Lil Nas X's 'Old Town Road' Debuts on Country Airplay Chart, Driven by Morning Show Spins
The song starts at No. 53.
The track, released on Sony Music's Columbia Records, enters Country Airplay with 1 million in audience, via 140 plays on 35 reporters to the chart (whose panel totals 148 stations), in the week ending April 7, according to Nielsen Music. The song had drawn five plays the week before, translating to 37,000 in audience; it, thus, logs a 2,655% gain in audience week-over-week.
Almost all plays for "Road" in the latest tracking week occurred during morning drive, thanks to syndicated plays on The Bobby Bones Show, although one station, iHeartMedia-owned WMAD Madison, Wis., played it 14 times, in various dayparts (between 6 a.m. and midnight); no other reporter gave it more than five plays in that span.
Also notably, 78 plays of the song on Country Airplay reporters occurred Friday-Sunday (April 5-7), after the arrival of its remix with Billy Ray Cyrus, released Friday, besting the 62 plays the song drew Monday-Thursday (April 1-4).
"If it's country enough for Billy Ray Cyrus, it's country enough for me," muses WMAD program director Katie Kruz, who notes that the station is playing the Cyrus remix. "The rest of the [country panel] might not be playing it, but they have it stuck in their heads as they read this.
"It's fun. It's 2019," Kruz says. "Listener response over the weekend has been positive, for the most part. We posted it on our socials and, just like anything, there are some naysayers, but most people are loving the song and telling us that they cannot get it out of their heads."
As the song enters Country Airplay, Sony Music Nashville CEO Randy Goodman tells Billboard that his team has started testing the song in some country radio markets. "It would be negligent not to look at it," he says.
In addition to the song's Country Airplay arrival, "Road" rises 36-23 (up 139% in plays) as the Greatest Gainer on the Rhythmic Songs airplay chart, which measures plays on 56 rhythmic stations, and 38-30 (up 135%) on the Pop Songs airplay chart, which is based on a panel of 167 mainstream top 40 stations.
"People are finding the song everywhere else, in all genres," Kruz says. "I'd rather they find it on my radio station."
The song's profile first swelled thanks in part to TikTok videos and other viral memes, while subsequent attention has centered on its removal after a week on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart (dated March 16). (Hot Country Songs, based on airplay, streaming and sales, requires Billboard to designate songs for inclusion based on genre fit; Country Airplay, however, as well as Rhythmic Songs and Pop Songs, purely reflects plays on reporting stations.)
--Additional reporting by Jim Asker