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Thread: MAB Q&A
Wes Tibbets

That is why I was partially reluctant to say that. I can't talk about the business from a producer or record label executive standpoint. I don't see what they see. I'm not in their world.

My perspective come from decades from being a dj in night clubs, at music festivals, barnyard parties etc. I can give several examples of that just from my perspective.

When I was in Greensboro, NC in late Spring 2000, some guys I worked with and I went to a big country bar there. It was either a Friday or a Saturday, can't remember which. The place was pretty full though. When we arrived it was about 8-8:30 so it was still pretty early. By 10-10:30, there were only a handful of people on the dance floor. Everybody else was sitting at their table and it was one of the quietest country bars I'd ever been to.

I went to the bar to get a round of drinks and I overheard a bartender talking to the manager behind the bar. The manager was complaining about the dj. He made a remark to the effect that the guy was clueless to what people wanted to hear. I returned to my table, did a few shots, made up my mind about something and went looking for that manager. I introduced myself, gave him my business card and a brief background about my experience as a dj. And in my slightly inebriated state, I came right out and told him that if he wanted to get the party going, let me in the booth. He said he'd think about it.

So I went back to my table. This was roughly 10:30 ish. The dj was playing Top 40 Country exclusively and had been all night. About 15 minutes later, the manager came to my table and told me he was thinking about giving the dj a break and if I wanted to fill in for a few minutes, he wouldn't mind giving me a shot. Well, I filled in more than a few minutes. I filled in the rest of the night. The dance floor was full. Everybody was drunk off their butts and at the end of the night, I was offered a full time job by a drunk manager who never took the time to look at my business card long enough to realize I was from Texas.

The entire time I dj'd that night, I played maybe 3 or 4 Top 40 songs. If I recall correctly, I began the evening with the club mix of Tracy Byrd's "I'm From The Country". And I kept it hell raising redneck the rest of the night littered with the occasional waltz, cotton eyed joe and line dances. Even an occasional classic rock song like Take It Easy or The Georgian Satellites, "Keep Your Hands To Yourself". 

Because I liked doing it, I started doing it any time I went somewhere that had a country bar. Sometimes I got to dj. Sometimes I didn't. But every time I did in places like Greensboro, Macon, GA., Richmond VA., Albuquerque, NM., it was the same results. A lot of energy, a lot of drinking songs and a lot of liquor sold behind the bars. It's a formula I've kept through all of my years as a dj. And for me it has been a successful one.

The last time I dj'd a festival, there were about 1000 or more people. I did it all day until the bands took the stage around 5. Not one of the songs I played was modern Nashville unless it had been recorded by a Texas artist. That is a cardinal sin at a Texas music festival unless you have acts like Merle Haggard, Charlie Daniels, DAC, or Hank Jr. playing.

The last time I dj'd at all, I was asked to play for the Labor Day crowd at Lake Alan Henry. I went by the same formula but because it was a lot of the Lubbock crowd, I tried to slip in a few songs like Dierks Bentley "5150" and a few others like "Farmer's Daughter", "A Long Line Of Losers", "Pretty Good At Drinking Beer". Great party songs right? Wrong! I didn't get halfway through any one of those songs before somebody was walking over to where I was and saying something like , "Turn that s___ OFF!" I mean it can get right down hostile when you try to play some of that stuff. Even when it should fit in just fine. Oh they're fine with Beer And Bones, Prop Me Up Against The Jukebox, Chatahoochee, T.R.O.U.B.L.E, Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine and stuff right up to about 2000. But even with Long Line Of Losers, I remember being asked, "Do you have Kevin Fowler's version?" Even though, three songs earlier I had just played Kevin Fowler's "I Ain't Drinkin' Anymore".

In all of the country bars I have ever been into in Texas, I have never once heard Taylor Swift played. Now when she performs in concerts in Lubbock and stuff, I think she plays to a packed crowd.  The last country concert I saw was in 2013. An area rodeo brought in Tracy Lawrence. Personally, I love his music. I've met the guy twice and seen him 3 times including the night one of my best friends passed away. I showed up at the rodeo to see him and there was only maybe a little over a 100 people there. If Merle had played or Willie, you couldn't have found a parking spot within 3 miles of that place. 

So yeah, in the world of Nashville, I don't doubt that it is exactly what you say it is. But where I'm from, it is exactly the way I'm telling you it is. There's not one Nashville act scheduled to play in Wichita Falls this year. But Texas artists like Kevin Fowler are scheduled to play every Thursday and Friday. And usually Texas acts are playing simultaneously in two or three of the area bars at the very least. Whether it be in Lawton or Wichita Falls. Of course, Fort Worth Stockyards and that area is a different story. But Amarillo, Wichita Falls, Lawton, Abilene. Cities of 100-300,000 people. I don't know of one that I've heard of that is coming to play in any of those cities except Sam Riggs at the Midnight Rodeo in Amarillo in April. Clint Black and Travis Tritt are playing in Abilene soon too. Beyond that I haven't heard of any modern Nashville artists playing in those venues. Lubbock might be different. Usually they book a few acts each year. But not many.Taken as a whole, you have an area of about a million people the size of Tennessee with 100's and 100's of bars and concert venues that don't listen to Nashville enough to warrant investing money to bring in Nashville artists to perform. But if Kevin Fowler focused only on those area venues, he would stay booked to play packed houses 6 out of 7 nights of the week if he chose to do so and every venue is stumbling over each other to book him.

I know I don't have to ask Justin if he agrees with me either. He knows exactly what I'm talking about. And this is all coming from a guy who does like a lot of Nashville artists and loved Nashville when he visited there. And it isn't that Texans just love Texas music,  There are a lot of transplanted artists from places like Florida and other states who have found a home here. It's just that Texans as a whole hate Nashville and what they think it represents. Now, I'm not saying I think that way because I don't. But I'm real careful who I tell that I like certain Nashville music around because it is liable to get me into a world of trouble that I don't want to be in.  Just like admitting I'm a Democrat.

I didn't invent the game, I just play by the rules.