For the first time since the Folk Albums chart became the Americana/Folk Albums chart, Americana outsold country. To be specific, the top 10 albums on the Americana Billboard chart beat the top 10 albums on any other chart. Well, except for Rock, which somehow managed to also include the top 4 selling Americana albums.
And that’s a big deal. For a genre to only recently enter the “commercial” sphere and outsell just about every other genre — it’s impressive.
But when you dive into the specifics, the feat gets a little more complicated. For instance, Chris Stapleton and Dolly Parton live on both the Americana chart and the Country chart. And the country chart still features legends like and Dwight Yoakam, which is a great sign for traditional artists.
The Americana chart, per usual, moves across an even broader range, including acts like Bon Iver, Bob Weir and The Lumineers. Those acts undoubtedly push the genre up, even if they normally live elsewhere.
The genre still appreciates albums. Meaning artists making full albums still matters. Country continues to dominate in a singles-driven world. If Americana outsells country singles, well that would be huge.
But make no mistake, the genre continues to rise in the commercial world. Americana Music Association president Jed Hilly told Billboard just how much progress the genre made. “I think that the fact that there’s a word in the dictionary, there’s a Grammy Award — now there’s a place for these artists who don’t necessarily fit in the mainstream commercial boxes, but do have artistic similarities [to] call home,” Hilly says.
And that’s the key. The genre opened its arms to a wide range of artists. The artists who heard how they “weren’t country” or “rock.” Billboard only started acknowledging the genre’s album sales in May (by changing the Folk chart name). But a growing number of artists show just how big a market Americana really is.
Even mainstream country artists could classify as Americana on a song-by-song basis. Miranda Lambert’s “Vice” is a great example.
Does it mean the genre is eclipsing country’s popularity? Not by a long shot. But it gives credence to the concept that fans still want to hear albums full of poetic license. Not simply nice ditties on country radio. Expect more country artists to take a chance at deeper content that focuses more on the roots of the genre as opposed to the party atmosphere.
As Americana albums soar, look for more radio and performance opportunities to form for artists who no longer fit the country mold. Whether that means more opportunities on country radio or new individual opportunities is really up to the formats to decide.