2019 American Music Awards

What Did Kacey Musgraves' Triumphant Grammy Night Say About Country Radio?

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Kacey Musgraves poses in the press room during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on Feb. 10, 2019 in Los Angeles.

"She won't do the promotional things that radio expects," said an exec on why country radio ignored what became the Grammy album of the year.

What did Kacey Musgraves' triumphant Grammy night say about country radio?

Musgraves won four Grammys on Feb. 10 -- including the all-genre album of the year for Golden Hour -- but just four days later, programmers found themselves soul searching at the Country Radio Seminar (CRS) about their lack of participation in a big moment for the genre.

"Do you feel like the format missed that?" a medium-market PD asked the room at a "Beer Thirty" open-forum discussion.

"Of course you missed it," responded Edison Media Research president Larry Rosin.

But why? Granted, Musgraves' songs are typically left of center, but they're smart, tuneful and original. To date, only one of her singles has made the top 20 on Country Airplay: 2012's "Merry Go 'Round," which peaked at No. 10.

Many of her peers showed up at CRS with figurative cowboy hats in hand to thank radio for its support, but programmers haven't felt much of an embrace from Musgraves and may be penalizing her for it.

"I know she doesn't play well with the format," said Rosin. "She won't do the promotional things that radio expects." But to ignore what proves to be the Grammys' album of the year?

"I can't imagine anything more embarrassing," he said.

The medium-market programmer said his personal interactions with Musgraves had been "hit and miss," and he openly questioned whether that had influenced his decisions on her singles. (Billboard is keeping the executive's identity confidential because remarks were made in the room that may have led some attendees to believe it was an off-the-record conversation, although a seminar official has confirmed it was not.)

"I don't think 'nice' is a factor in whether you add a record or support an artist," he said, "but I think from just a humanity standpoint, people like to be around people and cheer on people that seem to want to row in the same direction."

Released in March 2018, Golden Hour provided Musgraves a Grammy performance opportunity, and "Rainbow," a ballad she played during the show, jumps to No. 40 on the Country Airplay chart dated Feb. 23, moving 18 positions in its second charting week.

Country radio generally ignored the album, though a regional programmer admitted during the session that he could have played five or six tracks from Golden Hour. Mercury Nashville never pursued a specific single, and the programmer moved on to "other priorities people are in my face about every day."

But all the "Beer Thirty" participants agreed, at least in theory, that their personal feelings about Musgraves or any other act should not prevent them from playing music they believe their listeners want to hear.

"As far as whether an artist is nice to you or not," the regional programmer said, in "the other formats, the artists are assholes."


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