What’s The Appeal of Country Music?

I don’t get it.  I consider myself an astute marketer on top of music and lifestyle trends, but I have never internalized our nation’s fascination with country music & NASCAR. Alas, they go together “like peas and carrots”, as Forrest Gump would say. However I’m smart enough to understand that while country music may not be my personal my cup of tea (with the exception of an occasional Grateful Dead song) that I am clearly in the minority. Having grown up in the New York market where country music wasn’t big radio, particularly since 1050 dropped the WHN call letters and country music format so many years ago, perhaps I never acquired the taste. However, last week’s American Idol finale surely drove home the power of country music. Today’s Struming comes from the May Media Audit FYI, called What Makes Country Music So Special.

As the tenth season of the most watched entertainment show in the United States came to a conclusion last week, Fox’s American Idol became a huge stage for showcasing country music in particular.  The show’s two finalists, both country music singers, remained to the end by popular vote.  The outcome is not surprising, since according to a recent study conducted by The Media Audit, country music is the second most listened to music format in the country, behind Contemporary Hit Radio.  Data comes from The Media Audit’s 2010 National Radio Format Report, summarizing the radio listening habits of more than 100,000 adults. Surveys were conducted between January 2010 and March 2011.

According to the study, 11.4% of U.S. adults have listened to a country music radio station in the past week, representing more than 16.5 million listeners across The Media Audit’s 80 measured markets. Furthermore, nearly half of those who listen to country music radio stated that they listen to the format more than any other radio format.  That translates to listener loyalty, something advertisers find as a rare commodity in today’s fragmenting media market.

In markets such as Dallas, Atlanta, and Chicago, the rewards for country-formatted radio stations are substantial, given these markets draw the greatest number of country music listeners. According to The Media Audit, more than 743,000 adults in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area listen to a country music station in a typical week, representing 15.9% of the metro area’s population of 4.6 million.  As a result, there are more country music radio listeners in Dallas than anywhere else in the country. In Atlanta, 14.5% of the metro area’s population have listened to a country music radio station in the past week, representing more than 573,000 listeners, while Chicago draws more than 491,000 listeners who listen to country music in a typical week.

OK, so songs about trains, dogs, card games and jilted lovers are big stuff, I now understand. I’m curious whether Strumings readers are country music fans or indifferent as I am.

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