No Alt. Country No Mo’

by | Oct 13, 2005

Austin American-Statesman: During the Americana Music Association Honors & Awards ceremony in Nashville last month, Jim Lauderdale joked that the association had sought a slogan to pin down the elusive genre.

The runner-up, he said, was “Americana what’s not to dig?”

And the winner: “So that’s Americana!”

Both slogans say much about the conundrum of Americana, as a genre, a radio format, a retail label or … whatever. The fact that the association, formed by 30 people during a 1999 South by Southwest Music Festival gathering and now boasting a membership of nearly 1,200, exists at all and drew 901 attendees to its fourth conference is a testament to this music industry faction’s conviction that Americana (formerly known as alternative country) is a distinct category worthy of nurturing.

Several Texas stations identify themselves as Americana and report their playlist information to the Americana radio airplay chart, published weekly in Radio & Record magazine. Among them is New Braunfels’ KNBT-FM (92.1), KFAN-FM (107.9) in Fredericksburg, KTXN-FM (98.7) in Victoria and Austin’s KGSR-FM (107.1) consider themselves “Americana/AAA” a combination of roots music and Adult Album Alternative; KGSR reports to R&R’s Americana and Triple A airplay charts. Austin public radio station KUT-FM (90.5) also reports its weekly Americana song spins.

“We’re in discussions with Arbitron (which measures radio listenership) about getting Americana a formal format designation,” Americana Music Association’s executive director, Jeff Green, says. “We think we have an excellent chance of that happening. We’re trying to set some kind of a threshold to validate this as a real format, rather than just a representation of what airplay is out there in this spectrum of artistry.

“If we can show that a radio station can make money with this music, I believe it’s gonna grow,” Green says, adding, “Americana’s never gonna be the next big thing, but if it’s the next medium thing, that’s still very lucrative, it’s a very viable business, and meanwhile, you’ve got a lot of wonderful music to enjoy.”