It was decided prior to the Grammys that "Rainbow" would be Musgraves' next single. "We set the ship date to follow her performance," Katie Dean, vp, promotion at MCA Nashville, told Billboard via email. "Sixteen stations added 'Rainbow' early -- [Jan. 11] was our impact date and we had 37 today bringing our first week total to 53.”
Royce Risser, executive vp of promotion at Universal Music Group, added that the single selection was based on what would serve as "a great moment" on the Grammys. Musgraves, clad in a long white dress, performed the song accompanied only by a pianist, as the colors of the rainbow swirled around her.
"We decided on the single and the timing based on what we felt would be a great moment on the awards show. We asked all of our programmers to tune in and watch, but also asked them to spend time with the song," he said. "There were some key folks out there that were very strong advocates and very vocal about Kacey’s importance at radio. That certainly helped our efforts.”
Radio has not always been as supportive with Musgraves, who received the Innovator Award at Billboard's 13th annual Women in Music event in December. “Merry Go ‘Round’” from 2013’s Same Trailer Different Park is Musgraves only Top 10 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. While MCA Nashville serviced two singles, “Butterflies” and “Space Cowboy,” from Golden Hour to country radio around the album’s March 2018 release, the label did not actively pursue airplay and few stations took it upon themselves to take the initiative, even months later after Golden Hour snagged album of the year at November’s CMA Awards and the album had already become a clear critical favorite.
While the Grammy awards have further increased Musgraves’ visibility, it also appears that “Rainbow" may be the right song at the right time.
Lance Houston, program director of Big 95.5, WEBG/Chicago, began playing "Rainbow” last week. "It felt like the time was right to put it on the radio and see what we got," he explained. "I thought it was a great song and I know Kacey hasn't had a ton of success at country radio for a variety of reasons, but at the end of the day a good song is a good song and deserves to be played, and I think that's where this falls."
The Chicago station has been receiving positive feedback on its socials about the song and Houston says "Rainbow" has struck a chord while "Space Cowboy" and "Butterflies" were "a little too far out there" for a mainstream country radio audience. Ahead of playing "Rainbow," the station's deejays pre-promoted the song and shared the story of how it was Musgraves' grandmother's favorite tune and one the country singer performed at her funeral.
Ginny Brophey, program director of 101.7 The Bull, WBWL/Boston, said her station also jumped on "Rainbow" on Feb. 4 ahead of Musgraves' Grammy appearance.
"We are already playing the single, and listeners are loving it," Brophey said. "The Grammy win solidifies Kacey’s place in the country format. It’s different and sounds like nothing else on the radio right now. We’ve had a great response on the phones and social media for stepping out and believing in Kacey Musgraves early."
In addition to album of the year, Musgraves took home three Grammys in the country categories: best country album for Golden Hour, best country solo performance for "Butterflies" and best country song for "Space Cowboy." Unlike many country stations, Brophey’s station played “Butterflies,” which peaked at No. 56 on Country Airplay, early on and frequently talked about the singer on-air following the release of Golden Hour in March 2018.
Brophey adds that Musgraves’ Grammy success “may bring to the format new fans who love authenticity, but also could have an impact on those who feel country has leaned too pop lately. Kacey’s pure vocals and honest lyrics are genuine.”
As country radio struggles to find a home for women artists on its stations, Houston believes that “Rainbow” could at least get one female artist some more exposure. "I certainly hope ['Rainbow'] opens the door a little more," he added. "Radio, the thing about us is, we don't know if we've got a hit until we play something. Let's go find out if we've got a hit. I think we owe it to our listeners to expose them to a great song and let them decide . . . This is a girl who sings country music and is about as country as they come. We're missing that on the radio right now so why are we not stepping up and supporting this?"