The Time Has Come For Country Music

I don’t get Nathan Carter or country music but looks like I could be in the minority.  Hailing from the Four Country Roads, I was more aware of the immense coverage given to Big Tom’s passing over the last few days. The Irish Independent dedicated a six-page pull out to the king of country; & Ryan Tubridy dedicated a full programme on radio, as well as thousands flocking to Monaghan to pay their respects.  I sense it’s a Dublin versus the rest of Ireland phenomenon but I’m surrounded by hip media folk in Dublin (!) so could be wrong. 

I hadn’t heard much country music since my childhood but it started to seep into mainstream five years ago and seems to have exploded.  You don’t need to travel to Nashville to find the heart of country music -it’s on our doorstep and it’s age neutral. Look at RTE’s Stetsons and Stilettos and you’ll see thousands of Nathan Cather-obsessed young singles trekking around Ireland to country music festivals looking for romance.  RTE has commissioned it for a third series early this year.

Perhaps it’s the media’s response to being in touch with the ‘Real Ireland’ but in any case they’ve reacted to the phenomenon. In 2015 the Late Late Show’s first country music special was watched by 707,000 people and it has aired three more specials since then.  RTE regard it as the most anticipated episode of the year. Last April it drew an audience of 677,400 viewers and a significant 52 per cent audience share. Another country special is airing this Friday night and we can expect the viewership to be massive.

I can’t but wonder if country music or country artists could play a role for brand building in Ireland given its growing fan base. Looking to the US, big brands like Budweiser, KFC, Nissan, Forever 21 & Citibank have forged alliances with country festivals and fans.  I think it might be time for brands here to take the plunge.   Any takers?!  And as for Big Tom, Rest in Peace and thank you for making Glenamaddy famous!