So what exactly is this? That’s what you thought when you read the title above. Well I’m going to explain this to you. This is a new weekly feature that will be on the site and as you can see it’s called Hodgepodge of Country Stuff. If you’re a sports fan that visits major sites like ESPN, Sports Illustrated and FOX Sports, you’ll see some of their writers do weekly columns where they’ll discuss something and then have a variety of interesting tidbits that will follow it (think Bill Simmons and Peter King). This is just like those, except about country music of course. Got it? Good.
One of the most under-the-radar stories in music so far in 2015 has been iTunes quietly killing off its Free Single of the Week. Not only is it being killed off here in the United State, but in all countries. It’s probably being underreported because Apple did it without making a big announcement and has only been noticed by fans who checked this feature out on a weekly basis. Also many tech outlets are afraid to say anything bad about Apple because they don’t want to be banned from their events (I learned this when I was dabbling in tech journalism). Well I’m a music journalist now and I don’t use iTunes to purchase and listen to my music anymore, so I have no problem saying cross words about the Cupertino tech giant.
I was pretty disappointed when I found out about this because over the years of using iTunes I’ve found several new artists to listen to through the Free Single of the Week. In fact I think it was this feature that made me set up an iTunes account. Going back to 2008, one of the free singles of the week was Jamey Johnson’s “In Color.” This was before he was a household name and won any Grammys. I guarantee he gained several new fans by offering this free single. In 2009, I found out about Eli Young Band and David Nail through their free singles of the week. In 2010, Easton Corbin’s “A Little More Country Than That” is what introduced me to his music.
As I’ve stated numerous times on the side, rock music is my second favorite genre and a free Bob Seger EP in 2011 is what introduced me to his music and made me explore his catalog. I mentioned in my review of Greg Bates’ “Sand” this week the first time I heard his music was when I heard “I Did It For The Girl,” which was an iTunes Free Single of the Week in 2012. In 2013, two of my favorite non-country songs of the year, John Newman’s “Love Me Again” and Bastille’s “Pompeii”, were free singles of the week and these two songs went on to have huge success. It really helped put these artists on the map. Go take a look at the list of all of the free singles that have been offered by iTunes over the years and I guarantee you’ll see artists and songs you like.
The point of this free single of the week was to introduce fans to artists they’re not familiar with and bring new music into their library. Many times I would go on to explore and buy more music from the artist. Judging from the comments I’ve seen on message boards and social media, many others did the same. This Free Single of the Week acted as a “gateway drug” to get fans to check out artists and their catalogs. It gave a platform to lesser known and independent artists to grow their fan base. Many artists and labels understood this, which is why so many different artists participated in this program (some of them multiple times).
So why did iTunes do away with this feature? Personally I think it’s the answer to most questions: money. It’s no secret that music sales are progressively getting worse and this is forcing everyone in the industry to take notice. The Free Single of the Week was financially beneficial to artists, but it wasn’t financially beneficial enough for iTunes. So iTunes selfishly got rid of this feature. Instead they’ll push their streaming service down your throat because that’s better for their bottom line. As a result fans and artists will pay the price. What was a great feature that benefitted fans and artists is now gone because the suits aren’t making the money they want to make.
With that being said, Google Play still offers weekly free music. They once had a free single of the week feature, but now it has been replaced with a free album of the week (they also feature a sampler of free music from all genres every month). Just like the iTunes Free Single of the Week, this has introduced me to new music. I’ve bought more music as a result of these free offerings. And iTunes wonders why I took my business to Google Play. Their competitor understands if you want to keep your customers, you have to keep them happy. While I don’t condone giving away a bunch of free music or having artists pay fans to listen to their music, giving away a little free music is something that can benefit everyone. I hope iTunes will learn the error of their ways, for the good of the fans and artists.
Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases
- Ryan Bingham just released his new album, Fear and Saturday Night. I haven’t got a chance to listen to it yet, but I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about it. Despite what Bingham says, his music is country to my ears and many other people. Derek’s review of it will be coming soon.
- Cody Jinks came out with a new album called Adobe Sessions last week. I can’t believe I overlooked this one. One of my goals this year is to review more Texas country music. I’ve listened to some of Jinks’ album and I definitely don’t hate it. I’ll be reviewing this one really soon.
- Jamey Johnson just released “Alabama Pines” as a single and is now available on iTunes and Google Play. He released it as a free gift through his site on January 1 (it’s no longer free). I thought it was a great comeback song for the Alabama artist. It’s currently in the top 70 of the iTunes country charts, so not a bad return for Johnson.
- Keith Urban just released “Raise ‘Em Up” as a new single from his album Fuse. He’s joined on the song by Eric Church. The song is also nominated for the 2015 Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance. We hope to review this song soon.
Throwback Thursday Song
Alan Jackson’s “Pop a Top.” I heard this song come on the radio the other day and it was so refreshing to hear an Alan Jackson song. Most people will remember this song as the one he was playing at the 1999 CMA Awards when he stopped halfway through the performance to play George Jones’ “Choices” as a protest of the CMA not allowing Jones a full performance. Jackson then of course walked right off stage and out of the building. It was a true badass moment from Jackson. Too bad we don’t have those kind of moments at country music awards show anymore. I hope Jackson’s new album this year blows everyone away.
My Non-Country Thought of the Week
While the last two weeks I’ve had negative thoughts in this section of the Hodgepodge, this week I come bearing positive thoughts. Originally I was only going to have one non-country album suggestion, but then I heard another great album that I have to also suggest. The first non-country album I suggest checking out is James Wolpert’s The Entire City. (If you follow me on Twitter you’ve already saw this suggestion, so this is for those not on Twitter) It’s a fantastic rock album that fuses Americana, folk, pop and even a little bit of country. There is one song on the album that features some lengthy fiddle play.
The other non-country album I suggest checking out is Lupe Fiasco’s Tetsuo & Youth. This is hip-hop at it’s best and just like Wolpert’s album does a great job fusing influences from other genres. I heard some jazz, pop, electronic, classical and even country. Yes country influences on a hip-hop album! On Fiasco’s “Dots & Lines” there is prominent play at the beginning and end of the song from, get this, a BANJO. They don’t even have these in most mainstream country songs nowadays and there’s one on a damn hip-hop album. Lupe Fiasco’s Tetsuo & Youth is more country than Florida Georgia Line’s Anything Goes, Chase Rice’s Ignite the Night and Sam Hunt’s Montevallo combined. So ironically this week’s non-country suggestions are more country than some of the country albums I’ve recently reviewed. I don’t understand anything anymore.
Tweet of the Week
My thoughts exactly. For those unaware, Thomas Rhett covered Bruno Mars’ hit “When I Was Your Man.” I didn’t even bother listening to it because I have no respect for Rhett. I guarantee Bruno Mars has no idea who Rhett is and never will. Once bro country officially becomes uncool (which is happening) Rhett will disappear and fall off the radar.
An iTunes Review That Will Make You Face Palm
These reviews are from Sam Hunt’s Montevallo album. I actually couldn’t choose just one this week. You have no idea who how many potential comments I could have put here for this album. These two were the best though. The first one goes with the traditional hater comment. The second one goes in a different direction. According to the second review, only the Queen of England has the authority to move artists or genres around. So Queen Elizabeth II, your majesty, if you’re reading this could you please move Sam Hunt out of country music forever? It would be greatly appreciated.
That’s it for the Hodgepodge this week! Be sure to sound off in the comments!