Even as broadcasters and performer/songwriter’s rights organizations spar over changing media technologies, we see continued growth in syndicated bluegrass radio programs. Typically, these shows are produced in advance and distributed at no cost to affiliate stations who agree to air the program.
The affiliates get niche programming without the investment of a locally-produced show – and the ability to insert some of their own advertising – while the syndicator increases the size of their total audience and hence their own ad rates. This model has worked for many years in all sorts of specialty programming, including talk, sports and even religious radio shows.
The daddy rabbit in bluegrass syndication is surely Terry Herd, whose Into The Blue program is carried on more than 200 stations in the US and Canada each week. A rising competitor is Cindy Baucom’s Knee Deep In Bluegrass, now on 70 stations and with the heft of the John Boy & Billy radio network behind her. Both have been named the IBMA Broadcaster of the Year, with Herd winning the award four times.
Others, like Gene Skinner’s Great Stuff Radio, are growing their list of affiliates and we hear every so often of shows that are making the jump to syndication.
Bluegrass has long had a home on public and university-funded stations, but I find it to be an excellent barometer of the health of the music to see it finding such success in commercial radio as well.