Why People Don't Trust Country Radio

I’ve never really made a video going into the complexities of country radio, and this was my best attempt at doing so. PLEASE note that this video is NOT meant to stoke resentment at radio — it’s just trying to make it a little clearer how this industry functions, because A. it’s interesting and B. it helps make sense why your favorite independent artist isn’t getting played. But hey, if you love the radio songs you play every day, MORE POWER TO YOU. I mean it. I’m just pleased that I can find country music other places too!

Here’s the Whiskey Riff interview with Cody Johnson:

00:00 – Intro & Cody Johnson’s Interview
01:07 – Common Criticisms of Country Radio
03:54 – Radio’s Power & Disclaimer
05:41 – The Traditional Path To Country Success
10:26 – The Programming Powers That Be
15:55 – What It Takes To Climb to #1
21:28 – Silver Linings & Mindset

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38 Responses

  1. Renee Puvvada says:

    Country radio to me has always tried to emulate pop radio/hip hop radio. When I found country music not on country radio, that sounded nothing like it wasn't, I finally realized I loved country!

  2. Cooking with Cheej says:

    Country radio is garbage.

  3. Dorothy Villarreal says:

    This was such a fantastic video. I learned so much, and really appreciate your take on this!

  4. Kurt Satsuma says:

    Check out ruthie Collins

  5. Adonis Quinn says:

    I wish there was a better way to find music and would love a recommendation. I’ve taken a break from the “country radio complex” because what they play has become as soulless as pop.

  6. Mill Brook Railroad says:

    As an independent radio professional, I agree with your assessment of the radio industry.
    I am fortunate to work for station owners who give me carte blanche when picking music. The result is a mix of modern and classic country, independent country, bluegrass and select americana tracks that (PD's take notice) has a TSL (time spent listening) of 6-13 hours a day and listenership that is 10% of the population in the listening area according to Nielsen.
    What that means to people who aren't radio insiders is that a format that plays what people actually like is truly popular and can make money if there's a dedicated sales staff to sell it. It is also a case for ownership caps, which is another topic entirely.

  7. lowell houser says:

    Nashville only cares about what LA thinks about what NYC thinks. Screw em.

  8. Case 830 says:

    I’m a huge Cody Johnson fan! I am excited for his concert in Cheyenne! It’ll be my first

  9. Cameron says:

    Just started listening to his album today then saw this video. He is refreshing I will say.

  10. Alicia W says:

    That radio is still so influential is amazing. A decade, and more, I got tired of nor just country radio, but the rest also. Besides not caring for many of the songs being played over and over, there was so little diversity in genres. I bought an ipod, and loaded it. I subscribed to Sirius for years. I began to discover new music on Youtube. I've slowly transitioned to streaming. Yes, I pay. Now, I only turn radio, on occasion, for NPR.

  11. Sam Nestor says:

    I was born in Nashville and grew up 19 miles outside of it on a ranch, growing up I did a bit of rodeoing. I hate Nashville “Country” radio and was happy to see some real country music actually start to break through again (Cody Johnson, Tyler Childers, Morgan Wallen, Parker McCollum, etc) but was not surprised when they kicked Wallen off the radio and threatened Cody Johnson because he’s “too cowboy” (they love the fake ass ones). I am very thankful for streaming services like Apple Music giving real down to earth country singers a way to get big again.

  12. Connor H says:

    Very well spoken, sir

  13. Cole Stewart says:

    Btw luke Brian's a little bitch….Chris ledoux is the real thing

  14. Cole Stewart says:

    Real country music has always been the music of outlaws….its came from the old scotch Irish ballads in the hills of Appalachia to the moans of Hank Williams…to the cries of the possum, the Hag, Waylon and Willie to chasin that neon rainbow and Amarillo by morning….the real country music of today lives on the edge and don't apologize for it…Country music radio will probably never play real country….real country listeners and real country folks are a minority….its called rural country for a reason

  15. Kayla Wright-Farley says:

    I love this!! I have been getting more into independent artist and I think they have the best music bc there is no red tape!

  16. Song Notes by David Pots says:

    Man, I enjoy all your videos – but this one is just A++ from start to finish. The Cody clips, the interviews you cite, you giving context where needed, the R2D2 transition sound, and just your non-naive vibe throughout – all great stuff. Excited to be able to point people to this for a long time to come.

  17. Brayden Mullins says:

    Honestly just don’t like women songs most I do not care about and don’t relate to me so I don’t have a problem with women getting less air time

  18. Justin Smith says:

    CoJo getting better and better everytime I hear another song of his.

  19. Charles B says:

    I am a huge Aaron Watson fan and never saw Cody Johnson in his stratosphere until I heard "Dear Radio." Good job, Cody!

  20. Charles B says:

    Can you do a video on Bobby Bones?! I live near Austin, despise him on whichever local station he is on (98.7 or 100.7,) and want to understand his appeal.

  21. RAY TRUMBLE says:

    we do not need the radio, i stopped listening to country music for like 3 years becuase all they played was shit. Then somebody showed me Tyler Childers and his Spotify channel brought me to a whole new group of artist. THE RADIO IS TRASH.

  22. Paulxl says:

    I can say every time I watch any of Grady's videos I really want to listen to country music despite the fact I'm from an European country where country music is not a thing at all and being completely unfamiliar with the genre beyond having listen to some Dolly and Dixie Chicks' songs. Any suggestions? I started listening to Zach Bryan some weeks ago thanks to Grady and I really like his music quite a lot.

  23. Tristan Wong says:

    Cody Johnson is ridiculously underrated. He's on my driving playlist while I drive to work every morning

  24. Travisparks24 says:

    Then sturgill literally put out a song called “Sing Along”

  25. KYLE DEXTER says:

    This was a great video. Thank you! I just found a new artist to enjoy.

  26. Helen Brown says:

    Country radio absolutely SUCKS for treating REAL country artists like this!

  27. Jungle Skunk says:

    The radio didnt play "dear rodeo" because it wasnt that big of a stand out song. Its the same old 90s country sad song weve heard a million times.

  28. Carter Moore says:

    Cody Johnson is far and away my favorite artist rn. It’s frustrating as a fan to not hear his music on the radio

  29. Dave Parker says:

    Grady – you've obviously talked to a few people either in radio or with the labels, or both. But, there are a few key, defining issues that remain unaddressed, most importantly the influence that the Nielsen ratings system has over what gets played on radio. But, there is hope that if given daylight, good music can be successful on a station's playlist. We are the only station (WUSH, Norfolk, VA) on the Mediabase panel that has ever officially added Sturgill, Tyler and Cody Jinks to our playlist. I play them everyday, and we've been the #1 station in the market for almost 4 years (yet, despite their complaints about country radio not playing them, their camps are completely unresponsive to the one station that actually does). CoJo and Kacey are also staples. I just added Hailey Whitters w/Brent Cobb. Also, I do a three hour show on Saturdays, Six String Saturdays, that is strictly alternative and traditional country. That show gets more unsolicited, passionate feedback than anything we've ever done. It now includes a growing online listenership across the country during those hours. This gives me, and I trust, naively, other PDs, hope that if given the chance, good music can not only exist, but thrive, on country radio. Unfortunately, with the current corporate and ratings dynamics, that is unlikely. Creativity in the curation of a local station playlist is either discouraged or simply not possible due to how many people have been fired by the corporate chains over the past year. What you would likely find quite interesting is to obtain a Mediabase login and password so that you can see the homogenous, vanilla goo that is pervasive among the stations that determine chart position. That's a whole episode in itself.

  30. drewcrow2000 says:

    Here in Texas. CoJo has more hits then u think. A lot of his songs get played here in Texas lot. Keep on CoJo. Texas country music!!!!

  31. OffroadArmbar says:

    My favorite video of yours in a long time.

  32. Bailey Corwine says:

    "Tell the truth and make good music." Grady, please put that on a shirt. I will buy 5.

  33. Country Dancing Tonight says:

    Haha, It's a GOOD video!

  34. TheBrandonDawson says:

    I don’t even listen to country music that much. But I really dig this content, nobody cares so idk why I typed this but yolo
    Epstein didn’t kill himself.

  35. Karson Tager says:

    FYI, they are called "Program Directors" not "Programming directors"…great video!

  36. Tim Utzig says:

    A consistent through line through this video is Bobby bones saying stupid shit. I talk to normal people who just tune into country radio and they say things like “Bobby bones is great “but I talk to other dedicated passionate country fans and they think he is an arrogant asshole who thinks he’s the best around at what he does. With that misguided confidence, he says some really dumb shit that makes him look like he doesn’t actually know what he’s talking about

  37. Shawn Bryant says:

    Sturgill Simpson doesn't have "sing-a-long hooks", followed by one of the most unique and cool sing-a-long hooks EVER!
    Wow, music execs have got to be about the biggest group of tards out there.

  38. Grady Smith says:

    Hey y'all!! This one has a provocative title, but it really isn't some big exposé. It's just my attempt to make sense of how radio and the "system" of country music works, and to be honest, that's neither bad nor good. It just is. If anything, I hope vids like this can help people let go of some resentment about the machine, but also let em know why it's okay to tune it out if they're not into it. Anyway — this is long and less edited than usual so I hope you enjoy it!!

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