Country is on the comeback trail with sales up and arenas packed

After the post-Garth Brooks lull in country music sales, which lasted perhaps half of the last decade and saw record labels shedding acts, as well as attrition in the number of country radio outlets, it may be premature to say country is roaring back, but to quote the poet Merle Haggard, “It ain’t love, but it ain’t bad.”

Naturally happy about the upturn in sales — witness Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Faith Hill, Shania Twain, Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban et al. moving multiplatinum CDs and packing halls and arenas from Bakersfield to Boston — the Academy of Country Music looks to the big audience numbers for its awards show tonight in Las Vegas as more proof of country’s continuing comeback.

ACM’s director of marketing and promotions Tree Paine describes the new appetite for country music as “the parameters getting a little wider” and notes that “six out of the top 20 SoundScan CDs are country.” Paine cites Carrie Underwood’s performance tonight as well as Kelly Clarkson’s appearance on the show with hitmakers Rascal Flatts as reasons why “our show has extremely strong demos and great 18-25 numbers.” Paine also credits the ACM kudoscast as “impacting on the summer country music tour season.”

“Does the ACM Awards show in Vegas have an impact on country music?” asks Paine before answering her own query: “Well, Las Vegas does have two new country music stations!”

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