Industry 

A recent poll confirms everything we already knew about country stars

A recent poll confirms everything we already knew about country stars

By the Numbers

According to a recent music-industry survey, nice guys and women finish first in country music, while bad boys and sexpots come in last. Tom Hutchison, an assistant professor of recording industry at MTSU, polled 400 of the people listed in Music Row magazine’s “In Charge” issue to determine how country stars are perceived by music-business professionals. He took data from marketing, A&R, and promotion executives, as well as from publishers, journalists, managers, and attorneys. The survey rated 12 female and 11 male singers both for musical and for personal appeal.

The poll “confirmed some of the informal perceptions that are held around town, both positive and negative,” Hutchison says. “The people with the really squeaky-clean images are way out in front.” Among the women, Patty Loveless scored highest musically, followed by Trisha Yearwood, Deana Carter, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Martina McBride. Reba McEntire, Lorrie Morgan, and Mindy McCready scored the lowest. In the ratings of personal appeal, Loveless, Yearwood, and Carter again topped the list, while Wynonna, McCready, and Morgan rated lowest.

Participants described Loveless as a “modern-day Loretta Lynn” and as “classy, keeping her private life private.” Yearwood, “one of the best voices in country music,” was lauded for being “funny, intelligent, approachable.” Morgan, meanwhile, was dubbed “sleazy and tabloidish” and “a trailer park queen.”

On the list of male performers, George Strait topped the musical ratings, followed by Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, and Dwight Yoakam. John Michael Montgomery, Travis Tritt, and Hank Williams Jr. brought up the rear. In the personal-appeal category, Gill ranked highest, followed by Strait, Jackson, Randy Travis, and Garth Brooks. Those receiving the lowest ratings were Montgomery, Tritt, and Williams, respectively.

Strait was commended for his traditional country sound and for being a genuinely good guy. Respondents said they liked Gill’s voice and songs, and also identified him as a good guy. Tritt, who came in next-to-last in both categories, was chastised for his arrogance, while Williams, who came in last on both lists, was said to have no personal appeal.

So what does the poll tell us, ultimately? “Generally, there was a real close relationship between the perception of people’s music and the perception of them personally,” Hutchison explains. “It was tied together strongly in most cases. People’s attitudes toward [an artist] personally spill over to [his] music. In fact, some people said they didn’t like [an artist] personally because they didn’t like [his] music. Also, some said they didn’t like [an artist’s] music because they didn’t like [him] personally.”

There were a few exceptions to that rule. Dwight Yoakam had a big gap between his musical marks and personal rankings; his music was cited for its originality, while his ego earned many negative votes. Likewise, Brooks is respected for his energy, his stage presence, and his desire to be different; he was faulted, however, for being phony and arrogant.

In the women’s category, McEntire was rated higher personally than musically, while Wynonna was ranked higher musically than personally. The former was commended for being a “hard worker, great showman,” but she was criticized for being a “melodramatic cartoon character.” Wynonna’s “great range and power” were noted, but so was her “big ego.”

Among the respondents, journalists tended to rank most of the acts higher than the other respondents; the one exception was Garth Brooks. Label general managers gave lower marks to Jackson, Yoakam, and Carter than others respondents did.

Explaining the executives’ scores, Hutchison says, “Some of the responses indicated information that’s probably not known to country music fans or people outside of Nashville. For example, ‘difficult to work with’ for Mindy McCready. Many of the comments indicated some personal experience with these people.”

“The industry people are the gatekeepers,” Hutchison continues. “They are...the ones who work for the artists, so they need to have a good attitude about the people they’re promoting. A lot of decisions are made about marketing, radio promotion, and publicity based on the perception of these artists.”

In the end, does this survey tell us anything new? Not really, but it does confirm, in quantifiable figures, the conventional wisdom of the Row: If you make good music, and you’ve got a good image, people in the music business will have only good things to say about you.

White House south

Engineer Russ Long and producer Steve Taylor have opened a new studio, The White House, in the former location of the Sanctuary recording studio. Sanctuary owner Barry Sanders shut down his operation after Little Texas manager Christy DiNapoli purchased the 16th Avenue building. DiNapoli intended to open a studio there but apparently changed his mind.

“The studio had been sitting vacant for 18 months,” Long says. “Steve and I were looking for a studio for a project we were doing in February. We leased the studio part and brought in gear. We remembered how much we loved the place and started talking to Christy’s property company.”

The duo made some renovations and just recently opened up shop. So far, they’ve had bookings from Zilch (DC Talk’s band) and the trio of Phil Keaggy, Wes King, and Scott Dente

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