As any devoted radio listener knows, bluegrass DJs are a diverse group. From hometown stations featuring local bands and keeping it strictly traditional, to stations that play edge-of-grass bands that don’t quite have a genre to describe them, you can find it all on bluegrass radio. That sheer variety of music that frequently falls within the umbrella of “bluegrass” is precisely why Bluegrass Today is debuting a brand new radio airplay chart today (December 8).
The Grassicana™ chart, as it is known, was the brainchild of Bluegrass Today co-founder and CEO Terry Herd, who has a long history in bluegrass radio broadcasting. “Anyone who loves bluegrass and/or Americana knows a lot of great music never makes it onto the radio airplay charts, either because it’s too progressive for traditional bluegrass radio, or too traditional for Americana-based programming,” Herd said. “Nonetheless, it receives a tremendous amount of airplay. As a broadcaster and creator of the Bluegrass Today airplay charts, it’s been obvious to me for a long time that this style of music and the artists creating it needed a chart of their own.”
The term “Grassicana™ ” is an obvious mash-up of the words bluegrass and Americana, picked by Herd because even though folks have likely used it to describe progressive, edge-of-bluegrass-style music before, no one has used it to title a genre defining radio airplay chart. Herd said, Bluegrass Today® is trademarking the name in that context.
So what exactly is Grassicana™ ? Herd defines it as music that falls somewhere between the more progressive edge of bluegrass and the broad spectrum of Americana. “Think of it as the “branches,” of bluegrass as opposed to the “roots,” he said. “Moreover, it’s typically played with acoustic instruments traditional to bluegrass, yet may also include drums and other instrumentation not always associated with bluegrass. More than instrumentation, however, it is the style in which the music is played that we’re focusing on to define Grassicana™. You’ll know it when you hear it, and the new Grassicana™ chart will be an integral tool to define and measure the genre going forward.”
There are plenty of bluegrass artists whose music frequently falls within the Grassicana™ boundaries: Sam Bush, Sierra Hull, Infamous Stringdusters, Punch Brothers, Billy Strings, Irene Kelley, and the Hillbenders, to name but a few. These and other similar artists are appearing more and more often at bluegrass festivals and on-air; many festivals, such as ROMP in Owensboro, KY, and IBMA’s Wide Open Bluegrass, tend to book more Grassicana™ acts than traditional bluegrass groups. “Grassicana™ doesn’t just fill a void,” said Herd, “it is growing in popularity at such a pace that we’re already seeing fewer traditional-based bluegrass acts at bluegrass festivals.”
According to Herd, he’s had the idea for a Grassicana™-type chart for years, but a recent collaborative push with Airplay Direct helped bring the project to fruition. As Bluegrass Today debuts its new chart, AirPlay Direct has also introduced a Grassicana™ category on their website. As such, they will track downloads for Grassicana™ based music by radio programmers.
“Robert and Lynda at AirPlay Direct are focused on helping artists find a platform in this new genre, and are an integral part of distributing the music to radio programmers around the world and tracking that distribution.” Herd said. “We deeply respect their commitment and inclusion of an identifying category for Grassicana™-based artists.”
Herd said it’s definitely possible for bands to cross-over and appear on both the new Grassicana™ and bluegrass airplay charts in Bluegrass Today. He and the contributing broadcasters are working together on identifying Grassicana™ music and he expects to continually explore the boundaries of the genre. “Music will always continue to grow and evolve, and our mission here at Bluegrass Today is to identify, report on, and chart that progress,” said Herd.
“I truly believe the information contained in these charts will help festival promoters determine which acts to book, music lover’s to know which new releases to consider for purchase, bands to determine which recordings their fans enjoy most, writers to understand which songs are most popular and so forth,” Herd said. “And by the way, we’re launching an all bluegrass Gospel chart today as well. It’s a great day for our music, as these new charts provide an opportunity for more artists to be properly recognized within their respective genres. It’s a win, win.”
49 broadcasters are currently contributing to the chart, and Herd is adding more each week. Bluegrass Today encourages all terrestrial or satellite broadcasters whose music falls into the boundaries of bluegrass or Grassicana™ to sign up to contribute to the charts online.