The Billboard Folk Albums Chart is being revamped as the Americana/Folk Albums Chart to reflect the rise in popularity and recognition of Americana music.
Americana Music has its own national association, a huge annual festival, a wide range of talented artists and tons of devoted fans, but it hasn’t been a recognized genre in the industry-influencing Billboard music charts—until now. Billboard Magazine announced that as of June 4, the Folk category will be changed to Americana/Folk to encompass the rising popularity of Americana artists and their influence in the music industry overall. The Billboard chart addition follows several recent milestones for Americana such as inclusion in Merriam-Websters dictionary and a Grammy category for Americana.
At the moment, popular Americana artists like Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson tend to chart in the Folk or Country, but there is a growing consensus that these categories are not enough. According to Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association, “[Americana artists are] not sitting on their back porch trying to write a No. 1 hit for commercial radio; they’re trying to tell a story through music in the best way they can.” Hilly views the chart’s addition as a “game-changer” because it will “represent the importance and sales potential of this genre” in the larger context of the music industry.
Americana can be a difficult genre to define because it encompasses American roots music with influences spanning from blues, country, jazz, rock and folk, all the way to soul and gospel. Based on the nominees for this year’s Americana Music Awards, some of the leading artists in the genre are country-leaning acts like Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Bonnie Raitt and Margo Price.
The addition of this chart signals a recognition of Americana music as a major player in the industry. Thanks to streaming, home recording, social media and other technological shifts in recent years, artists who don’t fit the mold for country radio and other mainstream outlets have found their audience. We’re glad to see the genre and its artists finally receiving some very well-deserved industry recognition.