Find out why country music keeps drawing in fans, and what artists do to keep them.
It's no secret that the popularity of country music is growing, and rapidly. Crossover artists like Shania Twain and Faith Hill helped blur the lines between country and pop, while Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts, among others, proved that songs intended for country charts could find a place in the pop world as well.
But what is it about country music that makes it one of the fastest-growing genres, with the ability to sell out stadiums and arenas, not to mention find fans all over the globe? We break it down.
1. The live show.
Few artists outside of country music put so much time and energy into their concerts. Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Kenny Chesney took concerts to a new level over the last few years, investing as much, if not more, of their efforts into their live shows as their chart-topping albums, and it shows. Fans are flocking to their concerts, snapping up tickets in minutes before they sell out. It's no wonder that, when the highest-grossing tours are named, country artists always find a spot on the elite list.
2. Social media.
While artists used to be a select group of elite performers who remained mysterious and virtually untouchable, country artists have found a way to connect directly with their fans through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and they use it to their advantage. Country acts like Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert and Lady Antebellum have used social media for everything from giveaways to random acts of kindness to dealing with disappointing concert experiences, virtually multiplying their fan base exponentially.
3. The music.
Let's not forget that country music is about just that - the music. Sure, there's a lot of rock and roll in some of the biggest country songs, like Florida Georgia Line's mega-hit, "Cruise" or Lambert's "Something Bad" duet with Carrie Underwood, but there's still plenty of musical prowess that finds its place in country music. Many country acts, including Aldean and the Zac Brown Band, pride themselves on filling the stage with people whose musicianship defies logic. Forget being the bass player who fills a lone spot on a stage. Any member of a band in country music has already proved his skills are leaps and bounds ahead of everybody else.
4. The lyrics.
Country music doesn't leave much room for watered-down words in a song. One listen to Lee Ann Womack's "Send It On Down" or Tim McGraw's "Diamond Rings and Old Barstools" and the pure, raw beauty of country music still shines through. As in any genre, sometimes the simpler songs, like Blake Shelton's "Hillbilly Bone" or Toby Keith's "Red Solo Cup" find a place as well, but the core of country music remains rooted in songwriters who have something to say, and fans who are ready to listen.
5. The culture.
Thanks to the advent of shows like "Nashville," Country music is the genre du jour. Whereas once country music might have been portrayed as a bunch of rednecks who wear cowboy hats and drive beat-up trucks, now it's seen as a viable form of music, with as much class and legitimacy as any other genre, and maybe more. Not to mention, several former Hollywood residents, like Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere, say they feel more at home ensconced in the country music culture than anywhere else, making middle Tennessee their permanent residence.
6. The community.
At its heart, country music is still based on a small-town feel. Although Nashville is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country right now, it remains a place where artists who celebrated their No. 1 album one night, can be left alone while eating breakfast at a local diner the next morning. Largely immune from paparazzi and media hype, Music City is becoming the destination for artists who want to focus more on their art, and less on their fame.
7. The artists.
Of course, country music would be nothing without the singers and groups who align themselves with the genre. Although artists in other genres tend to look at their career as one big competition to see who can rise to the top, country artists look out for each other. Sure, there may be differences in their styles of music -- it's unlikely Aldean will ever purchase a Maddie and Tae album -- but artists proudly defend all aspects of the genre to anyone who dares utter a critical word. And the bona fide superstars in the genre aren't afraid of the artists coming behind them. In other styles of music, opening acts are often supposed to sound sub-par, but country artists proudly help those coming behind them, giving them coveted slots on tours and offering advice and introductions. It's not a business. It's a family.
Featured image Twitter/Country Music Assoc.