Friday, June 26, 2009


Over the last few years, Country has morphed into the format that is “family-friendly.” Our imaging tells our listeners that our station is the one that they can listen to with their kids. Parents can have us on when they’re driving around with the kids, school bus drivers listen while they’re shuttling the kids to and from school. Is this a good image, or a bad one?

Like anything else, it can be both good and bad. Good… because it gives us a broader target demographic for advertisers. Bad…because in our mission to keep the perception of “family-friendly,” we may avoid some really great, soulful songs in the process.

The most recent example of a great song that didn’t make it because many programmers deemed it “inappropriate” is Jamey Johnson’s “High Cost of Living.” The song mentions pot, cocaine and whores and only achieved moderate chart success. I listened to the song many times, and even though I loved it, I hesitated to add it for this very reason. I was, however, receiving many requests for it, so I decided to give it a shot. I pulled it two weeks later because of a handful of passionate complaints from parents wanting to shelter their kids from hearing about pot, cocaine and whores. Ironically, “High Cost of Living” is not about the virtues of pot, cocaine and whores, but is about the consequences. The man who partakes in these activities loses everything good in his life and ends up in prison regretting what he has done.

By avoiding the “adult themes,” we end up with a steady diet of songs about bonfires, summer nights, small towns, liking my “chicken fried,” and being “country, from her cowboy boots to her down home roots.” I’ve been a fan of country music since childhood, but find myself completely bored by most of the music we play these days. Actually, one of the other images that we like to project about the format is that the songs are about real life. Now, maybe some of our listeners who grew up in small towns across America can relate to these songs, but how many of your listeners in Boston, Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago can relate to them? I grew up in Miami, I’ve never built a bonfire and I don’t wear cowboy boots, yet I fit into country’s target demographic.

So, am I saying that as programmers we should play the gritty, edgy songs like “High Cost of Living?” It depends on your station. We need to program to our audience, and if the audience in your market wants a safe, family-friendly station, then you should play the safe ditties that dominate today’s chart. I’m just one listener who misses the soulful music that I used to hear on country stations.


  1. Playing the High Cost Of Living weighed on my mind especially moving into the Baptist bread basket. I honestly thought we would get calls not for the drug and whore reference, but on the line
    "As soon as Jesus turned his back
    I find my way across the track"
    So far we've had no calls against the song and several pastors in our area have used it as an example, one in particular praised the song for showing the true plight of a man lost in that world as opposed to glorifying that life like pop songs tend to do.

    If you want your radio station to stand out and seperate itself from others, a song like this one will do it for you.

  2. Dear Lisa, well said. Another reason that radio is losing listener interest, is that radio while trying to be ultra "SAFE" for universal consumption has become so predictable and BOOOOORING. Family listening? Ha! the kids have their own mp3 players and music. Haven't you noticed AUSTIN

  3. Here at K DIRT we don't bother with that safe crap. We got the down and dirty girls who always stoke interest in the station at public events with lap dances, we set up affiliation with outlaw bike clubs (just to mix things up) and have strict guidelines as they co-host listener parties we do find that our listeners love the authencity of these kinda guys over some pretty boy b.s. artists. Ice Road Trucker-our morning man can gather an audience anywhere, and I'll bet nobody can touch our "giant pissed off cowboy" float (75 feet) we broadcast from at re-motes. All in all: your Cats, Dogs,Wolfs, Hounds , don't come close to lighting it up like K DIRT can. No brag-just fact.

    Ty Calhoun
    Program Director

  4. Ty - I love K DIRT - I listen on-line and ICE ROAD TRUCKER and that little hooker co-hostess is great, Sally G - Good radio...