The Liberal Country Music Fan

Welcome to the Liberal Country Music Fan blog. Life sometimes gets a bit Blue for us country music fans on the Left. With any luck, this blog will provide a home and a voice to us Roosevelt-lovin' Rednecks. It'll be our "Big Blue Note".

Monday, June 12, 2006

We've got a new home: liberalcountryfan.com

Liberal Country Fan has moved from the small town of Blogspot, population frequent-downtime, to its very own apartment in the big city known as the World Wide Web! Check out http://www.liberalcountryfan.com!

With a domain name and hosting service, we hope to be able to bring our message of country-lovin’ Liberalism to an even larger audience.

Our move was rushed by Blogspot’s problems of late, so please pardon our dust as we continue to improve the look-and-feel of the new site.

And be sure to let us know what you think of the new site! E-mail Brent or leave a comment at the new place.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Billboard: Dixie Chicks Concert Sales Well Below Expectations

Despite a two-week (so far) run at the top of the U.S. album sales chart, the Dixie Chicks are struggling to sell-out many of the dates of their Accidents and Accusations tour, Billboard reports.

The tour’s Memphis show has been pulled off the schedule due to low sales, and the shows in Indianapolis, Houston, and Oklahoma City “remain uncertain”. According to the Billboard article, sales are “far below expectations” and “industry speculation has it that much or all of the tour may be postponed. At the very least, it is likely routing and capacity will be reconfigured.” Ticket sales began last weekend, and the tour is scheduled to begin on July 21 in Detroit.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel verifies that the Chicks are re-routing at least some of their tour:
“The Chicks are re-routing their summer concert tour, which likely will change the date of their Bradley Center concert originally planned for Aug. 13, a spokeswoman for the venue said Tuesday afternoon...Bradley Center officials were awaiting further information from the band Tuesday.”
Although the Journal-Sentinel has confirmed the re-routing and the Chicks have postponed on-sale dates for many of the other shows that have yet to go on sale, I’m still suspicious of a bit of extremism in Billboard’s article. The tour seems to be averaging just under 50 percent sold-out in major markets and according to the Tennessean, “half-sold is a pretty good opening weekend of ticket sales for an arena show.” Of course, the Chicks have big expectations to meet; their last tour was the top-grossing tour of 2003. Also, the article reports that the tour is doing worse than 50 percent in minor markets.

There are some bright spots in the bad news from Billboard. Officials at venues in Philadelphia and Toronto, for instance, are happy with sales figures. A second date was added in Toronto after the Chicks sold out the first show in 8 minutes. The article quotes the Air Canada Center’s booking director as saying “Canada loves the Chicks.” In the less-positive-but-still-good-news department, an official at the GEC arena in Nashville told the The Tennessean that about half of the arena is sold out for the Chicks’ Oct. 3 show, but that he expects the show to eventually sell out. Prior to the “Incident” in 2003, the Chicks almost sold out the GEC in the first weekend.

The Tennessean reports that Wade Jensen, Billboard’s director of country charts is not surprised by the differential in CD and concert sales.
"There's absolutely no radio penetration on anything for this new album," Jensen said. "Here's an act off the radio and without a studio album for three years, so I can't say that's entirely surprising [that they have slow concert ticket sales]."
It will be interesting to see how this report reverberates through the country music and general media. The story has already made the front page of Country Weekly’s website.

The sources for the Billboard article are anonymous, and the report is definitely preliminary. Nobody associated with the Chicks have commented yet. Liberal Country Fan will keep you updated.

In the mean time, you can find out where to buy tickets to the nearest Dixie Chicks show at the Chicks' website. Also, take some time to read some of Liberal Country Fan's recent Chicks coverage:
  1. Another week at the top for the Dixie Chicks
  2. Wal-Mart don't lie (when it comes to country music)
  3. Video from the Dixie Chicks' stellar Larry King interview
  4. Dixie Chicks new album round up

Country Music's Wal-Mart Paradox

Wal-Mart’s reputation in country music has never been better. In 2004, the gargantuan corporation received positive mention in Gretchen Wilson’s runaway hit “Redneck Woman”. More recently, Garth Brooks announced that he will come out of retirement for a night to thank Wal-Mart for the success of his exclusive marketing agreement with the company.

While I am in favor of anything that brings Garth out of his cave, Garth should think twice about his newfound love for Wal-Mart. The fact is, Wal-Mart is detrimental to one of the most widely-held values of country music: small town pride.

I’ll explain.

Geographers (like me) have two simple constructs for examining how a particular economic activity benefits a community:

1) Basic Activity: Economic activity that brings money into a community from outside the community. A manufacturing plant is an excellent example.

2) Non-Basic Activity: Economic activity that does not bring in new money, but shifts existing money around a community. A locally-owned grocery store or country store are examples.

Basic economic activity is obviously more beneficial to a town than non-basic, but both are necessary to a functioning community. Where does Wal-Mart fit in? It doesn’t. Wal-Mart needs a whole new category, one that refers to parasitic economic effects:

3) Anti-Basic Activity (unofficial term): Economic activity that removes money from a community, like Wal-Mart does.

Before Wal-Mart enters a community, most folks shop at locally-owned stores, recycling most of their money into the community. When Wal-Mart comes into the picture, all of the profits that used to go straight back into the community get sent off to Bentonville, AR, to one of the largest corporations and some of the richest people on the planet.

This is not the only way Wal-Mart contributes to the poverty of small towns. For instance, Wal-Mart's wages tend to be less than those of the locally-owned stores they replace.

As such, when someone buys Garth’s or Gretchen’s CDs at Wal-Mart, they are literally taking part in the destruction of small towns...The very same small towns that are boasted about on the albums they are buying. This is the case whether the purchaser is an urbanite or a small town native; by buying the CD, both contribute profits to a corporation that is actively ruining the economy of small towns. The irony is depressingly thick.

Left-leaning Garth and Gretchen, as well as other country stars of all political stripes, should reconsider explicitly supporting Wal-Mart if they truly value small towns, or at least value their fans’ love for small towns. I realize that commercial reality demands that they sell their CDs through the chain, I’m just suggesting that they cut out the pro-Wal-Mart lyrics and the “Thank You Wal-Mart” concerts and associated exclusive record distribution deals.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Another week at the top for the Dixie Chicks

The Dixie Chicks’ new album, Taking the Long Way, took the #1 spot in the overall U.S. market once again last week. Of course, this means that the Chicks remain at the top of the country sales chart as well!

With a “respectable” sales drop of 48 percent, the Chicks managed to sell 271,000 copies of the CD. While at first glance the 48 percent drop in sales from the first week to the second week sounds disappointing, the decline is one of the four smallest declines for #1 albums so far this year.

It should be noted that it was a “slow week” for new album releases, which helped the Chicks maintain the #1 spot. Also, I’d really like to see the Chicks have a hit single, which would effectively guarantee a consistent presence near the top of the charts. Their newest single, “Voice Inside My Head”, is my second favorite song on the album, but, as I mentioned before, “The Long Way Around” is a hit waiting to happen (see previous post).

Monday, June 05, 2006

Wal-mart don't lie (when it comes to country music)

The common wisdom these days is that the majority of country fans have abandoned the Dixie Chicks. But why then would Wal-mart brag about selling the Chicks’ new album in the latest issue of Country Weekly, the predominant magazine of the genre? Wal-mart obviously thinks Country Weekly readers want to buy the new album.

Why don’t country radio stations assume that their listeners also want to buy the album? Since Wal-mart shoppers and country radio listeners have a large degree of overlap, one must assume that some sort of bias is entering into the situation. According to this Wal-mart ad, if it were left to pure market forces, country radio would pushing the Chicks’ singles on a daily basis

What type of bias is at play? What is the “disconnect”, as Dixie Chick Emily Robison would say? My slightly educated guess is that country radio station managers are still sore from the fallout of 2003 and a very vocal anti-Chicks minority is making it its duty to call into radio stations complaining about the Chicks. On the latter of these points however, country radio would benefit to notice that Wal-mart is obviously unafraid of an anti-Chicks boycott.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Video from the Dixie Chicks’ Stellar Larry King Interview

The Dixie Chicks gave a fascinating live interview on CNN’s Larry King Live last night. Their thoughtful and intellectual answers to questions belied the "born middle finger first" character of the media coverage they have received recently. That’s not to say that they aren’t firebrands - the rebelliousness of lead singer Natalie Maines was subtlely apparent in the interview - but they brand their fire in a much more sensible and calculated manner than previous media coverage has suggested.

I’ve selected some of the more captivating excerpts from the interview and posted them below. Whether you fall on the right or the left of the political spectrum, I’m pretty sure you’ll be more impressed with the Chicks after watching each clip:

Video: Martie Maguire responds to Reba McEntire and Toby Keith
"I was a huge Reba fan growing up and I still am. It was personal for me when I felt like she went out of her way to say negative things about us." - Martie
Video: The Chicks discuss the personal attacks on them and their careers
"It wasn't a matter of 'I personally I'm not going to listen to you anymore, I disagree with you, I'm not going to buy your CD', even coming to a show and holding up a sign. These were groups that are very well organized and basically either want to either harm you or just ruin your career." - Emily Robison
Video: Dixie Chicks say they’ll go to Iraq if invited
"I used to think they wouldn't want us to come and I would be embarrassed because I would think they believed the rhetoric or whatever that we didn't support them, and then, you know, after being with the Navy last weekend, I realized that it wouldn't be like that and it would be great for us to do that." - Natalie Maines
Video: Natalie on the hatred directed towards them by some of their former fans
"There was a mother holding her 2- year-old son outside of a show protesting, and telling our camera, 'Screw 'em, screw 'em!' And then [she] turned to her two-year-old and said, 'Say screw 'em!'"
Video: Emily on Donald Rumsfeld
"He’s the Weaver" (referring to his ability to weave around questions)
Video: Natalie discusses the background behind the London comments
"...To me, I am patriotic because I didn't want people to die without a reason handed to us and shown to us, and proof."
Video: Natalie talks about making her comment in London as opposed to in the United States
"I felt like I was defending America by saying that we don't all think the same and you can't just call us Americans like we all have one voice and one opinion."
Video: Chicks talk about being #1
"I thank our fans for that, our great fans, our wonderful fans." - Emily

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Dixie Chicks 526,000, Nay-sayers 0

Despite a near total blackout on country radio, the Dixie Chicks sold 526,000 copies of Taking the Long Way during its first week of release. The sales total was enough to put the album at the top of the U.S. sales chart (not to mention the U.S. country sales chart).

By comparison, Toby Keith’s latest CD, White Trash With Money, sold 330,000 copies in its first week, and it had an amazing single all over country radio prior to its release. The Chicks' previous two studio CDs, Fly and Home, had first-week sales of 382,000 and 780,000, respectively. Both of these CDs were released prior to “the Incident” of 2003. It appears the Chicks haven’t lost any ground! We’ll know for sure when we see if the Chicks can maintain the sales momentum over the long term.

Taking the Long Way had the second best first-week sales of the year for a country album, behind only Rascal Flatts' Me and My Gang, which also had a wildly popular single on country radio. I guess the Chicks sound pretty damn good with their “foot in their mouth”...

Expect the nay-sayers to spin the “drop” in first-week sales with respect to the Chicks' last album, Home. These folks should be reminded that the Taking the Long Way had the second-best debut of the entire year, which also featured new CDs from Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, and Alan Jackson. The spinsters should also know that Fly went on to sell 8.5 million copies, despite having opening sales that were about 150,000 less than those of Taking the Long Way.

New Brunswick, Liberal Country Fan's Adopted Canadian Province

When I started Liberal Country Fan, I never expected that the site would develop a significant following in the eastern Canadian province of New Brunswick. I figured Canadians in the Prairie Provinces, which are known for their large country music fan base, would be interested, but the New Brunswickers have blown me away with their commitment to the Liberal Country Fan cause. As a show of gratitude and as an educational opportunity for all, I thought I’d dedicate a post to honoring Liberal Country Fan’s proportionally huge New Brunswicker readership.

After doing some research into New Brunswick and its musical heritage, it is no surprise to me that the province has a strong confluence of left-leaning politics and country-leaning music tastes. Covered by the Appalachian Mountains, victim of a long-suffering economy, and home to a strong sense of tradition, New Brunswick is reminiscent of West Virginia, a state smack in the middle of America’s country music heartland. Similarly, just as in West Virginia, rural values and the working class ethic, which are traditionally so important to country music, seem alive and well in New Brunswick. However, whereas some rural and economically disadvantaged areas in the United States similar to New Brunswick have, unfortunately, allied themselves closely to the party that can least help them, New Brunswickers voted strongly to the left in the last Canadian national elections. The province has a conservative provincial government, but solid-blue California does as well.

Canadian folk-country mega-legend Stompin’ Tom Connors was born in New Brunswick. Connors was voted #13 on the Greatest Canadians list, beating out Neil Young, Shania Twain, Jim Carrey, and even hockey superstar Mario Lemeiux. Although almost completely unknown outside of Canada, his "Hockey Song" is played in NHL arenas everywhere.

The town of Miramichi, NB and its hinterland are particularly known for country music, owing to the area’s joint Acadian, Scottish, and Irish heritage. Since Acadians and Cajuns are very closely related, it’s almost like New Brunswick is Louisiana and Tennessee all rolled into one. No wonder NB folk are country folk! New Brunswickers will get to show off their love of country during this year’s Canadian Country Music Awards, which will be held in September in the largest city in New Brunswick, Saint John.

Finally, this post should probably be translated into French as New Brunswick is the home to a significant francophone population. If you think this population couldn’t possibly be interested in country music, think again. Alive and well in NB is the genre of franco-country, which is essentially country music sung in French. I wonder what Bill O’Reilly would have to say about that...

New Brunswickers: Did I miss something? Make a mistake? Fire me an e-mail or leave a comment! Also, I am looking for a Canadian who is interested in blogging about Canadian Liberal Country Fan issues. Send me an e-mail if interested.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

See Reba Diss the Chicks (And Watch Eddie Montgomery Make a Fool of Himself)

An enterprising YouTube citizen has posted a short video of Reba McEntire’s pitiful barb at the Dixie Chicks at last week’s Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards, which Reba was hosting. Click here to watch!

The video is angering (What a bunch of bullies!), but it is required viewing for those following the Chicks. Particularly telling are the audience reaction shots:

John Rich (of Big & Rich) and Sara Evans both laughed politely, possibly worrying sensibly that, thanks to the bullying nature of much of the country music industry, they too could be a single sentence away from ending their careers...Talent or no talent.
Big Kenny, the other half of Big & Rich, was being his typical self and not paying attention.
• Eddie Montgomery (of Montgomery Gentry) gave Reba a passionate, standing ovation.

We have not yet discussed Montgomery Gentry and their catchy - but occasionally shockingly idiotic - brand of countrified southern rock. I’ll leave that for another (long) post another time. However, I hope that one day, I’ll be able to give a standing ovation to future ACM host Tim McGraw when points out the idiocy of the following song lyric from Montgomery Gentry’s “You Do Your Thing”:
I ain't tradin' in my family's safety
Just to save a little gas
What about the effect gas has on our NATIONAL safety, not to mention GLOBAL safety, Mr. Montgomery? Can you believe these guys are considered patriotic, and the Dixie Chicks are called traitors?

But enough ranting. Check out the video. It’ll make you cringe.