be “THE PLACE” to learn about these new names and songs.  Why should these other outlets get to wave the banner for new music discovery?  The hard truth was these other music platforms were doing a better job at introducing local listeners to new music BETTER than our radio station which was launched in 1990.

I never knew the impact of dedicated ONE SINGLE hour of the week out 168 to focus on songs all those PD’s on award winning stations wouldn’t touch until it was blessed by a consultant of focus group. It was amazing about the quality of song found when you actually look.  Because of this show, it forced me to actively search out new titles instead of the old fashioned way of having it hand delivered to me like room service steak and lobster.

I went to several other sold out or near sold out shows of artists that country radio largely ignores including in the past year at Anthem including:

Turnpike Troubadours

Casey Donahew Band

Aaron Watson

Josh Abbot Band

We also teamed up with Hard Rock for 3 Friday Night Spotlight showcase events.  Those artists featured in Anthem were Tucker Beathard, Ryan Hurd, Russel Dickerson, Tara Thompson, Courtney Cole, Josh Dorr, LANco and Dylan Scott.  It was amazing to see so much talent on stage country radio largely ignores.  But not us in little old Sioux City, Iowa – all because we allocated .005% of our weekly airplay to new music.

One of my favorite recent FNS shows is where we named our best songs of 2016:

Drunk Like You – The Cadillac Three

Pink Flamingos -Erik Dylan

Tuxedo – Clare Dunn

City Girl -Ryan Hurd

I’ll Be The Moon – Dierks Bentley / Maren Morris

With You I am – Cody Johnson

Gin, Smoke and Lies – Turnpike Troubadours

Like I Loved You – Brett Young

Hurricane – Luke Combs

Before You Call Me Baby – Caitlyn Smith

Kiss Me – Casey Donahew Band

Blue Tacoma – Russell Dickerson

I look forward to Friday nights on KSUX.  All it takes is a little extra effort, less than 1 percent of weekly airtime, and a commitment to being better at exposing listeners to new music.

About 2 years ago, a radio consultant named Keith Hill made a comment about tomatoes and country music.  Another time, there was a little old radio station in Idaho that was not enamored by “Girl Crush” by Little Big Town.  Both those story lines took off and became the talk of Music City.  I believe even the Washington Post wrote about it.  If you want more choices nationally on country radio, share this column and demand more from the station you know and love – that station could be doing so much better.

Don’t let the awards fool ya!

tony workTony Michaels

KSUX Program Director / Friday Night Spotlight on-air member

Not an award winner but an avid listener of new country music

Sioux City, IA – Music City of the Midwest!

fns