Morgan Wallen’s four-month country radio ban quietly lifted
After being banned from the airwaves by major radio stations for nearly four months, Morgan Wallen has quietly returned to the airwaves of most country stations in recent weeks, although he remains persona non grata during the rebates of awards and other high-profile events.
“There was no fanfare when people started adding it again,” said a senior radio executive. “He was completely overpowered and went unnoticed. It’s like a smooth opening.
Wallen’s songs were recorded as reappearing on stations owned by iHeartMedia, Cumulus Media, Cox Media, TownSquare Media and other big chains, word being that the top executives at these companies now allow stations to make their own decisions. as to whether that seems appropriate. put Wallen back on the air in their markets.
The position taken by the channels is described as telling affiliates to “make their own decision.” If you’re comfortable putting his music on the radio and think the guy has been on the sidelines long enough, then it’s your choice.
This appears to be an unofficial position at the moment: all channels contacted by Variety on Wallen’s status did not immediately respond to a request for comment or indicated that they had no update on his status.
Few, if any, stations that reintroduce it to playlists talk about it on air, for fear of offending those who don’t want Wallen to get off too easily or – the most likely justification, in the Most cases – to annoy fans who might not even have noticed that he was gone.
“No one is saying, ‘Guess what’s going to happen next, a guy you haven’t heard in six months!’” Said a radio insider. “It’s something people will do quietly and don’t want to make a lot of noise. It’s like, making it blend in with the mosaic of it and not making a big deal out of it. This contrasts with the behind-the-scenes discussions, in which, the insider notes, Wallen’s current status is “the most discussed subject in country music history.”
The change may be calm, but it is widespread. Country Insider reported Thursday that over the past week, 121 of Mediabase’s 160 reporting country stations reported playing a Wallen song at least once, while noting that some of those rotations may have aired in a subscribed program and not indicate a local programming decision.
That doesn’t mean it’s about to immediately conquer the broadcast charts again. Country Insider says he was the 41st most-played artist in the format from June 2-8, a far cry from his recent outright ban, but also a far cry from seeing any of his singles return to the top 10.
Media library data reviewed by Variety shows a great disparity in the number of turns that individual stations give to Wallen. There are several that have yet to play a Wallen record so far in June, including several stations owned by Audacy, which seems to be a drag on not letting the singer return to his stations just yet. (Audacy, formerly Entercom, declined to comment.) There are also iHeart and Cumulus outlets that have no spins listed for Wallen for the month to date. Others are seen as re-embracing Wallen, although few of them in a huge way. Dallas Cumulus Station KSCS played Wallen 49 times in the first 10 days of the month, after giving him 40 spins in May and zero in March and April. On the flip side, Cumulus outlets in Des Moines, Fresno, Stockton, and Boise still haven’t played Wallen yet.
Readings at iHeartMedia stations this month range from 37 at KSD-FM in St. Louis and 30 at WQUK in Jacksonville to zero at a station in Grand Rapids. Overall, the vast majority of stations across all ownership groups appear to have played Wallen between 10 and 30 times in the first nine days of the month – a rate of one to three plays per day that is officially referred to as dip of a toe. back.
The country superstar – who has the biggest album of the year in any genre with “Dangerous: The Double Album” – had vanished from the airwaves almost entirely and instantly after TMZ released a video of him using the N- word in a drunken exchange between friends.
Sources say the itch to reinstate Wallen had been there on radio for quite some time – and a handful of independent or rogue channel channels were already playing it back in May – but no channel wanted to be the first to say its time. death was over. Ultimately, because Cumulus acted first by banning it the night the scandal broke via TMZ, others were watching what that channel did. When it became clear that Cumulus had given in to the chain-wide ban, others followed suit, leaving the decision to local outlets.
The laissez-faire attitude that the radio stations adopt contrasts with the blackout on Wallen which is imposed by the price reductions. While iHeartMedia would once again allow it to be on the radio – the company was among those that did not immediately respond to requests for comment – Wallen was excluded from nominations for the iHeartRadio Music Awards that took place there. three weeks. And pretty much every other music award show he’s reportedly competing in has made a statement that he’s been partially or totally disqualified. The CMT Music Awards, which took place Wednesday night, had announced that Wallen would be disqualified from participating, as did the Academy of Country Music Awards. The Billboard Music Awards got her nominated but put an asterisk next to her nods, to convey that it was done reluctantly. The Country Music Association recently announced that, for its November awards, recordings that Wallen has collaborated on with others would be eligible, but he would be disqualified for any individual honor.
But on the radio, says one executive – who, like everyone else contacted for this story, would not speak for attribution – “with reasonable signals from his world that he is facing his challenges, it was fair. as if our point had been made. “
According to some sources, the key to lifting the ban is for Wallen’s team to continue to send smoke signals that the singer is dealing with his issues, both on the level of racial sensitivity and on the basis of drug addiction.
His label, Big Loud, which said at the start of the controversy that it was “hanging” Wallen – without answering questions about the meaning of that ambiguous term – made its own low-key reinstatement, as the struggling singer now appears on the official site. list again on the company’s website.
When Big Loud will feel free to actively promote a new Wallen single on country radio remains an open question, few expecting to happen right away. At present, all of his radio shows are reserved for “recurring” singles. By that measure, he’s doing well: Country Insider points out that their 2020 No.1 single “Chasin ‘You” was “the only recurring among Mediabase’s 10 biggest spin winners” last week, with 982 tracks on the line. nationwide.
Some radio insiders argue that Wallen’s absence on air hasn’t been a big deal for the format, with many listeners barely aware of the national controversy or not noting that his songs were no longer in the air. the mix. But pockets of Wallen fans, at least, had hammered local stations with their anger over his absence, arguing that the radio was giving in to “cancel the culture.” There were still concerns that the radio blackout was another small step in sending some listeners to streaming services, where Wallen continued to rack up some of the best numbers of the year.
In the Rolling Stone album chart, “Dangerous: The Double Album” currently sits in third place, remarkable endurance for an album released 22 weeks ago. He hasn’t left the top 10 since his debut in January. Five months after its release, with little to no media exposure to speak of, it is still racking up 40.3 million song rotations per week. “Dangerous” was No. 1 for its first 10 weeks of release, a feat that hadn’t happened since Whitney Houston’s second album in 1987.
The fact that these records were set even as Wallen was mired in scandal suggests that most fans were anxious to sweep his transgressions under the rug, even as he issued a statement urging his followers not to defend him. The gap between his media treatment and his continued reverence among fans – some of whom bought billboards in Nashville to protest his exclusion from the CMT Awards this week – would indicate many calculations to come for a genre that continues to grow. ‘attract attention for its historic racial exclusivity.
Many country organizations have wanted to proactively tackle racial issues and get ahead of what some see as a prolonged black eye for the genre if Wallen makes a full comeback and once again becomes the public face of music. country. The Academy of Country Music made some sort of statement by making Mickey Guyton the co-host of its prime-time ACM Awards in April, on Wednesday night the CMT Awards paid a long tribute to trailblazer Linda Martell, who disappeared from the map after hitting and becoming the first black woman to play the Grand Ole Opry in 1969 – with plenty of candid testimony that the outlook for black women hadn’t changed much in the past 50 years. The format has a number of black male performers making inroads, something they would much rather play rather than have to deal with the public implications of Wallen being fully re-embraced by an audience who in part , believes he is the one who got the gross deal.
The best case scenario some see is that when Wallen publicly reappears as a viable artist and not just a “recurring” it is as a newly enlightened and vocal activist for the changes that need to be made to welcome black people and other people of color in the format, as artists and fans, as likely or unlikely as that may be. There has been little indication of his situation since his video apology in February and a subsequent open letter in April in which he said he was making amends and would not do any summer shows.
TMZ recently interviewed a Nashville NAACP spokesperson who said Wallen’s camp rejected their requests to meet, although Wallen said in February he was already meeting with black leaders. One of Wallen’s new mentors could be former ‘marketing innovator’ JJ Jones, who posted a photo of himself with Wallen in April, claiming he contacted the singer at the request of his mutual friend Kid Rock. . Jones described Wallen as a “person who truly feels remorse for those he (h) has hurt” and someone who has chosen “to accept responsibility and take responsibility for his actions.”