Media Monday – Does it hurt when radio outlets ban artists?

Until a week or so ago, many people hadn’t heard of Morgan Waller.

He’s a country musician who has had some success – he was on the US version of The Voice in 2014, and had a number of hit songs after being signed to a recording contract.

Then, his second album shot him to stardom.

‘Dangerous’ topped the Billboard 200 and Top Country charts, and made number 2 on the ARIA album charts here in Australia.

But it wasn’t his musical success that led to him being in the news this week (except, perhaps, that his success has bred a certain alcohol-fuelled recklessness …)

It was a foul-mouthed racist diatribe which was recorded by his neighbours after a night out partying.

That recording has seen him dropped by almost every radio network and streaming service in the US.

The last 12 months have been problematic for Waller.

In May last year, he was arrested outside a bar in Nashville for being drunk and disorderly.

Then in October the 27 year old new father came under fire when he was videoed ignoring mask mandates, breaching social distancing requirements, and kissing random college-aged young women (perhaps forgetting his tweet to “”be an example of a good, godly man like my daddy was for me.”)

But it was his expletive-laden ramble (complete with use of the N-word) that appeared to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

His record company has suspended him, and most of the big radio conglomerates in the US also dropped him from their playlists.

iHeartMedia, Entercom, Beasley and Alpha have all come out to denounce Wallen, and his radio airplay on Feb. 3 fell by approximately 71% – just 617 plays compared to 2100 the previous day.

So that’s got to hurt his sales, right?

Well, no. In fact, his album sales increased almost 600 percent on the day the rant recording was released – and downloads of his singles climbed around 500 percent.

But before you go “<facepalm> What is it with racist country music fans?” consider this …

Many of the same media companies banned The Dixie Chicks because of comments criticising then-president George W. Bush.

However, as Roger Ebert pointed out, on their first American tour after the debacle the Chicks sold out every arena and were cheered with standing ovations.

Of course, they were also the subject of death threats and ugly protests – but it is interesting to consider whether high-profile media bans generate support for those performers and artists who are being targeted.

It’s fair to say that back in the day, if an artist didn’t get radio airplay they didn’t sell.

But with so many alternate media sources available, the power of the networks is nowhere near absolute.

Which raises questions for those of us in the media – and those of us who consume the media.

If you have any thoughts, let me know below …

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