Say What? – Trace Adkins

The 9513 flagged this quote last week from Trace Adkins, which was originally reported at Billboard’s website:

“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.


  1. I was a big fan of Trace, however with great songs like his I love to see how they fare on the charts. I know it sounds harsh but with the kind of fan I am I don’t see why I should care about his music if he doiesn’t seem to. THis quote only makes me think he cares about the money. Seriously Trace I thought Trace was more “grown up” than this to think he can put out a new single and CD without a care of where his career will go.

  2. I think if he only cared about money he’d be for pushing the single more, since the exposure of more airplay would be to his benefit. Artists don’t make any money when their songs are played on radio – only the songwriters do. He just doesn’t see the point in pushing a song that radio doesn’t want to play, when he can get some new music out there for his fans instead. I think the fact that he’s willing to give up on a single to get a new project out there indicates he cares more about his music than how it does on the charts.

  3. great thoughts kevin, just listening to country radio on a regular basis makes it abundantly clear that the big hits from months ago are still getting huge play, and the new stuff is seemingly getting lost in the middle. Its really frustrating to have the same 12 songs played back to back over and over, while the fun new music takes a while to seep in (unless from the superstars mentioned in your post). Radio needs to get with it, too many country stations are starting to follow the top 40 format and overplay/kill great songs from superstars, and seemingly ignore great songs from the other stars. I do know for a fact though, that if you request it….they will play it, so I keep that in mind when there is something I want to hear. (or just tue in the ipod)

  4. I agree with Kevin and Gaby. I Wanna Feel Something is a great song and to watch Trace sing it live in concert is awesome. You can tell he really loves the song, but he is being realistic in a crazy business.

    Email or call in your requests. I email requests everyday. If everyone requested new songs, maybe radio would listen.

  5. Kevin, I disagree with just about everything that you wrote.

    First, I dispute your premise that “I Wanna Feel Something” is not getting played because radio is too busy spinning “Ladies Love Country Boys.” I don’t have the recurrent spin numbers in front of me, but I can’t remember the last time I heard either one. Radio is still playing the hell out of “Moments” and “Good Directions,” but both songs were the best career releases to date for the artist, far superior to the subsequent releases, and hit number one much more recently than Trace’s song. This is a rare example of radio exercising good judgment.

    Furthermore, superstars have many advantages at radio, but they aren’t immune to the saturation effect. I expected both “If You’re Reading This” and “Lost” to vault up the charts, but I suspect that the primary reason they haven’t is because of the concurrent release of the best Tim and Faith duet to date.

    Even if your premise is correct, I think that less turnover, not more, would improve radio. When you simply dutifully swap a new single for the old one every three months, you haven’t broadened your playlist; in fact, you’ve temporally narrowed it. It’s too bad that Trace’s new single didn’t succeed, but I’d have loved it if radio had rejected “Honkytonk Badonkadonk” and “Ladies Love Country Boys” in favor of “I’m Trying” and “Every Light in the House is On.” I get frustrated with most artists who are able to put out a new single every 3 months and a new album every year, because I think that it encourages the creation of forgettable, disposable music. I’d love it if no radio artist was an “automatic add” and superior, older work was spun preferentially to new, inferior work. The best way to lengthen radio playlists is to increase the diversity of the artist base, not to allow the B and C listers to release a “new” formula song every two months.

  6. Matt, I did have the radio spins right in front of me, or I wouldn’t have made the claim that “Ladies Love Country Boys” was still getting more airplay. Everything else you said was a difference of opinion, but I wanted to be clear on that fact. You can check out the stats yourself if you follow the Mediabase link on my page.

    I don’t quite understand how even less turnover would narrow playlists or lead to a better diversity at radio, though I’m not sure if you’re claiming the latter. It’s been a few years now since country radio followed pop’s lead, and started spinning its hits many more times a day, and holding on to its hits for weeks longer. It’s hard to believe that songs used to be removed automatically after 20 weeks, when it takes longer than that for many singles to peak now!

    The end result is fewer artists can sustain careers, because they don’t get enough exposure of their music to sell records. The additional cost of promoting records to radio longer means a higher amount of sales before the album breaks even and the label makes money from it, and until the label makes its money back, the artist doesn’t see even a penny of royalties. I’d be shocked if Adkins made any royalties from his latest album. It’s no surprise so many artists are going the indie/own label route. I fail to see how the major label approach in Nashville can continue to sustain itself at the rate it’s going, but that’s another post!

  7. i have been a travis tritt fan since he first hit the scene. and it is because artist like trace adkins and travis tritt that i enjoy listening to, writing and playing country music. although for todays standards trace is bigger then travis they both put their fans first. i would really like to see a dou between these to because travis has that blues style while trace has that deep voice and i think they could compliment each other. trace, keep puttin out music.

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