July 29, 2007
“I’m kind of talking out of school here, but we’re going to try to get the album out before the end of the year,” Adkins says. “We have a couple singles we can choose from, and I don’t really care which one it is because they’re both strong. It doesn’t matter where ‘I Wanna Feel Something’ is. It’s had its run in my opinion, and I just don’t have the patience that I used to have anymore. I just don’t.
“You send a song to radio and they play it for 16 weeks or whatever, and then you can just tell it’s not going to be one of those records they’re going to jump all over. And if we kept working at it, could we get it top 10? Yeah, we probably could. But you know what, those numbers are just not that important to me anymore. It would be a long, labor-intensive work record, and I don’t have time for that.”
I’m a big fan of “I Wanna Feel Something”. As I noted in my review of the single earlier this year, it’s one of his best singles to date. This is the kind of quote that will piss off people in the industry, especially at radio and his label, but he’s speaking to a problem that has grown dramatically larger over the past decade. The slow turnover of singles at country radio and their increasing dependency on recurrents and gold titles means that fewer songs get exposure at radio.
Back in the nineties and earlier, the life cycle of a single was about three months, meaning hit artists could work four records a year to radio. The really big ones could sometimes squeeze in five, and B-list artists were good for three. The quicker turnover meant more artists could be heard on the radio, more careers could be sustained, and more music could be discovered by listeners.
Radio would also jump on a new record from an artist coming off of a big hit. Adkins put out a killer ballad to follow-up his multi-week #1 “Ladies Love Country Boys”, and radio barely touched it. How could they, when they were still spinning that hit incessantly? “I Wanna Feel Something” never netted more spins or audience impressions in a week than that hit, which would still be in the top 25 if recurrent rules hadn’t forced it off of the chart. New singles from Emerson Drive and Billy Currington are struggling for the same reason; radio just won’t stop spinning the big hits that came before them. Unless you’re an A-list radio artist – think Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, George Strait, Carrie Underwood, Toby Keith, Brad Paisley and Keith Urban – you don’t have much of a chance at consistent radio action.
When country music was at its peak of popularity – the nineties – the list of non-superstar artists who scored four top ten hits or more from an album was lengthy. Tracy Byrd. BlackHawk. Diamond Rio. Pam Tillis. Trisha Yearwood. Joe Diffie. Toby Keith. Patty Loveless. Martina McBride. Billy Dean. Mary Chapin Carpenter. Deana Carter. Clay Walker. Tracy Lawrence. Mark Chesnutt. Doug Stone. Jo Dee Messina.
All of these artists managed to get their records spinned enough to sustain lengthy careers, even while radio gave the bulk attention to its superstars of the day, and each one of them can still release music today because of their established success back then. Imagine how many of today’s artists could be in the same position if radio returned to a faster turnover and longer playlists.