Beyoncé and country music: Industry eyes the Beyhive for new fans

At the 2024 edition of the Country Radio Seminar, experts discussed how Beyoncé may impact the industry

Lạm phát của một nước tăng vì ca sĩ Beyoncé

The mainstream country music industry gathered in Nashville recently for the Country Radio Seminar, where genre leaders had plenty to say about Beyoncé.

Her recent country music success spotlights how the genre exists somewhere between continuing business as usual and making strides toward greater inclusivity.

Her single “Texas Hold’ Em” continues to top several charts, including Billboard’s Hot Country chart. On the country radio chart, the song ranked higher than any Black woman’s solo release in 55 years.

R.J. Curtis, the executive director of Country Radio Broadcasters Inc., says he was “pleased and surprised” that country stations have added “Texas Hold’ Em” to their rotations. Country music is slowly evolving, he says.

“What’s deemed acceptable as a ‘radio-ready’ country song has become a re-normalized expectation to which many of our programmers are slowly adapting,” Curtis says. “Also, how that expectation impacts what our listeners believe a mix of songs for radio should sound like — and how many of those are now ‘shock to the system’ records.”

A new route to crossover success

Beyoncé’s “Act II” album out March 29 could offer “shocks” comparable to those delivered by rapper-turned-country chart-topper Jelly Roll in the past three years.

Beyoncé’s existence within an industry accepting Jelly Roll’s blueprint for success as the most sustainable method to urge systemic change gently – and how Beyoncé will likely, in no way, mirror Jelly Roll’s strategy at country radio – must be considered.

Ca sĩ Beyonce - Tin tức mới nhất về Beyonce

BMG distributes Jelly Roll’s independently made music. As part of its strategy, the label first promoted the artist’s ballad “Son of a Sinner” to rock radio because that audience was more open to artists who incorporate hip-hop sounds. But those fans also fit a blue-collar demographic that favors country’s rock-driven sounds of the past decade.

“Son of a Sinner” took five months to hit the top five on Billboard’s charts measuring alternative, mainstream rock and adult album alternative radio airplay. Two months later, the song reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart.

Beyoncé did not take such an indirect route in her approach to the country music genre.

Curtis says country radio should embrace the tumultuous moment.

“Country music, regardless of the breadth of its influence, still relies upon lyrics and relatable stories to connect to the fanbase,” he says. “Artists making music and trying different ways to connect, in those ways, to our fanbase, should be embraced.”

Implications for Black artists already in country music

Curtis wishes radio programmers would discover more songs that, similar to “Texas Hold’ Em,” expand expectations for country radio.

Holly G. founded Black Opry in 2021 to create a safe space and raise awareness of Black artists, fans and industry professionals in country music.

“As somebody who really, really loved and appreciated country music, I had not seen myself in it,” Holly G. says. “I had to decide to either leave it alone or try to figure out a way to make it better.”

Holly G. is a huge Beyoncé fan but is less enamored with the country music establishment.

“Everybody loves Beyoncé, but people are frustrated with the industry,” she says. “They are doing for her what they have (told others) is not possible for all of these years.”

It’s been fascinating and frustrating to watch the country music industry interact with a global megastar, Holly G. says.

“They’re making an exception to the rule right now,” she says. “And that’s not the standard for the way that Black women have been treated. And we don’t know that they’re going to treat other Black women the way they are treating her.”

Black artists' contributions to country, blues, folk and Americana music get a fresh look with Black Opry Revue, which comes to The Lincoln Center in Fort Collins on Feb. 16, 2024.

Holly G. says it’s important to look backward to understand the present.

“It’s really difficult to move the needle right now because the system was built to be exclusionary,” she says. “Country music has existed for a long time but the industry, as we know country music, began when they separated the Billboard sometime in the 1920s. And they did not want Black and white people on the same chart. It wasn’t even based off of music.

“It was separated into ‘hillbilly’ music and ‘race records’. Hillbilly music is what became the country music industry. And so we are working with the system that was built to keep us out of it.”

But Black country arists are seeing a surge of support — from Beyoncé’s fans.

“One thing that is so powerful though is her fans,” Holly G. says. “(They) have shown up in droves to support these artists, and so I’m hoping that we can keep them engaged and watching this space to help support these artists.”

Curtis also sees the potential of Beyoncé fans.

“Beyoncé and country music are good for each other because she’s making impactful songs that appeal both to the genre’s core audience and can also bring other audiences,” he says. “Like every format, country radio needs all the listeners we can get. I hope our genre’s radio broadcasters and programmers are generally open to music that relates to people — regardless of their background.”