28 Jul Biscuits, Gravy, and Rock ‘n’ Roll
I got promoted; kind of.
My boss answered the phone and after yes-ing and no-ing a couple of times placed the caller on hold.
“You’re the entertainment reporter,” he said.
So now a strange woman keeps sending me CDs to review and I have half a mind to do it. The only thing that held me back at first was the fact that I’m not a music critic. I’m also really not an expert on the brand of music she’s peddling. But when I got a chance to read the promotional materials, I thought this could be my big break as a Country and Bluegrass music critic.
There is a “country” restaurant chain called Cracker Barrel. They sell things like chicken fried steak with gravy and grits. They’ve also, apparently, expanded into the music business, promoting both on-the-way-up and on-the-way-down country music and bluegrass stars.
Among the records she offered to send me were “Patriotic Country 3” and a Ricky Skaggs retrospective, both available only at Cracker Barrel and through www.crackerbarrel.com
My first inclination was to mock the project mercilessly, and if it is yours then you know why. Upon further thought, however, I felt a little mean about it. Why should I look down my nose at Ricky Skaggs for signing with Cracker Barrel? Or for that matter at Cracker Barrel for signing Ricky Skaggs.
Even if it’s not successful for this company in the end, I wouldn’t be surprised if corporate sponsorship filled the gap that the old clunky record business is vacating.
From my research so far, I’ve concluded that Bluegrass is especially vibrant at the independent level and at the corporate sponsorship level. Record companies probably can’t take the hit in advertising many of these folks, leaving many artists open to the suggestion of being advertisements for someone else.
In other words the roles are reversed. Instead of the company having to promote the artist, the artist now promotes the company. It’s kind of like Nascar. Racers are so happy to compete that it’s not a huge problem whose stickers adorn their cars.
When faced with the choice between what was likely a luke-warm record deal and the opportunity to produce whatever he wanted for the Cracker Barrel brand, Ricky Skaggs probably didn’t lose a lot of sleep making the decision.
In fact unlike record companies, who are often interested in inserting themselves into the artistic process, Cracker Barrel is probably happy to have background music for their commercials and in their restaurants at little to no cost. For them, the artist is likely more part of the decor than a budgetary line item.