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Published: Saturday, 5/30/2009

Fans don't conform to stereotype

A lot of stereotypes are floating around about country music fans. A lot of them aren't flattering and usually involve pickups and guns.

Well, a recent study by the Country Music Association indicates that yes, some fans like to hunt and fish and drive pickups, but the typical fan is pretty much like every other American.

"The key finding of our study is that 40 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 54 are fans of country music, and there is no significant age or income gap from noncountry music fans. They are more likely to be from a small town and female," said Dan Bowen, the vice president of strategic marketing and communications for the CMA.

Even more specifically, the core country music fan is between the ages of 25 and 39, according to the study, which involved close to 8,000 people who agreed to telephone interviews or online surveys.

The study did disprove some basic stereotypes about country music fans, but its real purpose was to help record companies, concert promoters, artists, and media outlets figure out how to reach those who are fans.

And, somewhat surprising to Bowen, radio is still the king when it comes to reaching fans.

"Even though the digital age is upon us, it was interesting to see that radio is still the hub of engagement for country music fans. Basically 79 percent to 80 percent are engaging in country music on the radio," he said.

Those who do listen to the music on the radio listen an average of more than 24 hours a month.

Some other findings from the study include:

•65 percent of country music fans prefer to buy their music in CD form, versus 35 percent who go the digital route.

•38 percent have illegally copied a CD and 23 percent have gotten free downloads from the Internet.

•About 1 in 4 fans attended a country concert in the last year. That equates to about 11 percent of the adult population in the U.S.

•Only about 50 percent of the hard-core country music fans, meaning those who prefer country music far more than any other genre and spend a lot of their entertainment dollars on country music, have the Internet in their homes. The biggest reasons were lack of access or cost.

So, while there has been plenty of gnashing of teeth by record and radio executives over the theory that the digital age is going to make the CD and radio irrelevant, this study doesn't seem to indicate that. For the most part, the average country music fans still want to walk into the local store to pick up music by their favorite artist, and usually they hear that artist on the radio.

More interestingly, that country fan might be a farmer in Johnson City, Tenn., but just as likely he or she is an office worker from northwest Ohio.



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