Friday, December 1, 2006

Hispanic country music fans cause head-scratching on Music Row

Country Music Association takes a closer look; west coast creates U.S. Hispanic Country Music Association

The AP reported in this story that Hispanic fans are showing up at country music concerts but remain an unknown quantity in the industry, so Music Row is asking for formal studies.

"Country-western music acts are reporting noticing more Latino fans at their concerts. As a result, Nashville's Music Row is now starting to dream of its Next Big Audience."

"[N]o one really knows if the nation's largest minority group is ready for fiddles and steel guitars. The phrase 'country music' doesn't even have a translation in Spanish."

"The Country Music Association says there are no good studies to show how many Latinos listen to country already, so the CMA formed its own task force to investigate."

"Eva Melo, of Tennessee-based Latin Market Communications, said the CMA has requested a proposal for a Latino market study, but she is skeptical her fellow Latinos will take to the genre."

"Rick Rodriguez, who manages the Latin division of Nashville-based Songs for the Planet and works as a song plugger for the same, has been trying to encourage Music Row to mix with Latino artists and music."

"'I'm a Mexican from South Texas,' he said. 'I grew up listening to people like Freddy Fender and Johnny Rodriguez. If we can get old-school country music, like back in the day what was coming from Hispanic cats, I think it would be big.'"

"Texas-based singer-songwriter John Arthur Martinez, who was the runner-up on the inaugural season of "Nashville Star" (USA Network's country music talent competition like 'American Idol'), said Latino listeners are already there."

"'Nashville has not made a conscious effort to court the Hispanic audience on a major scale, but without realizing it they've already attracted people like my sister,' he said. 'Her CD collection is 90 percent country and 10 percent tejano.'"

"Maritza Baca, a marketer who recently formed the U.S. Hispanic Country Music Association in California, is convinced Latinos are already gravitating toward country-western. She's met with the CMA twice about it."

"[Eddie Wright-Rios, a Vanderbilt University professor who specializes in the cultural history of modern Mexico,] said he can understand why Latinos are an attractive audience to the music industry."

"'I know a lot of people who don't have a lot of money, but if a good Mexican band comes along, they'll drop $150 on a pair of tickets,' he said."

"Rick Murray, the Nashville CMA's vice president of strategic marketing, says he wants to see more research before he is convinced. That research should answer questions like whether Spanish-language singers are necessary to lure listeners."

"'Is it a Hispanic artist, or is it bringing existing music into the Hispanic market?' he asked. 'Those are two very different things that might complement each other."

The Tennessean, the Nashville Scene music blog Nashville Cream, and newspapers worldwide have picked up this story.

The Hispanic Nashville Notebook reported on the lack of Hispanic country music superstars in this October story published after the death of Freddy Fender.

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