Buddy Brown got a rude awakening when he hit Nashville to start his music career.
The country singer says he found label executives open to working with him, but they insisted he leave his right-leaning politics outside the recording studio.
Brown balked. He went rogue, forging a solo career sans studio interference.
Was that experience an outlier? Or, does the music industry follow the not-so-soft blacklist against conservative stars we see across Hollywood?
A new Billboard.com report suggests just that.
The industry site reports several right-leaning songs can’t be found on radio stations nationwide despite runaway sales. Nor are established labels rushing to sign independent acts with right-leaning crowds.
And those crowds can be sizable.
John Rich’s “Progress” is just one example. The Big and Rich alum promoted the song, which torches liberal pieties, on both Truth Social and Rumble. The platforms embrace free speech without punishing conservative thought, the opposite of most social media giants.
The song rocketed up the charts with no mainstream support, and Billboard notes that success didn’t translate into radio airplay. The singer has no regrets.
“I don’t have to bend the knee to beat the machine,” Rich told Billboard.
Other conservative smashes include Aaron Lewis’ “Am I the Only One,” Loza Alexander’s “Let’s Go Brandon” and Tom MacDonald’s “Fake Woke.” All three crushed the competition in digital sales, but fans couldn’t hear them on their favorite radio stations.
It’s no accident.
Billboard notes that radio stations routinely ignore right-leaning songs, no matter how successful they may be.
The story suggests those tracks are too divisive. Perhaps, although radio had a field day with Green Day’s “American Idiot” both in 2004, and now, without industry handwringing.
That song directly targeted President George W. Bush and his War on Terror campaign.
MacDonald told Billboard music stations may unofficially boycott an artist who doesn’t abide by the current groupthink. That effectively captures MacDonald, who isn’t conservative in any traditional sense but promotes inclusion and freedom of thought.
“If a radio station says, ‘This is great, let’s put this into rotation,’ and then they’re like, ‘’Let me do five seconds of research on this artist,’ they’re going to go, ‘Actually, whoa, f— that.’”
A more disturbing Billboard.com anecdote comes from Jordan Kurland, manager of Death Cab for Cutie and a progressive activist. Kurland suggests Interscope Records would face blowback from progressive artists if it embraced a right-leaning voice.
“They’re not going to take that risk,” Kurland told Billboard.com.
That thinking aligns with modern Hollywood, an industry that loathes alternative points of view. “Will & Grace” alum Debra Messing and Eric McCormack briefly vowed to blacklist stars who supported President Donald Trump before publicly backpedaling from that position.
Conservative actors like Antonio Sabato, Jr. say their ideology all but wiped out their professional careers.
— Daily Wire (@realDailyWire) August 19, 2020
Other stars keep their right-leaning views private for fear of professional retaliation.
In this toxic atmosphere, conservative players like Tim Allen and Jon Voight are notable exceptions, and even they appear to suffer as a result. Allen’s “Last Man Standing” hit sitcom on ABC got the ax under mysterious conditions. The star also got overlooked for “Lightyear,” the spinoff Pixar film based on his Buzz Lightyear character.
Voight’s superlative run on “Ray Donovan” couldn’t net the superstar a single Emmy win.
Comedian Michael Loftus said he tried to pitch a centrist late night talk show but TV executives told him they couldn’t be seen being cordial to the Right. And it took Fox News to create a late night show that didn’t echo the same liberal talking points shared by Stephen Colbert and his ilk.
“Gutfeld!” is the new king of late night, and Hollywood, Inc. doesn’t care that it left all that money on the table for Fox News to scoop up.
Is it a stretch to think the music industry follows that unofficial blacklist?
In the past, radio stations often shied away from progressive protest songs …. or the artists themselves. The Dixie Chicks faced radio’s wrath after lead singer Natalie Maines singled out President George W. Bush in the runup to the Iraq War.
It wasn’t for any particular song, though. The group’s collective position coaxed stations to boycott the band’s music.
Garth Brooks struggled to get his 1992 song “We Shall Be Free,” which spoke to racism and marriage equality, sizable airplay.
This was decades before the entertainment culture became less free speech friendly and more antagonist to right-leaning views.
Billboard admits as such, repeatedly, in its story.
Usually, this kind of independent success would draw the attention of traditional labels and radio stations – but they tend to steer clear of conservative music. “The political songs just don’t work for us,” says Julie Stevens, program director for San Jose, Calif., country station 95.3 KRTY. “Even the ones that say ‘We all need to love each other and get along.’”
MacDonald told Billboard he asks fans to call their local radio stations to get his music some airplay without luck. Some of the stories’ sources say any divisive song, Left or Right, will face similar thumbs down.
Country music, which should be amenable to its right-leaning base, doesn’t always reflect its audiences.
The industry canceled superstar Morgan Wallen after he was caught uttering the n-word during a private conversation. The slur wasn’t aimed at any black person, but the industry pummeled Wallen – even though his fan base never left his side.
Meanwhile, the newly christened Chicks need not worry that their progressive activism will dent radio airplay.
Other elements of the music world reflect a deeply progressive worldview.
Modern music awards shows double as DNC platforms, embracing Black Lives Matter and spewing liberal talking points from the stage. These shows rarely, if ever, embrace right-leaning views.
Given all of the above, it’s fair to say Music, Inc. keeps conservative artists at arm’s length.