|Songs of the top-selling American country band Dixie Chicks have been banned on country radio stations, and ticket sales are reportedly way off in southern US cities after they recorded a new single called ‘Not Ready To Make Nice’, and named their new tour ‘Accidents and Accusations’
According to the music magazine Billboard, Dixie Chicks’ new album ‘Taking the Long Way’ was the No. 1 best-selling album in the United States in the middle of June. However, Dixie Chick’s live show in Memphis has been pulled off the route and the status of the shows in Indianapolis, Houston and Oklahoma City is uncertain.
The music industry magazine Pollstar reports that the shows in Republican states such as Oklahoma and Tennessee have been dropped.
Their North American tour was set to begin July 21 in Detroit. But with ticket sales below expectations, it is possible the route and capacities may be further reconfigured. Some country music radio stations, who have banned the Dixie Chicks’ records, have also refused to carry advertisements for the tour.
Deep blow among fans of country
In 2003, the lead singer of Dixie Chichs which is a top-selling country band of recent years in the US, Natalie Maines, criticized President Bush on stage in London at the start of the Iraq war. Many other performers were denouncing Bush at the same time, but the milder attack by Natalie Maines (“Just so you know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas”) was felt as the deepest blow because the Dixie Chicks were a country act, and country music is supposed to be conservative.
“Much of Hollywood and the rock world can criticize a Republican president and it’s just par for the course; they’re expected to be liberals. But a country act can’t step over that line without a furor,” explains the Globe’s Washington bureau chief Peter S. Canellos in his weekly column.
What followed was a backlash by many radio stations as they banned Dixie Chick music, with a subsequent drop in sales of their CDs. Cumulus Broadcasting explicitly banned the group’s music from its 262 radio stations, including more than 40 country radio stations, and hosted a CD-smashing ceremony outside its Atlanta headquarters during which bulldozers crushed the group’s CDs.
Some Clear Channel radio stations temporarily suspended airplay of the album, and Natalie Maines and the band received death threats. Owning over 1,220 radio stations and 39 tv stations, the solidly conservative Clear Channel were reported to have an overall strategy to bolster support for Bush Administration policies.
Among the Texas-based media behemoth’s actions, the Institute for Southern Studies (southernstudies.org) mentions:
• In March 2003, Clear Channel affiliates organized pro-war rallies across the country, under the name Rally for America, which coincided with the launch of the Iraq war. Clear Channel denied sponsoring the rallies, yet “they were promoted repeatedly by the company’s widely syndicated radio personality Glenn Beck.”
• According to reporters Robert Weissman and Russell Mokhiber, Clear Channel has “compiled a record of ‘repeated law-breaking’ … violating the law – including prohibitions on deceptive advertising and on broadcasting conversations without obtaining permission of the second party to the conversation – on 36 separate occasions over the previous three years.”
The censorship was so egregious that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was moved to chastise Cumulus Broadcasting chair Lewis Dicky:
“It’s a strong argument about what media concentration has the possibility of doing,” McCain told Cumulus Chairman Lewis W. Dickey Jr., according to the Los Angeles Times.
“If someone else offends you, and you decide to censor those people, my friend, the erosion of our First Amendment is in progress.”
At the time when this happened, in March 2003, their song ‘Travelin’ Soldier’ was no 1 on the country chart, and its abrubt disappearence from the airwaves became the most debated example of music censorship in the US in modern times.
Now the pattern appears to repeat itself.
Blacklisted on Detroit radio
Detroit’s new radio station The Fox, WDTW-FM, a Clear Channel-owned station has announced that it won’t be playing the new Dixie Chicks album after conducting a poll asking their listeners if they should play them or not.
The station received some 21,000 votes, but the station suspected many were coming from out of state, and then used a web service to filter out-of-state votes. That left more than 10,000 votes from southeast Michigan listeners, and the vote came out 72 percent against playing the Dixie Chicks.
“We don’t view it as a freedom of speech issue,” WDTW programme director Trapane says to The Detroit News. “The question was, do you want this artist on your radio station? End of story.”
Regardless of the controversy, or possibly because of it, the Dixie Chicks presently roost on the top of The Billboard 200 list. ‘Taking the Long Way’ tallied 526,000 copies in its first week of U.S. sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which is the trio’s best-selling week since 2002’s “Home” debuted with 780,000.
‘Taking the Long Way’ also nabs the No. 1 spot on the Country Albums chart in Billboard.
|“Natalie made an announcement that they were going to do a song which they are banned from playing in the States. I couldn’t hear the name of it, but it was a Bob Dylan type protest song. They started to sing it and everyone was cheering and clapping for them. The house lights were turned on to show the Chicks that they were receiving a standing ovation from the crowd. When they were finished, Natalie said that they were very touched and should play here more often. Everyone stood up and applauded again.”
Brenda Makowichuk, Dixie Chicks fan, about her experience of a Dixie Chicks concert in Canada in 2003
Dixie Chicks on the cover of the magazine Entertainment Weekly