Country radio has repositioned itself in recent years as the finisher for country hits.
Formerly the medium where new music earned its greatest initial exposure, the genre’s programmers admittedly prefer to let songs validate themselves in other quarters — primarily at Spotify, YouTube, Shazam and Pandora — before they safely add titles that are already proven.
That attitude set up an outlaw challenge from one of country’s edgiest artists. Cody Jinks’ latest single — “Loud and Heavy,” released by the artist’s Late August label to terrestrial stations on July 1 through PlayMPE — is a 7.5-year-old title that has already been certified platinum by the RIAA without any significant broadcast assistance.
“A good song is never dated,” Jinks reasons.
Indeed, “Loud and Heavy” has aged quite well. Included on the 2015 album The Adobe Sessions, the track has amassed 436.5 million on-demand streams, according to Luminate, under a long-tail growth pattern. After generating 570,000 streams in its first year, its consumption climbed annually for the next five years, peaking at 105.2 million streams in 2020. “Loud and Heavy” tallied at least 90 million streams annually in 2019-2021, and with 52.5 million streams through July 22, the song is on pace to net another 94.4 million this year.
Underscoring his market impact, Jinks is headlining amphitheaters this summer — again, without radio’s backing — and he provided immediate support for Luke Combs on a five-artist bill July 23 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
“Loud and Heavy” is the best-performing title in a fulsome catalog that has generated four top five sets on Billboard‘s Country Albums, three of which reached No. 2. The song’s delayed release to radio says as much about Jinks’ expanding business muscle as it says about radio’s altered role. “We couldn’t afford to push a single,” Jinks says, reflecting on his economic status when he wrote the song circa 2014.
Now that he has flipped his fortunes, Jinks is promoting it with a fairly light hand. AM/FM airplay would introduce him to new fans who might not be heavy digital music consumers, or go to shows by acts they haven’t heard on the radio. But he’s got enviable numbers, so he figures broadcasters would benefit at least as much as him from plugging it into their rotations.
“The first year, mainstream radio basically told us we weren’t allowed to be in the club — like, we couldn’t release it because we didn’t have the proper backing,” he recalls. “And then they basically said, ‘Well, it’s not a proven hit.’ So after it went platinum, we kind of went back and said, ‘Will you play it now? We checked all the boxes.’ Like, put your money where your mouth is.”
Jinks didn’t have any money himself when he wrote “Loud and Heavy,” inspired during a stormy car ride when son Larson Jinks chanted “loud thunder heavy rain” on his second birthday. The elder Jinks was experiencing an emotional storm, spending a weary 250 days a year touring with his band in a van, though he refused to give up.
“At that particular time, my mother went through a pretty major health scare — ended up being just that, a scare,” he recalls. “The tour schedule was tough. I had two small children at home. My wife and I were more than six figures in debt, because I had floated the band on credit cards. You got to think, in 2008, 2009, when the market burst for the first time, gas shot up to $4.50 a gallon — I don’t know if people remember that — but we were on the road making $500 a night, and that was going to gas. That song is just everything that’s going through a 32-year-old’s mind that has absolutely zero idea what he’s doing or how the hell he’s going to get out.”
Jinks likely knew more about what he was doing than he admits to himself. As an example, his approach to the “Loud and Heavy” writing credits provides son Larson a foundation for the future.
“He’s got half the song,” Jinks says. “I didn’t give him a third or fourth or whatever. Like, I wouldn’t have written the song without him. So whenever we submitted it, it’s Cody Jinks, 50%, Larson Jinks, 50%. He has his own publishing account set up. And all the money from that song goes in there. So by the time he’s 18, he will be his own millionaire.”
Much like his buddy Cody Johnson, Jinks built his brand through relentless touring, solid songwriting with old-school roots and a dogged independence. Johnson eventually got an enviable contract when he signed with Warner Music Nashville. Jinks has also heard from potential suitors, but he swears he will remain outside the major-label system, citing an early label experience in which he did most of his own marketing work by year three in a five-year deal.
“Record companies don’t build artists for success,” he says. “Record companies are in business for their own success. If the artist happens to be successful, it’s because they happened to find an oil well that they actually hit on. Record companies are wildcatters. They just have all these oil wells, hopefully one hits.”
Jinks is, in fact, intending to expand his own role as a label with an eye toward developing young talents with the same work ethic that propelled him. The plan is to offer a deal that is more equitable to the artists than they’re likely to find elsewhere while reducing his risks at the A&R level “Our philosophy is going to be, ‘Don’t go get all the oil wells, go find a sure thing, and put everything you’ve got into that thing,’ ” he says.
Ironically, that’s the same mindset broadcasters are employing in their own approach to their stations’ content. And it’s why he decided to release “Loud and Heavy” to radio after seven-plus years — he understands that the medium is looking for a fairly sure thing. The “Loud” story tells itself much better in 2022 than it did in 2014.
“We probably needed them more back then,” he says. “It’s nicer to be able to say, ‘Look, we still don’t need you. But we’re still willing to come play ball.’ We don’t have to be on the same basketball team, man, but we can play on the same court.”