Is Country Music Dead?

This is Bob Hempker. We received this email from Chris Smith and I’m impressed by how eloquently he expressed the frustration so many of us feel. Chris, I wish I had the answers to your questions, but I don’t. We do have a lot of industry people on our mailing list and just maybe some of your concerns might fall on the proper ears and I will certainly pass on any feedback I receive.

Here is Chris’ email.


I am extremely concerned about country music. Is there any way to talk to the record companies and let them know there is a market they are completely missing out on? I turn on the country station today and it’s unbelievable what they have done with country music. I’m hearing a heavy influence of rock and hip-hop with a twangy voice. It’s only a matter of time before they pursue artists that don’t have any twang in their voice and they allow them to do whatever they want and play it on country radio. I am afraid that country music has died. One can listen to the old country music but there is only so much of it to go around. Eventually, you can purchase all that has been made that is qualified to be called country music. Unfortunately, it has become almost impossible to hear a new track that has pedal steel in it that has a instrumental worth listening to. There has to be something that can be done about this. I’m 34 years old and the music I love the most seems to have come to a halt. I know it’s not something new and it has been eroding over time. At least over the last decade and a half. It’s like the year 2000 hit and someone in Nashville said “ok, time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on killing country music.” Jason Aldean is supposed to be the answer for me? Come on. Give me a break. I’m not saying his music is bad by any means but it does not appeal to me. I am educated enough to realize there is a market out there for his music. Why can’t the record labels be educated enough to realize that they are completely missing out on a market that craves new country with tons of pedal steel and fiddle? Most of what I hear today is what I call the background noise you might hear if you went to a club. It’s fine for some settings but when I get in my car or sit in the living room alone at the house, I want to hear something with substance. I want excellent arrangements, addictive melodies and vocals that cannot be duplicated by anyone that can halfway carry a note.

I am terrified that in the future, there really won’t be anything out there that sounds like it could be country music. I fear that singers in the future will say that their influences were Jason Aldean, Taylor Swift, Luke Bryan or Hunter Hayes. To this day, I have not heard one track from any of those artists that comes close to sounding like traditional country.

I am planning to go to the final George Strait concert in June this year in Arlington, TX. I have joked that I am going to the funeral of country music and that I should wear all black. It’s the truth, though. Once Mr. Strait stops cutting new albums, it is over. I am aware that there will still be local bands spread throughout the country that will still be playing country music and perhaps selling it. I am also aware that I can search through the internet until my fingers are stiff to find it. However, I remember a time not that long ago I could hear real country music on the radio. Even better, I could buy those albums back then and really hear something that would blow my mind. Unfortunately, the only new country albums I have bought over the last 4 years have been George Strait albums.

It’s truly sad that the music I love the most has almost died. It’s like a fish out of water. They even have me questioning myself. Am I too old fashioned? Should I be more open-minded? Should I give these modern country artists more of a chance? The answer is NO. I should not have to settle for something I don’t really like. If only I could have a shot at recording albums and having them played on the radio to satisfy the people out there like me. Of course I know that Clay Walker said it best recently. This is not an exact quote but he basically said that anyone who thinks that traditional country will be produced or played on the radio today is kidding themselves.

Where are the singers that were influenced 20 years ago by George Strait, Alan Jackson, Mark Chesnutt, Tracy Lawrence and Tracy Byrd to name a few? I can understand today’s young artists not being influenced by George Jones or Ray Price but the artists from the 90’s had to have had an impact on younger singers today. What happened along the way? Who is in control of this? Is it radio, the labels, a lack of good talent or a mixture of all of it? Does country music need someone’s presence like Gaylord or Roy Acuff in order to remain traditional? It has to involve greed too. They are in business to sell records but I have a news flash for them. They are not selling any of them to me or people like me. I guarantee you that Darius Rucker could not sing a real country song if he had to.

Thank you for your time. I hope you have some answers for me. I’ve been trying to hear someone answer these questions logically. No one has been able to say anything that makes any sense about this except for comparing it to old rock n’ roll. That was killed off just like country music is being killed today. Surely hip hop and rap did not win over the masses.


Chris Smith

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3 Responses to Is Country Music Dead?

  1. Grant Mays says:

    Oh yea! I definatly agree with this guy, this new “country” stuff sucks! I’m only 16 but I can remember a time when I could ride in the truck with papa and hear good ole country from 2000 on back and hear new stuff that was good too. Nowadays, I can’t even stand to turn on the radio. I mean half the “country” songs that come on their don’t even have the twang element and sound completely like pop. Well, dangit, if I wanted to hear pop I’d turn it to the pop station but now it seems like the pop station has consumed other stations along with it. I mean please let us have some mainstream artists who are neo-traditionalist country artists like Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Or Brooks and Dunn. If we don’t do something now we’re gonna loose the identity and roots of country and western music completely! I love this genre. It’s what I was raised on and what I can identify with and it hurts like heck to not be able to hear my music on the radio like I used to. And I can 100% assure you that I ain’t the only person who feels this way. I know hundreds of people who have quit listening to country music completely because of this ignorant, unintelligent, and lousy crap that some call “bro country”. I mean this stuff has even messed up some artists music completely. For example, compare Luke Bryan’s hit song “All My Friends Say” to his newer stuff like “That’s my kinda night”. Yeah…..big difference. Another example is Billy Currington. He used to make some really good sounding country songs like “Good Directions” and “Pretty Good At Drinking Beer” and “People Are Crazy”. But now he has released crap that ain’t even country like “Hey Girl” and “We Are Tonight”. It just plain sucks for fans of REAL country music. All I can say is please please please bring back real country and western music. She’s been spat on and neglected for to long and we’re all sick and tired of it. So I’m beging you, on my knees with tears in my eyes, PLEASE bring real traditional country music back before it’s too late.

  2. Marcia offhaus says:

    It,s true country music is almost dead and I,m totally discusted with this new crap .I couldn,t even watch all of the CMA,s. it’s noise . I grew up with real country music and bluegrass. Gone are the days of Tammy,Jan Howard , Dolly ,Connie Smith, Carl Perkins Johnny Cash Roy Clark , oak ridge boys boy do I miss them ,Alabama. WHAT HAPPENED?. I can,t remember when I bought a record or cd? At least I can still get Willies roadhouse and a couple of other stations that play the old classics that,s all that’s left Please,please, please get Nashville back on track.Also why does the awards shows have to be in places that are not associated with country music Isn,t the opry house good enough anymore? Thank you for letting me vent!

  3. Elden Moats says:

    The tension between traditional country music and the modern sound reminds me of the differences between traditional gospel music and the contemporary gospel music sound. For example the gospel sound of Mahalia Jackson is a far cry from a contemporary gospel artist such as Marvin Sapp. Another example is the traditional hymns which were sung in churches for generations have now been largely replaced with contemporary christian music. This is the reality of life. Change is inevitable. A rotary dialed telephone is laughable as well as a public phone booth. I like the traditional sound and likely always will. But the Creator changes the seasons of the year. Maybe we should be open to musical changes also. But don’t throw out the old!

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