Imagine a country music station not tied down to any of the regular country radio procedures: It can play traditional country; pop-country; album cuts; new artists; old artists. Even Taylor Swift.
Therein lies the secret weapon for Radio Disney Country, a Radio Disney spin-off that launches on Wednesday coinciding with ABC’s Country Music Association Awards. (Both properties share Disney as a parent company.) The station, aimed at a general family audience and also teens and millennials, plans to launch into the competitive country radio arena by simply playing everything.
Specifically, the station will have a 60-40 split of music. Sixty percent will be popular artists such as Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan and Hunter Hayes. The rest will spotlight up-and-coming young artists, from Maddie & Tae to RaeLynn and Dan + Shay, plus singers that teens might be familiar with from TV, like Cassadee Pope from “The Voice” and Scotty McCreery of “American Idol.” At the same time, the station will play Taylor Swift’s music, even if it’s from years ago when she was still a country artist. Plus, it won’t shy away from songs like “Something Better” by electro-dance producer Audien…because the track features Lady Antebellum, a country group.
Phil Guerini, Radio Disney’s general manager, says that’s exactly how executives hope to define Radio Disney Country: Lack of definition of genres. While that idea may upset purists, Guerini says that will be a major benefit for the listeners who are already accustomed to different genres.
“Even country music fans don’t purely listen to country music,” Guerini said. He noted that as the country format has embraced to have a more pop and rock-leaning sound, some of the audience (particularly the younger set) won’t seem that surprised to hear songs from a pop artist on a country station.
Radio Disney Country, which is only available on a digital app, is a natural evolution for the parent company, given that ABC is the home to programming such as the CMA Awards and primetime drama “Nashville.” The Disney Music Group even used to own Nashville-based Lyric Street Records (which has since shuttered). So the idea for a Disney country-themed station, which has been in the works for about two years, is on-brand.
“There’s definitely some history there, and acknowledgement of the fact that Disney is a family company,” Guerini said, adding that country music is a more “family-friendly” genre than most.
What about all those extremely popular country songs with lyrics heavy on the alcohol use and sexual situations? Guerini assures that programmers will employ the same formula that they currently use at Radio Disney: They will vet each song individually, evaluating the appropriateness of the lyrics and the artist before adding it into the rotation.
While listening to the lineup during launch day, the playlist is indeed a mix of older and newer country songs (Swift’s debut single “Tim McGraw” did sneak in there), along with several album cuts. That’s another point of pride for the station: Playing songs that would normally never be heard on the radio from artists who have trouble getting traction — such ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” star Lucy Hale — is something else that sets them apart.
“This provides us with tremendous amount of content not being played on traditional country radio,” Guerini said.
An hour of Radio Disney Country:
“Little Bit of You” Chase Bryant
“Lie a Little Better” Lucy Hale
“Think Of You” Chris Young feat. Cassadee Pope
“Lose My Mind” Brett Eldredge
“Top of the World” Tim McGraw
“Still Fallin’” Hunter Hayes
“Fly” Maddie & Tae
“Crash and Burn” Thomas Rhett
“Remembering” Ashley Campbell
“Can’t Stop Smiling” Love & Theft
“Better Do It” RaeLynn
“Something Better” Audien ft. Lady Antebellum
“Stay a Little Longer” Brothers Osborne
“I Got the Boy” Jana Kramer
“Yeah Boy” Kelsea Ballerini
“Tim McGraw” Taylor Swift
“Save it For a Rainy Day” Kenny Chesney
“Southern Belle” Scotty McCreery
“Break Up in a Small Town” Sam Hunt