Vince Gill, Patsy Cline the Big Sales & Streaming Winners From Ken Burns' 'Country Music' Doc

John Shearer
Vince Gill

Gill’s 'Go Rest High on That Mountain' ruled all songs featured in the PBS documentary during its second week of air, while Cline’s 'Crazy' reigned during week one.

Patsy Cline, Vince Gill and Johnny Cash were among the biggest winners following PBS’ Ken Burns-helmed Country Music documentary series, with those acts -- and many more -- seeing significant boosts to their catalogs following the eight-episode show, during nearly 500 different songs were heard in various capacities.

Country Music rolled out on PBS TV over eight nights in two separate weeks. The first four episodes premiered successively on Sept. 15-18, followed by the second four Sept. 22-25.  Over a dozen different songs featured in the doc in some capacity during the first week it aired were able to snag at least 1,000 digital downloads and corresponding jumps in on-demand streams for the tracking week ending Sept. 19, according to Nielsen Music, while over 50 songs did so the following week (tracking week ending Sept. 26).

Cline’s “Crazy” led the way among all songs featured in the doc in the first week, the 1961 hit (No. 2, Hot Country Songs, January 1962) selling 2,000 downloads while earning 772,000 on-demand streams. And while it slipped out of the top spot among documentary-featured songs in the second week, its 2,000-download mark that week gave it a grand total of 4,000 downloads since Country Music began airing, the largest count of any song.

It was also the only song in the first week to reach 2,000 downloads; however, multiple titles from the broadcast hit 1,000, led by Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” despite not being featured in the show until its second week, also ranked high, partially as a result of its inclusion on the sprawling Country Music soundtrack, while Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” -- despite also not being featured until week two -- scored 1,000 downloads as part of a 10% sales boost likely attributed to interest in Cash material after the documentary prominently focused on his work in both its first and second halves.

Meanwhile, some of the most drastic gains in the first week often included parts of Williams’ catalog. In addition to “Cry” and its 531% boost in sales, plus an additional 42% jump in streams to 179,000 clicks overall, Williams’ “I Saw the Light” (1,000 downloads, up 708%; 98,000 streams, up 67%) and “Your Cheatin’ Heart” (1,000 downloads, up 571%; 97,000 streams, up 41%) also increased significantly versus the week before Country Music aired. But the largest gain in both sales and streams for any song that sold 1,000 downloads went to Parton’s version of Jimmie Rodgers' “Mule Skinner Blues (Blue Yodel #8),” with a 1,325% gain in downloads (1,000) and a 242% jump in streams (27,000).

Top 15 Most-Sold Songs in Country Music Doc (Sept. 13-19)
1. Patsy Cline, “Crazy”: 2,000 downloads (+241%), 772,000 streams (+18%)
2. Hank Williams, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”: 1,000 downloads (+531%), 179,000 streams (+42%)
3. Johnny Cash, “Ring of Fire”: 1,000 downloads (+21%), 1.2 million streams (+5%)
4. Dolly Parton, “Jolene”: 1,000 downloads (+3%), 1.2 million streams (+5)% (initially featured in week two)
5. Johnny Cash, “Hurt”: 1,000 downloads (+10%), 1.4 million streams (+6%) (initially featured in week two)
6. Patsy Cline, “I Fall to Pieces”: 1,000 downloads (+237%), 277,000 streams (+21%)
7. Johnny Cash, “I Walk the Line”: 1,000 downloads (+27%), 1 million streams (+6%)
8. Johnny Cash, “Folsom Prison Blues”: 1,000 downloads (+26%), 1.2 million streams (+12%)
9. Vince Gill, “Go Rest High on That Mountain”: 1,000 downloads (=), 357,000 streams (+4%) (initially featured in week two)
10. Dolly Parton, “9 to 5”: 1,000 downloads (-7%), 1 million streams (+35%) (initially featured in week two)
11. Hank Williams, “I Saw the Light”: 1,000 downloads (+708%), 98,000 streams (+67%)
12. Patsy Cline, “Walkin’ After Midnight”: 1,000 downloads (+160%), 312,000 streams (+19%)
13. Randy Travis, “Forever and Ever, Amen”: 1,000 downloads (+13%), 1.1 million streams (-2%) (initially featured in week two)
14. Ray Charles, “I Can’t Stop Loving You”: 1,000 downloads (+450%), 104,000 streams (+15%)
15. Hank Williams, “Your Cheatin’ Heart”: 1,000 downloads (+571%), 97,000 streams (+41%)

The second week saw more significant numbers -- unsurprising, since the second half covered more recent material generally more familiar to the viewer, coupled with the fact that the doc had gained more steam with interested watchers catching up with the first week in addition to viewing the second (which spurred gains for multiple songs that only appeared in the first four episodes).

Gill’s “Go Rest High on That Mountain” led the way the second week with the largest single-week download count after appearing in episode eight, garnering 2,000 downloads and 399,000 streams, boosts of 272% and 12%, respectively. Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s collaborative “Pancho & Lefty” followed (2,000 downloads, up 413%; 610,000 streams, up 7%), while Cline’s “Crazy” continued its upward surge, this time moving 2,000 downloads (up 7%) and 858,000 streams (up 11%).

The second week’s big gainer over an entire catalog  turned out to be Kris Kristofferson. “Why Me” garnered 2,000 downloads and 122,000 streams, gains of 1,154% and 73%, respectively, while “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” earned 1,000 downloads (up 1,009%) and 103,000 streams (up 50%). A third, “Loving Her Was Easier,” was up 1,157% and 118% to 1,000 downloads and 40,000 streams, respectively.

Then there’s Kathy Mattea’s “Where’ve You Been,” which snagged the most sizable gains in both sales and streams in the second week among tracks with at least 1,000 downloads, earning 1,000 downloads (up 1,489%) and 50,000 streams (up 141%).

Top 15 Most-Sold Songs in Country Music (Sept. 20-26)
1. Vince Gill, “Go Rest High on That Mountain”: 2,000 downloads (+272%), 399,000 streams (+12%)
2. Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard, “Pancho & Lefty”: 2,000 downloads (+413%), 610,000 streams (+7%)
3. Patsy Cline, “Crazy”: 2,000 downloads (+7%), 858,000 streams (+11%) (initially featured in week one)
4. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”: 2,000 downloads (+669%), 224,000 streams (+49%)
5. Dolly Parton, “Jolene”: 2,000 downloads (+108%), 1.2 million streams (+6%)
6. Johnny Cash, “Hurt”: 2,000 downloads (+102%), 1.7 million streams (+19%)
7. Johnny Cash, “Ring of Fire”: 2,000 downloads (+57%), 1.3 million streams (+6%) (initially featured in week one)
8. George Jones, “He Stopped Loving Her Today”: 2,000 downloads (+358%), 467,000 streams (+13%)
9. Kris Kristofferson, “Why Me”: 2,000 downloads (+1,154%), 122,000 streams (+73%)
10. Johnny Cash, “Folsom Prison Blues”: 1,000 downloads (+80%), 1.2 million streams (+7%) (initially featured in week one)
11. Johnny Cash, “I Walk the Line”: 1,000 downloads (+64%), 1.1 million streams (+5%) (initially featured in week one)
12. Hank Williams, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”: 1,000 downloads (+16%), 196,000 streams (+9%) (initially featured in week one)
13. Waylon Jennings, “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?”: 1,000 downloads (+334%), 517,000 streams (+12%)
14. Waylon Jennings, “Good Hearted Woman”: 1,000 downloads (284%), 592,000 streams (+12%)
15. Kathy Mattea, “Where’ve You Been”: 1,000 downloads (+1,489%), 50,000 streams (+141%)

Other observations:

-Though it wasn’t present in the documentary itself, the song “Wagon Wheel” leaps in digital downloads; Darius Rucker’s version moved 2,000 downloads (up 38%) in the first week and 2,000 more (up 29%) in the second week, while Old Crow Medicine Show’s original snagged 1,000 downloads (up 95%) in week one and 1,000 downloads (up 31%) in week two. Why? A Bank of America ad played before each episode featuring multiple singers performing the song.

-One non-country song made it into the 1,000-download club: Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee.” The song was indeed featured in Country Music, played after its episode first pointed out Kristofferson’s original.  Joplin’s version scored 1,000 downloads and was streamed 90,000 times during the doc’s second week of air, gains of 145% and 12%, respectively.

-Similarly, The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See” jumped 18% in downloads to 1,000 total during Country Music’s second week, but the recording itself didn’t pop up during the show; rather, it appeared via Hank Williams Jr.’s 1975 cover.

-On an album front, Cash’s The Essential Johnny Cash (5,000 units, up 8% in the week ending Sept. 19) rose 31-28 on the Top Country Albums chart dated Sept. 28, likely owed to gains attributed to Country Music's airing. The Oct. 5 list, meanwhile, saw Cash’s album rise even more (28-23 with 6,000 units, up 22%), with additional appearances from Hank Williams Jr.’s 35 Biggest Hits (4,000 units, up 6%), Waylon JenningsUltimate Waylon Jennings (4,000 units, up 28%) and Nelson’s The Essential Willie Nelson (4,000 units, up 12%).

-As for Country Music’s soundtrack itself, it initially debuted on Top Country Albums’ Sept. 28-dated list with 4,000 units (all album sales), followed by a 44-33 rise on the Oct. 5 ranking (5,000 units, up 14%).


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