My Thoughts On Darius’s Story On Radio Programmers
Darius Rucker came out last week in a story about some resistance from a radio programmer. Darius recalled the conversation.
"I don't think my audience will accept a Black country singer." Just like that. 'I love the song. I think it's country. Love it. I'm going to play it tomorrow, but I don't think my audience will accept a Black country singer."
I wanted to respond to this article. I cannot take anything away from Darius Rucker’s experience, nor can I empathize. I have never walked in his shoes. I respect and admire what he has done and the ground he helped break. What I can do is give you a radio programmer’s perspective as this is the core of the story. But first, some context.
I have been in radio for over 25 years. I have worked country music exclusively since 2004. I love it and the people in it.
Rick Diamond, Getty Images
In 1996, I worked for a radio station called Star 101 in Fresno California. We played Alanis Morrisette, Goo Goo Dolls, Wallflowers, Foo Fighters and the such. This was the first time I heard ‘Hootie and The Blowfish’. I was blown away. I loved their vibe, the songwriting was solid and the songs were / are catchy.
It was only later I found out that the lead singer was African American. My response? I didn’t have one. I didn’t care. It was good solid art. At the time, it was still kind of a deal, as there were only a few bands fronted by African Americans. Again, I didn’t care. The music was solid, based on merit – not skin color. It was just good. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who dug it. ‘Cracked Rear View’ their debut album sold over 20 million units. That is HUGE. One of the biggest selling albums of all time.
Fast forward to 2008. My friend at Capitol Records called me and said he was sending me an “advance CD” of an artist they just signed. Now, an advanced cd was a disc that had no artwork, cd cover or anything else to identify it. Just a disc in a sleeve. I got it a couple days later. I slid it into my office CD player. I knew immediately it was Darius Rucker. His voice is unmistakable. Again, I was blown away. I called my friend at Capitol the next day and said “I hear at least 3 hits or more this project.” Turns out it was Darius Rucker’s country debut album ‘Learn To Live’.
I asked my friend when we could start playing it. Soon after ‘Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It’ hit #1.
Country music embraced Darius.
I never heard one negative word about Darius or any talk of skin tone amongst my colleagues or listeners. In the radio programming world, we are inundated with music from artists all over the US and the world. With so much to choose from, we are in essence the gate keepers. We know what people like and what they will connect with. We know what’s polarizing and what is not. We network ideas and thoughts on artists and share opinions. Since we have so much music to choose from, we have to scrutinize the music we put on-air. Not once, did I ever hear anyone say, “Well, I am just not sure if anyone will like it cause he is a man of color” or any of that sort of that talk.
I don't know, maybe I am just naive or sheltered.
But that is just something I have never heard my colleages say.
I am sure the radio programmer that Darius was referring too said what he said - I have no reason to doubt it. I also think that programmer was talking about some in his audience and not speaking for himself. Even that is unfortunate.
We radio programmers have to consider all angles before playing any music on-air. It’s an extremely competitive landscape. So I can understand how this unfortunately would be considered although I never have. As a numbers guy, I look at stats. Darius has over 30 Million albums sold in his career. Many artists would kill to have half off that.
On a personal note, I have had the opportunity to spend time with Darius. We have hung at shows, after shows and had the opportunity to see him at several industry events. We even had dinner in San Jose (at Original Joes) in 2008 and bonded over our love of baloney “samiches”.
Darius is a genuine, great guy and someone who anyone would love to share a beer with while hearing some great stories.
So why point to the extreme minority, akin to an annoying gnat - when the real story is “A Man Of Color Has Sold More Albums Than Most Other Artists In Their Career” .
If you need a story that requires color, that’s your headline.
I am all about this dialouging about this. So feel free to reach out to me and we can disccus. Am open to it.
All My Best,