Today’s country music business is a lot like the old 45 rpm. Typically, with this type of vinyl record, the music on one side was played over and over and over again while the music on the other side languished underneath – not heard, not seen, not known. Most would agree that current country music is the same as some is heard way too much while some is not heard at all. However there’s one big difference between the two: the music on the underneath side of the 45 made money while the music on the underneath side of today’s music business usually does not make money to speak of. But it’s not as much about the money as it is what the money represents.
These two worlds have existed for many years. They are best described as what country music used to sound like versus what it sounds like now. Over this time both sides have had very credible representatives debating and defending their views on the topic of what, exactly, is country music. A good illustration of this is looking back at the genre’s history, for at first Roy Acuff’s fans scoffed at Hank Williams, Hank’s took a while to warm up to George Jones, and it took a bit of time for fans of The Possum to acknowledge that there was enough room for two George’s in country music and welcome Mr. Strait and then a bit after that do the same with Alan Jackson. During these times, though, both the past and the present could be heard on the radio. In today’s country music business, however, not so much and some would say not at all.
Big record labels and big radio conglomerates have made the decision to remove the music of the past, (whether it be recent or from long ago) and focus only on its current playlist. In doing this they prohibit opportunities to hear the great styles from yesterday and, maybe more importantly, any chance of hearing a true diversity of styles that could influence tomorrow’s country music. Further, from this lurks the bigger problem that no longer does a venue exist for a breakout star that doesn’t fall into the cookie cutter format of country music. Where does the next heir to the Acuff Williams Jones Strait Jackson throne get his music heard? After all, throughout country music’s history, isn’t that how the previous generation came to accept the new generation’s version and style of country music, because it was played side by side? We were able to listen to a radio station and hear Jones and Jackson without changing the station, but now you can barely find either one on the radio at all.
Though a number of great accomplishments have been achieved by several people with independent efforts, there is literally a countless number of music artists that are stuck behind the music industry’s big business dam that prohibits these artists from ever being heard, seen, and known. It just doesn’t seem right and I bet Mr. Acuff and those that came after him would agree.