View Full Version : the 'magic' of Nashville

01-11-2002, 11:37 PM
from today's Nashville City Paper online..
The magic of Nashville
By Patsy Bruce

Country music’s tide currently ebbs lower than ever.

Few doubt that it will take a messiah-of-music, as it did in the ‘80s with Randy Travis and in the ‘90s with Garth. Some fear the messiah may not come in time. Others, ostrich like, don’t think we need one.

Meanwhile, fans are organizing protests over the reported change to the format of Nashville’s oldest country music standard bearer, WSM-AM radio. Nationally, business people are shaking their heads in disbelief that people think someone should continue to operate a business at a loss of $1.5 million per year.

No one expected Aladdin to continue to make lunch boxes no one was buying. Only a few batted an eye when Service Merchandise announced the end. Some might argue the loss of jobs at Aladdin and Service Merchandise would be a bigger blow to the city economy than the loss of less than 50 at WSM-AM.

They might be wrong.

WSM-AM, too country and proud of it, for over 75 years has been the standard bearer of country music. WSM ‘s clear signal beams the word around the world that Nashville is indeed Music City USA.

In my travels, no one has ever once said to me, smiling, “Ahh, Nashville. Aladdin, USA.” But over a dozen times in as many years, from France to Panama City, Fla; from Tuscany to Portland, Ore., someone has said, “Ahh, Nashville. Music City, USA.”

I tell my friends in the business community, who would perhaps prefer Nashville have another moniker: ”Think of us as being the blind-date someone is always fixing up. Better to have a good personality, pretty smile, and good singing voice for folks to remember you by.”

Besides, who would the Chamber of Commerce get to entertain all those meeting planners we want to book Nashville conventions and leave behind millions of dollars? Who would entertain Nashvillians – free – at the re-opening of the Parthenon? What star would we get to sing the national anthem at the Titans and Predators games? Do you think TNT would come to town to film money being changed at the bank as they did Garth singing at Green’s Grocery?

It isn’t that country music is the only Nashville. It’s just the known Nashville. It’s how we get the world to notice us when they are looking elsewhere.

Like every great city we are the sum of all our parts. We are the sports and colleges, the symphony and historical sites. We are the banks and computer manufacturers. We are our great park system, fine old mansions and terrific new library. We are Belle Meade and Antioch. We are the people of a modern city called Nashville.

We are the city that is in danger of losing its mouthpiece to the world – WSM-AM, home of the Grand Ole Opry.

WSM is the station that during World War II carried the music to our soldiers around the world, introducing country music to many of them for the first time – and converting them into lifelong fans. Those same soldiers would go on to finish the war, come home, marry and bring their families to Nashville to see the Grand Ole Opry, beginning one of the reasons a music industry began here and the reason for our nickname, Music City USA.

It’s the station that carried, clear across the country, the late night country music radio show with Ralph Emery and Tex Ritter. The artists called in to talk to Ralph and Tex on the radio. When in town, they went to the studios to sit and tell jokes and pick and sing music while Ralph played their records and sponsor’s commercials.

When there I often answered the phones for Ralph. It would not be unusual to have a caller ask to speak to one of the stars. They would insist the star lived there since this was WSM and that star, while performing in their hometown, had invited them to “ come to see us in Nashville.” The caller wanted the star to know “we are coming this weekend.”

There are lots of ghosts in WSM’s past, mysterious footsteps and strange voices in the night. WSM has been the voice of Nashville drawing tourists to the city, through its voices in the night. It’s been part of the magic of Nashville.

Can we afford the silencing of that voice? Is this a valid question? I mean, can anyone enlighten me to what is really going on with country music here? I'm still kinda new in 'town'.

01-14-2002, 07:15 PM
Part of the problem, so to speak, is that because of the boom of the late 80's-early 90's, a lot of people from the music industry moved to Nashville who had no clue whatsoever what it was about country music that made it special. All they could see were dollar signs, units sold, and possible resurrected careers of pop or rock artists who no longer fit into the modern mold. I heard Marie Osmond (of all people) say once that the true magic of country music is that the songs are written better than pop or rock songs. But the modern day country label executive can't be sold on the idea that a good song and a good singer will make a star--only how they look and how old they are.

It's interesting to me that many of these people moved to Nashville because Garth showed how much money you could make with the right combination of looks, talent, songs, etc. Now, because he's an Opry member, he's lumped in with the "too old to sell" group.

01-14-2002, 10:03 PM
That sounds about right Meli. You know, Garth stepped down with dignity actually before he got lumped in as 'old', as he's been 'letting go' all along. It seems he knows what to hold onto and what to take with a grain of salt. It would be great to see more of Music Row follow his example. I think some of the artists are already doing that. He really did set a higher standard for us all. Even to us fans as a fan of the music himself. He never let go of where he came from as he went.

Here's another story from today's City Paper.
Music industry faces battle
By Paige Orr

The recording industry is fighting a tough fight.

Consumers burn copies of CDs instead of buying originals. MusicCity.com, a Napster-like network, offers peer-to-peer digital file sharing. And, as a final blow to profits for the recording industry, Sept. 11 brought the business to a screeching halt.

These battles were brought to life when Hilary Rosen, president and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), spoke to Belmont students Friday. Belmont’s Mike Curb School of Music Business hosted Rosen’s seminar, “Legislative Issues Affecting the Music Industry.”

“The fact that record companies have pretty much, today, a single revenue stream — you’ve got to sell the record in a store — has limited our ability significantly to expand into other areas,” Rosen said.

“I’ve long likened our business to — we sell Coke in 64 ounce bottles. What we have to begin to do is sell it over the fountain and do the six-packs and the 12 ounces and the vending machines. … That’s going to be our best hope for increased profitability and increased sales.”

Rosen discussed the illegal copying of compact discs and the controversial issue of CD manufacturers encrypting discs to inhibit illegal copying.

“I just heard that Best Buy sold 350 million blank CDs in the last quarter of this past year,” she said. “Compare that to their sale of 45 million blank CDs the year before.

“I think you’re just not going to have an environment where people aren’t going to try to be consistently trying to find a balance between individual fans’ right to use music for their personal use and trying to protect a pretty important core asset.”

Napster’s highly publicized legal issues made RIAA a “famous trade association,” according to Rosen.

“There was a sense that what we were doing at the trade association was so emblematic of the industry’s response and activism in the area of technology,” she said. “In some respects, that balance got completely blown out of proportion because of course that wasn’t really what we were doing in the technology world.

“We had our fight with Napster. We’ve got an ongoing fight with MusicCity. There’s nothing about Music City in MusicCity offices, other than the fact that they’re stealing music to make money on their advertising and other things.”

She said that legitimate online music services are RIAA’s best hopes for serving the music fan.

“Peer-to-peer services, including Napster, are online or gearing up online to have a viable subscription offering for music fans,” she said.

“It’s going to take a while, I think, to migrate music fans to a legitimate service, but the quality is going to be better, the variety of offerings are going to better. And in the long run, I think it’s going to be the best choice for music fans, and people are going to see it.”

Rosen said 2001 was clearly a transitional year for the music industry.

“What were kind of surefire commercial bets were really not as successful as people had predicted. But I think we saw lots of seeds of hope that were sown for kind of a return to more organic song-oriented recordings.”

Nashville, however, held its own despite the difficult environment.

“Nashville’s music business providers were one of the bright spots in the national scene,” Rosen said. “Christian music sales were up almost 13 percent over the last year. Country music sales, as you know, arrested a decline that we’ve had since 1998 and actually grew 2 percent.”

Rosen said RIAA created an organization called SoundExchange, which is negotiating and collecting royalties for artists and record companies for digital performances. SoundExchange is the collection and distribution agency for sound recording performance license fees.

“We will have, probably, the most comprehensive database of all commercial tracks released in the United States by the end of next month,” she said.

The recently completed year was one of the most memorable of Rosen’s music career.

“For me, clearly a highlight of [2001] was both the most wonderful thing that happened and the most horrible thing that happened,” she said. “After Sept. 11, the music community came together and united as we have never done before. Virtually every genre — artists and executives and promoters and radio alike — came together and, I believe, gave America real solace in our grief. And essentially put what were tremendous hopes for a commercial fourth quarter on hold while people promoted benefit albums, while people contributed everything from their concerts to charity.

“Essentially, the commercial music business halted for a couple of months this year, and obviously I think that’s had some impact on sales.”You know, these fights go on and on in the music business. It's like the artists have to fight and fight for it just to survive. It doesn't seem to be all just money and glamour to most of them who care about the music they make. It is here also where Garth seems to have set some good standards, when we take a look at those country artists following right behind him. Maybe that's because country music IS more worth fighting for and is a force to be truly reckoned with. It could help win this battle. And the rise in Christian music sales is no surprise to me either. People are looking for what's real and turning away from what's useless at this point in time. I found country to be the realest of all styles combined, now that I'm home. There's no place like it.

01-14-2002, 11:04 PM
Ok Dale -- WHERE did you find the City Paper ONLINE? LOL. Please share.

Both good articles. I will agree that this city is going through some changes. You can feel them. Artists like Martina McBride, publicly saying they are going to put more traditional instruments on their next albums. Dolly Parton and Patty Loveless putting out roots albums. The Dixie Chicks had already started the trend of the banjo and fiddle being cool again, and then Oh Brother came along and turned this town on it's ear, so they didn't know what to think.

On another subject, one of the coolest things Garth had to say at his retirement press conference in October of 00 was about internet downloading. (Aside from his glowing praise of PG of course.)

His point was a good one. He talked about how yes, there should be a charge for downloading the music, but they shouldnt' have to pay full price, because they aren't getting a hard copy they could put in their truck, they werent' getting artwork, and photos and liner notes. And he seemed determined to work out a way where everyone won.

And you know, Best Buy may have sold a zillion blank cd's, but I have a stack sitting here with pictures on them that aren't costing any songwriter their royalties. They have many uses.

Thanks for sharing the articles.

01-15-2002, 12:16 AM
Joyce, it's always refreshing to hear your 'inside take' on what's happening with the music, where most of us can only hope to be outside observers. Yet, if there's a way we can all be satisfied, I think you are right - Garth's a man who will try to find a way.

I think I signed up to receive daily headline online links at www.nashvillecitypaper.com .