The music industry and America's mainstream media have long underestimated the country music fan. Apparently, Nashville and country radio programmers do, too.
A dual survey of core country consumers' habits and the country industry's expectations about the consumer responses indicates the genre's primary listeners make more money than the industry realized, they're happier with the music than the industry knew and they're more technologically savvy than expected.
(One cautionary note about the data: The survey reflects the attitudes of country's most avid customers. Secondary, or part-time, country listeners may have different lifestyles and different attitudes about the music.)
Jointly commissioned by Country Radio Broadcasters and the Country Music Assn., the results were unveiled during a panel March 3 at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville.
Despite industry beliefs that the average country-centric household makes $40,000-$60,000 a year, more than 30% of respondents lived at homes with an annual income above $75,000. Industry participants projected that 45% of listeners are only moderately happy with their listening choices, but some 42% are very happy with the music they're exposed to, and 54% are completely satisfied with country radio.
In addition, 78% of the audience owns an Internet-connected computer, 54% has an iPod or mp3 device, and 51% owns a smart phone. Those numbers are consistent with the general population -- according to Coleman Insights, the company that conducted the survey -- indicating country fans are not as slow to adapt to new media as generally believed.
The survey also demonstrated that country stations, much like their pop and rock counterparts, need to defend against a slowly increasing interest in other sources of music discovery, particularly Pandora.