Florida Georgia Line sold 162,000 downloads of "Cruise," according to Nielsen SoundScan, and got a recording deal with Republic Nashville to boot.
Parmalee has amassed 76,000 downloads of "Musta Had a Good Time" and is receiving an increased number of offers to play fair dates at a 50% higher fee.
Sarah Darling created a whole new set of fans who associate her with a Beatles song.
SiriusXM Satellite Radio, exhibiting an uncommon willingness to take a chance on new, unestablished artists, is making a big impact on the careers of a number of country artists who have been unable to gain a foothold at terrestrial radio. In the process, the satcaster is creating an alternative marketing scheme for labels and managers looking to break talent.
Terrestrial radio remains the most prominent marketing avenue for country acts, but with many stations playing 20 or fewer current titles, non-superstar acts often wait months for an opening to get just a handful of spins at some of the genre's most prominent stations. SiriusXM-with a reported 22.9 million subscribers and in-house estimates of 45 million listeners-represents the potential for a massive, immediate breakthrough, even if its spins don't influence national chart positions.
The sales of Florida Georgia Line and Parmalee might not rival the platinum numbers of country's superstars, but given the limited-or nonexistent-terrestrial airplay for their songs for weeks on end, the sales data suggests SiriusXM's commitment to those acts on its contemporary country channel, the Highway, is making an impact with consumers.
Parmalee's "Good Time" experienced a 6,800% sales jump, according to Nielsen SoundScan, in the week after its March 20 debut on the Highway. Weekly sales for "Cruise," which had received minimal secondary play, shot up 360% after SiriusXM started playing it on May 14.
"It has to all be attributed to SiriusXM," says Buddy Lee Attractions president Kevin Neal, whose company books concerts for Parmalee and Florida Georgia Line.
In turn, with SiriusXM success under their belts, both of those acts have started making progress at mainstream country radio. Parmalee's "Musta Had a Good Time" is No. 45 on Hot Country Songs. FGL's "Cruise" is No. 43 in the wake of the duo's signing with Republic Nashville, announced July 16. That development came faster than the duo-Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley-ever expected.
"We've been working hard ever since we started this thing and really focused on our live show and building fans that way," Kelley observes. "A label deal wasn't necessarily the first thing on our mind."
Their fast-track trajectory can be traced to SiriusXM's commitment to discovering new talent. When subscribers pay $14.49 per month-the price of the company's standard XM Select package, which provides access to more than 130 channels-they expect to hear not only the proven hits, but extra songs they're unlikely to hear anywhere else.
"We take risks, and that is completely by design," SiriusXM senior VP/GM of music programming Steve Blatter notes. "When you play newer artists there's always a risk, but we think the risk we take is worth the reward. It is important for us as programmers across all of our channels that our programming is unique and truly differentiated from what you're getting on FM radio or on the Internet."
The makeup of the SiriusXM subscriber is differentiated, too, by that $14.49 monthly price tag, which requires a commitment. The Highway's listeners are remarkably similar in age and gender to mainstream country radio, Blatter notes, though they have greater disposable income and are more likely to invest in new music. "They are more passionate," he says.
Darling saw that with "Blackbird," a Beatles-era Paul McCartney song she remade for a breast cancer benefit album, Let Us in Nashville-A Tribute to Linda McCartney. Fans who have posted social-media comments have typically been more thoughtful in their assessments.
"On Twitter, if somebody said they liked your song, they liked your song," she explains. "But I noticed on 'Blackbird,' they would go into detail-'It was the most gorgeous version I ever heard of this,' 'It's nice to hear a good version of this.' They're people that are obviously big fans, and just the wording of people on social media seems to be a little bit deeper."
In turn, SiriusXM's commitment is a little deeper than is typical for a mainstream radio station that tests a new act. Music Row is rife with promotion executives frustrated by many broadcasters' habit of limiting new artists to light rotations in overnight dayparts where exposure is minimal. In contrast, SiriusXM usually spins those titles at least 20 times per week and stays on them for at least 150 performances before it tests the audience reaction. The company also presents the songs as a "Highway Find," calling attention to their place on the air.
The commitment to unknown acts has been a longtime strategy at SiriusXM's new-music channels-Blatter proudly points to the alternative channel playing Foster the People before the band was signed to a recording deal-though the Highway only started getting aggressive about it in the past year.
Other songs that have received a boost in recent weeks include Green River Ordinance's "Dancing Shoes," Chad Warrix's "Rain on the Roof," the Lost Trailers' "American Beauty," Due West's "Things You Can't Do in a Car" and the Colt Ford/Jake Owen collaboration "Back."
The Highway has been selective in those adds, attempting to find music the company believes will help strengthen its position with its music-intensive audience. In the process, it's provided hope to new artists and independent labels looking for an alternative means of building a fan base and creating a story to take to terrestrial radio.
"If I have a new artist come along that has an independent project, at least you know you can bring it to SiriusXM and they'll listen to it and give it a chance," Buddy Lee's Neal says. "There are not many radio stations that are on the monitored panel that would play a song that's not on a major label."
The artists directly feel the impact. Florida Georgia Line receives screen shots from friends of the LED screen display every time "Cruise" plays on the Highway. And fans at the merch table and in autograph lines at concerts help connect the dots between ticket sales and satellite play.
"People come up saying, 'I heard it on Sirius, my brother told me to listen to it' or 'Somebody in the family said, "You've got to hear this song, it's on SiriusXM,"'" Parmalee vocalist Matt Thomas says. "That's really how it's going at all the shows-pretty much SiriusXM put those fans at our shows."