Soon to be famous fans completely screw Clear Channel and a newspaper turns it into “a scandal”

IxssnLwfmj7YlcNKTXw5BHG-7MMumMQD-aKH1ZCRovYSoon to be famous fans completely screw Clear Channel and a newspaper turns it into “a scandal” : That whole volunteer “buzz marketing” thing that got big play in the NY Times Magazine last week must have been missed by the editors at the Tennessean as they chose to unleash their new investigative journalism focus with a front page, above the fold exposé of the aggressive tactics used to get radio airplay by some fans of Chely Wright, whose career apparently has been, until recently, in a bit of a slump.

Here’s the screaming headline for the online version of the story: “Campaign of deception used to push patriotic song up charts” although the print version of the edition I received carries the headline, “Fans asked to push patriotic song by telling radio they were GIs.” (Note to Tennessean headline writers: Drop the passive writing if you want to liven up the paper.)

According to the investigative front page above the fold story with the passive headline, a small group of volunteer fan club members posed as GIs and military family members and called and e-mailed radio stations to get the song, The Bumper of My SUV, onto country music radio playlists. The tactics apparently worked as the independently distributed song is now #2 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles Sales chart.

According to the Tennessean, the newspaper learned of the story when one of the fans began to feel guilty about volunteer fan club members pretending to be something they’re not. (For those who have stayed with this post so far, compare the Chely Wright-devotés to the buzz-agents in the NY Times article last week who pretend to like sausage they’ve never eaten.)

So there you have it people: The Tennessean’s new focus on investigative journalism: Not a story on how the monopolistic concentration of ownership has turned country radio into the factory of crap it is…but rather an investigative piece on how 17 people were able to show how easy it is to bring down the corrupt system that has turned radio into mush. (Please, fans of an actually good record try the same thing.)

Chuck Walter, the Wall Street-based head of the Chely Wright fan club — apparently the brains behind this ploy to beat the Clear Channel play list goons — may feel embarassed this morning. However, I think some quarters of the indy record community will be building a statue in his honor before this is all over.

Developing.

About Rex Hammock

Founder/ceo of Hammock Inc., the customer media and content company based in Nashville, Tenn. Creator of and head-helper at SmallBusiness.com.
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  • Mark

    Ouch, in so many ways and at so many Nashville levels.

    Your citizen-journalism zone is ongoing. I heard Ms. Wright give an interview about the origins of the song on a radio show one morning earlier this fall, and she sang it live.

    I think the song is probably succeeding more because it’s powerful and tells a great story than because some people started calling radio stations. Then again, I’m tone deaf.

    But if someone had flipped me off because of a bumper sticker on my car, and I had the talent Ms. Wright does, I might write a song about it, also.

  • Mr Roboto

    Back in early summer, didn’t the New Yorker run an article about a similar way of getting increased airplay that involved a Nashville radio station (but with cash)?

    We live in an age of too much information, because, not only have I forgotten where I posted the link, but I have also forgotten the actual substance of the article.

  • Mr Roboto

    Thank goodness for Google. The New Yorker piece on WQZQ (the Party, 102.5) illustrated the practice of “spot buys,” by which promoters essentially buy air time in which certain songs are played. Such as, the article noted, WQZQ playing the new Avril Lavigne song 3 times per hour, every hour between 12am and 6am.

    http://www.newyorker.com/talk/content/?040712ta_talk_surowiecki

  • rex

    What? The Tennessean didn’t break that payola scam? I guess they were too busy find fans to bust.

  • Mr Roboto

    Well, you know who is one of WQZQ’s morning djs, don’t you? The Tennessean’s Brad Schmidt. I see a big cover-up here.

  • SJH

    I assure the story is accurate, verified and true.