If you happened to be flipping channels last night, you may have stumbled across performances by Fall Out Boy, John Mellencamp and the always masterful, Justin Timberlake. If you weren’t paying attention, you may have thought you were watching the MTV , Billboard, VH1 or any other pop awards show. But in reality, The Country Music Awards (CMA) show fronted this bill. Due to the massive popularity and cross-over appeal of country music, it has become more and more common to see stars crossing over both into and outside of the genre.
As I watched the show last night I was blown away by the collaborations of John Mellencamp and Keith Urban, Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton, and Fall Out Boy and Thomas Rhett. It has been very clear to me for the last 20 years that country music has lasting impact, but it’s particularly gratifying to watch the rest of the country embrace its power. With the nominees in the new artist category including Sam Hunt, Kelsea Ballerini, Thomas Rhett, Maddie and Tae and big winner, Chris Stapleton, it’s not hard to see why the future of country music is so bright. For the last several years, we’ve seen a pattern of country hits crossing over to pop and reaching fans outside of the middle of America.
We’ve proven the power of country music by successfully connecting brands with the biggest country artists. This strategy works, especially if a brand wants to reach the 60% of consumers living in the New Heartland (Midwest, Southwest, Southeast). The reach of country music transcends geographical boundaries. This year’s CMA Music Festival saw guests from all 50 states and people from 27 international countries make the trip to Nashville to see some of country’s biggest names. Looking nationally, country radio ranks no. 1 as the most listened to format in the nation. These numbers have to mean something…country music, while it started in the New Heartland, is now driving culture – not lagging behind it; moving from “step child” to “golden child.”
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