Author Topic: "Alt-Country" out; "Americana" in.  (Read 2157 times)


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"Alt-Country" out; "Americana" in.
« on: October 14, 2005, 01:44:00 pm »
Americana tries to establish roots as a viable genre
 By Lynne Margolis
 Oct. 13, 2005
 During the Americana Music Association Honors & Awards ceremony in Nashville last month, Jim Lauderdale joked that the association had sought a slogan to pin down the elusive genre.
 The runner-up, he said, was "Americana ?? what's not to dig?"
 And the winner: "So that's Americana!"
 No Depression magazine, which helped popularize the concept of Americana as a distinct style, just celebrated its 10th anniversary by retiring its "alt-country (whatever that is)" slogan in favor of "Surveying the past, present and future of American music."
 Catchy, eh?
 Both slogans say much about the conundrum of Americana, as a genre, a radio format, a retail label or ... whatever. The fact that the association, formed by 30 people during a 1999 South by Southwest Music Festival gathering and now boasting a membership of nearly 1,200, exists at all ?? and drew 901 attendees to its fourth conference ?? is a testament to this music industry faction's conviction that Americana (formerly known as alternative country) is a distinct category worthy of nurturing.
 But there's also the growth-hindering fact that it's harder to define than folk, blues, country, jazz or any of the other idioms that get thrown into the mix ?? including rock, soul, punk, gospel and bluegrass.
 The formation of the Atlanta-based Americana Radio Network, a syndicate launched online just before the conference, looked like a big step forward. But just after it arranged for a satellite uplink for its broadcast signal and began signing on station affiliates, the funders pulled the plug.
 Network manager T.J. Johnston, who had been working on a similar plan before partnering with CEO Ryan Olson and his financier father, said Olson was put off by the conference attendees ?? his targeted demographic (male, age 28 to 50, with advanced degrees) ?? which he viewed as "a bunch of hicks and hillbillies." (Olson declined to comment for this story.) The Olsons told Johnston they didn't think the format was viable.
 He disagrees, and is now seeking other funding.
 "We literally had a dozen stations who had contacted us just off of our press releases, and were very interested in carrying the format," Johnston reports. "We were aiming at 100 stations in three years. That's not a huge amount of stations, but for a niche format like this, that's plenty to survive on."
 Association executive director Jeff Green isn't certain a 24-hour Americana network can fly, because the format is still regionalized in terms of stylistic preferences. But he's convinced a syndicated Americana show in a weekly Top 20 countdown format could work.
 Austinite Dallas Wayne, a disc jockey on Sirius Satellite Radio's Outlaw Country channel, also has faith in the Americana format. He was a DJ for the fledgling network, which he said had a goal of bringing a contemporary radio feel to listeners while giving a home to artists who currently don't have one within other formats ?? among them them Buddy Miller, Lucinda Williams, Wilco, Alison Krauss, Stephen Bruton, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Dave Alvin.
 Green encapsulates their sound as "just music with a great deal of integrity, American in its roots" ?? though Canadians like Fred Eaglesmith or the Duhks (or Australians like Kasey Chambers) definitely qualify.
 "I don't want to say it's like pornography ?? you know it when you see it ?? but certainly," he adds, "people know it when they hear it."
 Several Texas stations identify themselves as Americana and report their playlist information to the Americana radio airplay chart, published weekly in Radio & Record magazine. Among them is New Braunfels' KNBT-FM (92.1), where association board member Mattson Rainer serves as program and music director. KFAN-FM (107.9) in Fredericksburg, KTXN-FM (98.7) in Victoria and Austin's KGSR-FM (107.1) consider themselves "Americana/AAA" ?? a combination of roots music and Adult Album Alternative; KGSR reports to R&R's Americana and Triple A airplay charts. Austin public radio station KUT-FM (90.5) also reports its weekly Americana song spins.
 "We're in discussions with Arbitron (which measures radio listenership) about getting Americana a formal format designation," Green says. "We think we have an excellent chance of that happening. We're trying to set some kind of a threshold to validate this as a real format, rather than just a representation of what airplay is out there in this spectrum of artistry.
 "If we can show that a radio station can make money with this music, I believe it's gonna grow," Green says, adding, "Americana's never gonna be the next big thing, but if it's the next medium thing, that's still very lucrative, it's a very viable business, and meanwhile, you've got a lot of wonderful music to enjoy."

Re: "Alt-Country" out; "Americana" in.
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2005, 01:57:00 pm »
Dallas Wayne is a poster on the Robbie Fulks board.

Julian, Alleged Computer F**kface

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Re: "Alt-Country" out; "Americana" in.
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2005, 02:03:00 pm »
So, Charlie, were you like the keynote speaker at this convention, or what?