Dixie Chicks Vs. Radio Suits

Let's leave our political points of view on the war in Iraq out of this discussion. While the Dixie Chicks' ideological position on the war and their version of patriotism may have gotten them into trouble with conservatives and with country radio stations, the same position also won them some sympathy in Grammy voting where the group swept all five of the categories in which they were nominated and the coveted song of the year, record of the year and album of the year.

They were snubbed by the Country Music Association awards just a few months earlier reflecting the more conservative nature of that community. So politics may have helped the Chicks win the Grammys, may have shut them out of the CMA Awards and no doubt lost them some record sales as the nation's country radio stations reacted to Natalie Maines when said she was "ashamed" that the president came from their home state of Texas. Country stations up and revolted, banned the Chicks from the air and in what apparently was their idea of patriotism trashed them.

The real story here is that the Chicks sold 1.9 million "Taking The Long Way" albums through online outlets and Starbucks. No radio. They could have sold more with radio behind them, but the success of the Dixie Chicks is another warning to radio industry that its influence is waning and that even an obvious snub from important country outlets couldn't keep the Dixie Chicks from selling lots of product.

Radio has allowed the world to see how its hitmaking powers have declined by picking this fight in the first place. Programmers could argue that they were simply programming to the likes and dislikes of their audiences. The Chicks ticked off a lot of country fans -- still do today. The lesson out of all this is that today music can have a life of its own thanks to the Internet, word of mouth and new age record stores like Starbucks. In the past, a group could never have become successful in a pop sense without radio. The Dixie Chicks through their record sales and their sweep of the top Grammy awards now tells us otherwise.

The next time radio wants to pick a political fight over music it might want to consider that.