Traditionally, country music is the soundtrack for rural life, but times are changing. Major markets across North America are “going country” – including Toronto, New York City and Los Angeles. Country music is not just in Kansas anymore.
Social media – interactive internet-based communication like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram - has given country artists unlimited access to fans around the world. In a handful of years, country music has figured out how to harness the power of artist-to-fan interaction and reap huge rewards.
Kenny Chesney has 987,266 Twitter followers. Zac Brown Band has 4,865,871 Facebook likes. 208,570 users have Taylor Swift in their Google+ circles. Billboard says that 76% of fans at the 2012 CMA Music Festival in Nashville were active on social media during the festivities.
Twitter is the best medium for artists on tour and in the studio. Carrie Underwood reached millions of followers only days after setting up her first Twitter account in 2012. She live-tweeted pictures from the studio. Although Underwood‘s Blown Away has been a disappointing release, Underwood furthered her online brand and her fall tour dates are on track to pull in massive audiences. Underwood‘s use of Twitter flies in the face of comments she made back in 2009.
Twitter works for artists that are personable, down-home and willing to connect directly with fans. Blake Shelton‘s been lambasted in the media for his politically incorrect (but hilarious) tweets, and he currently commands about 1.8 million followers.
Facebook is a little different. Facebook is where people connect with new friends, colleagues and old high school boyfriends. Artists encourage fans to “Like” pages, but the bad press that has been generated from these kinds of campaigns make Facebook interactions tough to gauge. With the huge liberties Facebook and marketing companies take with the personal information on Facebook, artist-fan connections on Facebook are not necessarily as effective as Twitter.
Mashable entertainment reporter Christine Erickson explained the relationship between Instagram and country artists in her June 1, 2012, column. Erickson points out the success of up-and-coming artist Jana Kramer and her legion of Instagram fans.
If social media is the number way to reach the people who buy country concert tickets, music and merchandise, what’s in it for marketers and labels? Greg Fuson, Country Music Association market research director, claims that a large amount of country’s modern audience is educated, middle-to-upper-middle class and within that 18 to 54 year-old demographic that controls the North American consumer economy.
This means that even as the rest of the music industry runs struggles to deal with changing consumer habits, country music will continue to chug along and be a cash-cow. Considering country has been one of the most popular forms of music in the western world for over 100 years, this should come as no surprise.
Maybe it’s the quality of the music streaming out of Nashville, maybe it’s the mammoth festivals featuring dozens of great artists, maybe it’s the willingness to engage in social media. Whatever it is – country music is once again leading the way for the rest of the music industry.
Editor’s note: This is post is far from definitive. Let’s get a conversation going. Where do you think social media will take country music? Has country music’s popularity reached a peak? Leave a comment or send a tweet to @radiowrangler with your thoughts!