Garth Brooks put forth a call for unity to radio programmers at Country Radio Seminar during a Monday (March 13) session, asking them to use their platform for good.
"How divided is this nation right now and who on the planet has a single voice to cover this entire nation? You do," he said, in a session moderated by CRS executive director RJ Curtis. "Think about what you say when you open your mouth on those airwaves. Think about the music you play. Do the people listening to your station feel better about the future than they did [before]?"
He continued with a dire warning if cooler, more unified heads don't prevail. "You've got a big voice. This country needs a big voice spreading the most important thing and that's love. People, I'm telling you, with the Internet, people, if it keeps going the way it is civil war is waiting for this country again. It will be here before your children grow up," he said. "Those are real voices behind those real microphones talking to those real people [at radio]. Unify them. Find that common ground. Amplify our similarities instead of our differences."
He also gave programmers a tough love pep talk as terrestrial radio finds itself competing streaming.
"You guys have convinced yourselves for some reason you are the victim of streaming. You have convinced yourself that your time is coming to an end," he said. "People, I am promising you radio's time is not coming to an end. What radio has that streaming will never have is discovery. I can't ask for anything new on Alexa. Alexa doesn't know how to play anything new. You guys get to play it all and we get to hear if first through you."
He then went on to tell an anecdote that flies in the face of the popularity of on-demand listening about turning to terrestrial radio while working on his truck and, as the hours go by, hearing a new song repeatedly that he grows fonder of each time he hears it until it becomes his favorite song. "If I had the option of going 'next,' I would never have heard the song. That's a gift you have. Do not take it lightly," he said. "You guys will forever be discovery. That's the coolest part of this business."
The purpose for Brooks' appearance was to tout the Garth Brooks "No Fences" Award, which was announced in November and will be handed out at CRS starting in 2024. The award will honor someone in the country music community who has "defied traditional standards and practices, positively changed the face of the industry, and established higher standards for measuring success," as well as raised country music's profile on a national level for a sustained duration.
Curtis and Brooks looked back to the superstar's first visit to CRS in February 1989, when his first single, "Much Too Young (to Feel This Damn Old)," was struggling at radio. Brooks and his team, including managers Bob Doyle and Pam Lewis, roamed the halls greeting programmers and handing out buttons, now collector's items, with the song title on them.
By the time he returned to CRS a year later in 1990 to debut "Friends in Low Places" at a luncheon, he'd scored four top 10s, including No. 1s with "If Tomorrow Never Comes" and "The Dance."
While much of the conversation was looking back on those early days, Brooks also gave hints at what is coming up for him, including his new Las Vegas residency at Caesars Palace that begins in May.
While he didn't give a timetable for when his long awaited bar/entertainment space, Friends in Low Places, would open in Nashville, he said he "owed" Nashville the bar for all the town has given him. He also added, "If there was ever a song that described Lower Broadway...," to strong audience laughter.
He also alluded to another attraction-"it's not a museum because I'm not dead"-that will house his archives and will feature interactive exhibits, spanning his entire career. "We're very fortunate that we own every bit of music that we've ever played. We own every frame of footage... we own everything we've ever done," he said. In addition to static displays, he brought up that fans will be able to take photos with his record-breaking seven CMA entertainer of the year awards and with his nine diamond RIAA awards, the most of any artist, for sales of 10 million or more for an album or song. "It's coming, that's where the archives live," he said.