Skip to comments.Programmers Say Dixie Chicks Still Not Welcome On Their Airwaves
Posted on 09/25/2011 5:32:09 AM PDT by raccoonradio
In last Thursdays Stark Country, we revealed that gold spins are on the rise for the Dixie Chicks eight and a half years after the incident that cost them their career. But even after all this time, a surprising number of country programmers say theyre still not playing the groups past hits. Even those who are playing them are doing so very cautiously, with the politics of each market still playing a deciding role. When asked if all had been forgiven and forgotten when it comes to the Chicks, one programmer responded, Are you kidding?
We asked programmers how much (if any) Chicks music theyre playing now in the their gold categories, and how much that has changed in recent years. We also asked what kind of reaction they do get when they play or test music from the group now.
Surprisingly, PDs say the listener hostility toward the band still hasnt abated, despite the more than eight years that have passed since lead singer Natalie Maines remarked at a London concert on the eve of the Iraq war that she was ashamed then President George Bush was from the groups home state of Texas.
WYCD Detroit was instrumental in the groups launch in 1997. But today, current OM/PD Tim Roberts says, We are still not playing them in rotation as a portion of our audience continues to push back on them in research and in a very vocal way (complaints). We actually did a phone topic on it a few months ago and the negatives still far outweighed any positive comments or support.
At WFRE Frederick, Md., PD Jess Wright reports, We only have one song by the Dixie Chicks in our rotation at the moment, and its the Star Spangled Banner (we play a version of it every day at noon) and Im not sure most people know its them. I have moved a song or two in and out of the light gold or fill categories a time or two because I genuinely like the way they sound on the radio, and thats more than my predecessor played, but Im always hesitant to play them during the daytime.
Even after all this time, there are people who will call or e-mail and tell us we are un-American for playing the Dixie Chicks, Wright says. Its a shame. While my personal politics may not line up with theirs (or more accurately, Natalies), they did make a radio station sound good, didnt they?
Its a similar situation in Richmond, Va., where WKHK PD Buddy Van Arsdale reports, We dont play any Dixie Chicks. Richmond tends to be conservative, and playing them just riles up a very vocal part of our audience. I would be willing to bet its a small percentage, but like the Tea Party members, they are loud!
To be fair, Van Arsdale continues, I have checked Dixie Chick songs in our research and some of their songs still test well.
But in this case his gut outweighs research. Asked if radio listeners have forgiven or at least forgotten about Maines comment, Van Arsdale says, Are you kidding? Look at whats going on in Washington right now. We cant get a jobs bill agreement, let alone forgiveness for the Dixie Chicks!
Ditto for KIXZ Spokane, Wash., PD/MD Paul Neumann, who reports, [I] havent played Chicks for years and I havent seen any national research either, so no airplay.
Theres better news for the band at KUPL Portland, Ore., where director of music programming Scott Mahalick reports he has five Chicks songs in rotation, and they generate no negative reaction. But, he adds, Portland is very liberal.
Interestingly, Mahalick is also ignoring his research, but in the opposite way as Van Arsdale. Our research shows we should not play any Dixie Chicks, he says. [They are] highly polarizing, so this [five songs in rotation] may be changing in the future.
Current KTTS Springfield, Mo., PD Mark Grantin has worked in three different markets since the Chicks backlash erupted, and he notes some interesting differences hes seen market to market.
At KTTS, he says, We are not playing any Dixie Chicks titles. Shortly after arriving at KTTS, I put several of their titles on a music test. I wanted to see if the country audience in this market had forgiven them, and if there was an appetite for their music. All titles in that test were scored by our listeners without naming the artists. Clearly our listeners told us that they dont consider them to be core artists or songs that they want to hear on KTTS. Scores were very low with huge hate numbers.
We saw similar results in Lexington, Ky., when I was there, Grantin continues. We did not play any of their titles for the same reasons: low overall scores and high negative scores.
By he had a different experience in Madison, Wis., prior to his departure from that market in 2007. We did continue to play some of their titles in Madison, he reports. The market was very different. I had just as many calls and e-mails from listeners indicating that they did not want me to censor their music [as] those who were very passionate about me removing their music. Ultimately, several of their titles scored well enough to continue to play, although all titles scored lower than prior to the [Maines] comments and controversy.
After last Thursdays story ran, Chris Mosser, host of The Roadhouse evening show on KVET Austin, Texas, reached out to offer his comments on the topic.
We came completely off the Dixie Chicks when the Bush thing happened, and it has stayed that way since, he says, but I sneak in a few Chicks songs on the Roadhouse show (our Texas-intensive evening daypart), Traveling Soldier and Godspeed primarily, typically late at night and only occasionally, frankly out of caution of a negative reaction. But I have, so far, not drawn any heat. Ive intentionally gone with Soldier due to its pro-military theme, which is difficult for even the angriest Chick-hater to object to. Plus, being a Bruce Robison song performed by Texas girls, it couldnt pass the regional test more convincingly.
Ill admit, I want to play the Chicks because the music is so good and Im a fan personally, Mosser continues, but I think there will always be some hesitation among country programmers about them. My feeling is that probably most of the audience is over it, but those who are not are really, really not. Austins a liberal town, but were still in Texas.
Townsquare Media VP/country Bob Moody says at his group of stations, Songs by the Dixie Chicks continue to test too poorly to qualify for our recommended gold list. Im not aware of any Townsquare Media country stations playing them enough recently to elicit a response.
The backlash against the group (and Natalie in particular) doesnt appear to have been due entirely to the incident, Moody adds. The FUTK stunt [in which Maines wore a t-shirt on a televised awards show with a thinly-veiled expletive aimed at her then nemesis, Toby Keith] and other offensive behavior may be factors as well.
WYCD creative director/production director Terry Phillips sent Stark Country a note after last Thursdays story ran with a reminder about some of the other behavior Moody is referencing.
You forget to mention they publicly called country listeners stupid and backward, he writes, recalling some blundering media statements the group made while attempting to mount a comeback in 2006.
Phillips also painfully recalls that when the group toured following the country radio backlash against them, They gave tickets and backstage passes to CHR stations, stiffing us Personally, I stood by them though almost it all, and I could forgive almost everything they said and did as personal opinion but those amazing, incredibly talented women treated a station that supported them like crud.
Meanwhile, WQHK Fort Wayne, Ind., OM Rob Kelley says hes still not playing any Chicks music, even though Ive seen our local testing come back a bit with better passion scores on Wide Open Spaces and Cowboy Take Me Away. However, both tracks still pack significant polarizing negatives The political landscape here in Northeast Indiana is very textbook Red State. Playing by the rule of You dont get hurt by what you dont play, there arent enough overall numbers give play to the Chicks.
And Kelley cites another key reason why the group is no longer a top contender for gold airplay. The Chicks have been gone for so long the young demo is virtually unfamiliar with them, he says.
In 8 1/2 years weve watched new superstars emerge. Some of those acts were not even signed 8 1/2 years ago. I would never fault anyone for sticking with their beliefs, but in the time passed does the public really care about the Chicks in general? Instead, weve seen 8 1/2 years of missed branding or re-branding, along with a bonding opportunity that was gobbled up by Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean and Taylor Swift.
Sirius XM Radio director, music programming Al Skop shares a similar thought. After seeing how well Pistol Annies are doing with [our] Highway [channel] listeners with their rootsy, gritty yet relatable and accessible melodies, he says, it gives me pause to wonder if the Chicks are thinking to themselves If only
They messed with Texas. Don’t do that.
“I don’t regret what I said about the President
And I will never say I’m sorry
(You know what they say?—Never say never, Natalie)
I will never apologize (we will)
I’ll never make amends (we will)
(We’d like to sell some tickets in our own country again)
“(We can’t play in our hometowns, we’ve been banned in the South. Come on people we can’t help it if the little one has a big mouth)
Even though my words may have ruffled some feathers
The Dixie Chicks are gonna stick together
And there are more words inside of me that might stir up a little controversy
I’m here to say that there is no God
And I support the radical Islamic jihad
Maybe you think I’ve gone bezerka
But I say every woman should be wearing a burkha
“(Now we have to apologize, she never spoke for us
We’re been waiting for the day to kick her off the tour bus
We’ll re-form as a duo once we say our goodbyes
She won’t bother us anymore once she’s been lobotomized)”
I never could fault them for speaking their mind.
For those that haven’t seen it:
Americans can be like elephants...
>>You forget to mention they publicly called country listeners stupid and backward
And it mentions that they gave show passes to the CHR (Contemporary Hit Radio/Top 40) stations, not the country
ones. They turned their back on country. Biting the hand that fed them.
Nor can I but you also can't fault listeners and programmers from speaking their minds either. It cuts both ways but the DC apparently didn't like that part.
Yes though they may have found out the hard way that free speech has consequences—in other words, it can provoke more free speech from those who disagree (..or agree...) with you.
When the Chicks controversy erupted there was the expected
“oh, this is censorship! They have freedom of speech!” remarks. Censorship is when the government bans something.
This is the free market in action.
A radio station that puts on a conservative or liberal talk host gets the host’s opinions plus those of the callers.
When the ratings stink (as in liberal talk radio), the station has every right to can the host. Same with music.
If listeners object to content, the station can respond
by removing it. And if listeners wind up missing Chicks
songs, maybe they can tune to top 40 stations that may have
picked it up instead (they turned their back on country
radio/fans as it was).
Got an opinion? Great! But expect others to offer theirs
That is very true, free speech is a street that runs both ways.
I still remember them, not fondly, as the Blixie Chicks.
They have a right to say what they believe, but they don’t have a right for people to accept it. Words can have consequences. Faith Hill and Tim McGraw almost joined them on the shun list, but they had the smarts to discontinue their foolishness.
Here in Boston there’s only one country station, WKLB, which does do well in the ratings (but, no competition). At first they seemed to stick with the Chicks but the negative remarks they got caused the station to play them very infrequently
if it all...
Of course these girls not only put there foot, but there whole leg down their throats and to top it off told their cash paying customers to shut the hell up
I hope they are pariahs for a long, long, long time
Liberalism doesn't pay in to open market, only when it's gumbermint money feeding it...too bad they don't understand that dynamic
Ah, nice to know I am not the only one who still turns off the station when I hear the Vichy Chix.
Neither could I. But ultimately they must be aware of the commercial consequences of doing so. They're in the business of making country music. People who listen to country music tend to be socially and politically conservative. Therefore, it behooves them not to alienate their audience if they wish to be commercially successful. They want the free speech without the consequences to their careers. Too bad, it don't work that way.
From a free speech pov, no, but from a business perspective, yes. They were a business and their spokesperson acted in her own interests, not the interests of her company and its employees. I saw it as an incredibly selfish act, but one of the first things I learned about business is that it's not against the law to destroy your own business--you are just as free to fail as succeed.
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