Zach Bryan is currently crossing the final frontier yet to be conquered by an artist not trained by Music Row. We are of course talking about country radio. For months now, Zach Bryan’s single “Something in the Orange” has either been the most streamed song in all of country music, or the second or third. This week marks its 6th consecutive week in the No. 1 streaming spot, as it sits at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, which takes into account a broad base of consumption metrics, including the playing country radio.
“Something in the Orange” picked up another symbolic win this week, at least on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. It eventually reached #39, which means it’s a Top 40 hit, and Zach Bryan is officially one of the top 40 radio artists. The song was already so massive that country radio started playing it of its own volition, which almost never happens. Generally speaking, the radio plays what the major labels in the country tell it to.
But a few weeks ago, Zach Bryan’s label, Warner Records, began actively promoting “Something in the Orange” on radio, giving it an extra boost. That means regional radio reps canvass radio stations to play, maybe Bryan makes a few appearances on local stations for interviews and such, and the label puts ads in country radio trade periodicals like Billboard country updateand Country air control promoting the single.
There are currently two different entities following the radio game: BDS which Billboard draws from, and Mediabase which Country broadcast uses. Starting November 12, the two maps will officially merge under Luminate, eliminating that weekly gap between the two maps. But currently Zach Bryan’s “Something in the Orange” is worse via Mediabase. While it’s at No. 39 on Billboard, Mediabase has it at No. 44 and had it at No. 49 last week.
Worse still is the gap between the wild popularity of “Something in the Orange”, the wild popularity of Zach Bryan in general with his album American grief still solidly at No. 2 on the Billboard Country Albums chart behind Morgan Wallen Dangerous, and where “Something in the Orange” plays on the radio. So to highlight that, last week Bryan’s label ran a full-page ad in Country air controlessentially calling country radio to the mat.
As it states, “Something in the Orange” was No. 1 on the Mediabase streaming chart, with 16,824,831 streams in a single week, while only coming in at No. 49 on the chart. Mediabase broadcast. And for good measure, he also points out that he has over 5 million more weekly streams than the #1 song in streaming. Although all of the other songs are scrambled in the ad, that No. 1 streamed song happens to be Morgan Wallen’s “You Proof,” which is currently earning a multi-week stay at No. 1 on both the airplay chart. from Mediabase and on Billboard Airplay. chart.
It’s not exactly the notorious ad that Rick Rubin once took in Billboard with Johnny Cash violently knocking the bird down during his In San Quentin days, mocking country radio and the Nashville establishment for not playing his songs as he racked up Grammys for his releases on American Recordings. But in many ways the ad is much smarter and more illustrative of the kind of inequities that more independent-minded artists face in the mainstream country, regardless of their popularity, and especially on radio. country.
Hopefully the announcement is seen as informative without being insulting. Even on equal terms, singles are still slow to grow on country radio. “Something in the Orange” continues to climb and could still very well reach No. 1 on radio as well.
The ad also underscores something else about the current balance of power in country music. While it’s very fair to continue to consider Morgan Wallen the No. 1 artist in the country right now, Zach Bryan unequivocally has the No. 1 song. You combine that with the No. 2 album, does that Zach Bryan beats Wallen on the Billboard songwriter chart where he’s now No. 1 for 20 weeks in 2022, and you can make the case that Zach Bryan is challenging Wallen for country music. the most popular artist of the moment.
But of course, you won’t be seeing Zach Bryan at the CMA Awards on November 9. He didn’t even receive a nomination for Best New Artist, let alone Album of the Year or Single/Song of the Year for “Something in the Orange,” despite Zach Bryan’s dominance in the country music right now. Zach hasn’t even been asked to perform at the CMAs at this point. He won’t appear or even present a price unless the CMAs call for a last-minute beep. That’s right, the artist with the biggest song in all of country music right now, and the second biggest album of the year won’t even be in the building.
But Zach Bryan doesn’t need country radio or the CMA Awards. Country radio and the CMA Awards need Zach Bryan. The general public can no longer afford to ignore the growing appeal of not only flourishing, but dominating country music artists outside of country radio and the Music Row system.
On October 19, “Something in the Orange” was certified Platinum by the RIAA while still residing well outside the Top 40 on radio. Country artists like Zach Bryan don’t need radio to achieve huge success anymore. Tyler Childers, Cody Jinks, Whiskey Myers and others have done it too. Continue to ignore Zach Bryan – on radio and elsewhere – and risk losing the last vestiges of radio and industry relevance they continue to cling to.