Hispanics and Country – A Deeper Look

Edison Media Research was hired by the Country Radio Broadcasters to perform research on the question of the relationship between America’s growing Hispanic population and Country Music and Country Radio.

A working group within Edison set upon this project along three tracks:

  • Thorough investigation of existing research, including US Census data and projections, Arbitron radio listening estimates, and a review of existing social science research on Hispanics in America.
  • One-on-One interviews with Hispanics in Houston and Miami performed in December of 2006.
  • A national telephone survey of Hispanics ages 12-49, conducted in all 50 states, in January of 2007.

To gain a full understanding of the research, it is essential to listen to the incredibly compelling video from the one-on-ones. They are linked throughout this report – take the time to watch. You will absolutely learn new things about Country Music, Country Radio, and Hispanics.

Here are some of the key findings from our research:

Hispanics are merely the ‘newest Americans’

When one reads the existing sociology on the Hispanic-American immigrant experience, what stands out are not their differences, but their similarities to other groups that came to America by choice in previous immigration waves.

Hispanics who have come to America come to follow the same “American Dream” as previous groups. They want opportunity, they want to build a better life, and they want enhanced prospects for their children. Like previous immigrant groups, Hispanics are accused of being slow to integrate to American society, and of being overly loyal to their previous homelands. But researchers have found that Hispanics who have been in America longer in fact reflect the kinds of attitudes and behaviors of all long-standing immigrant groups.

The only real difference between Hispanics and previous waves of immigrants is that they have come more recently.

Country Radio and Country Music can’t ignore the Hispanic market

When this project was announced, we received in our office several strongly worded emails from people arguing that Country is ‘White people’s music’ and that its success is threatened by any attempts to be more inclusive. We also received more polite arguments that any attempt to gain more listening among Hispanics is an exercise in futility.

But the numbers in our research make two compelling points:

  1. Large numbers of Hispanics already listen to at least some Country music
  2. Failure to appeal to the growing Hispanic population will lead to smaller and smaller shares for Country Radio and Country Music

The latter point is fairly obvious after even a casual study of demographic trends. America is already more than 15% Hispanic, and that number is growing rapidly. Look among the population under 50, and the numbers are often startlingly large in many markets. The first point was perhaps less obvious, but was a clear finding of our national quantitative study. In fact, if you watch the following video, you will see that Hispanics generally approach Country just like most Americans–some like it, some are open to it, and some are not:


As our research showed consistently throughout, the responses of Hispanics with regard to Country music were not nearly as ‘different’ as some people seem to think. While Hispanics are of course vastly more likely to listen to Spanish language formats, commentators seem to hold to a standard of “If they won’t make Country their favorite kind of music it’s not worth trying.”

The Country Radio and Country Music industries simply must acknowledge America’s Hispanic population. We would never consider not targeting those who march in a St. Patrick’s Day parade or celebrate Oktoberfest. Similarly, we must work to engage the Hispanic potential audience.

Yes, you might get an angry email from an angry listener if he finds out your radio station has a booth at a Latin Festival. But the circle represented by that angry emailer is getting smaller all the time.

Hispanics talk of Country Music the same way everyone else does

Watch what these respondents had to say when asked what comes to mind when they think of Country Music: note the words you hear. Other than some being in Spanish, are they any different from what a sampling of non-Hispanic whites would use?


The Hispanic population understands Country music. Some like it, some don’t, just the same as with any other population segment. This is seen in the following video, which shows two Country fans, two respondents who don’t listen to Country but are open to listening more, and two who don’t like Country. Again, you hear the two Country fans sounding just like Country fans from any other immigrant or ethnic group, and same with the Country-dislikers:


We have failed to extend our hand to the Hispanic community

One of the most stunning findings in the study is the answer to the question: “Do you agree or disagree with the statement: Country Radio stations are not interested in appealing to Hispanic listeners.” An incredible and unacceptable 41% of Hispanics agreed with this statement.

Imagine if we asked: “McDonald’s is not interested in getting you to eat at its restaurants.” Does anyone doubt that McDonald’s is interested? Whether you want a Big Mac or not, you know McDonald’s wants you.

And yet, 41% of this group thinks Country Radio does not want Hispanics in their ‘stores’. A large portion of Country Music fans within the Hispanic population felt this is the case.

Part of Hispanic culture is the desire to be asked before entering. They expect an invitation.

Country Radio and Country Music must build bridges to the Hispanic community. Our failure to request their presence is one of the biggest reasons we don’t have more of it.

Marketing will work

We were also told that if the invitation were extended, they would respond. Fully 55% of Hispanics who don’t ‘dislike Country’ told us that “seeing and advertisement for Country Music radio station on Spanish-Language television would make them likely to listen to Country Radio more.”

This is in line with significant amounts of other research we have found on advertising on Spanish media. The mere request for business, especially from a business that has not historically asked for the order among the Hispanic community, will often yield tremendous results.

Watch this tape where we asked our respondents to tell us how to market to them HERE. The answers are astonishing in their clarity and their advice:


On-air adjustments are not needed

The most commonly expected finding among Country Radio programmers was that the data would suggest playing songs from Hispanic artists, running on-air spots in Spanish, or other changes to their on-air approach.

The data argued strongly that this is not what is necessary. Hispanics did not say to us: “Make your stations more Spanish.” Frankly, in most markets they have plenty of Spanish options.

What they told us was: “Tell Hispanics that you want them to listen. They will.”

This is good news all around. The portion of your audience that will interpret efforts to get Hispanic listening as anti-Country or anti-American will have no cause for anger. They will go on hearing the self-same Country radio station they have always been hearing.

What Country Radio needs is to engage in off-air outreach efforts. It needs to market to the Hispanic community, but doing so does not mean Country Radio needs to have more Spanish on the air.


Outreach, outreach, outreach

We will not get listeners from the Hispanic audience in greater numbers until and unless we work for them. We need to come up with specific marketing efforts to reach Hispanics, where they live, where they congregate, and on the media they use.

Advertise on Spanish Media

Nothing would be more effective in the short term.

Hire outside consultants who specialize in marketing and advertising to Hispanics

The last thing we need as an industry is to make mistakes in our approach. There is a famous anecdote taught at all business schools where Chevrolet failed to consider the name of the “Nova” when it began marketing this car in Latin America. Too bad for them, because ‘No va’ in Spanish means “doesn’t go.”

Several consultants have made themselves known to us since presenting the data in Nashville. Contact Edison and we can send you to helpers.

Use your Web site

While you should not change your on-air sound, changing your Web site to make your station more approachable is easy. Creating a Spanish language version of your site might be one approach, and perhaps someone could create an online side-channel of Country radio delivered in Spanish.

Think long-term

Don’t abandon efforts if you buy a flight of Spanish television and don’t immediately ‘pop’ in that book. Attracting the Hispanic audience will take time and likely take some patience.

Obtain endorsements

One of the most powerful strategies might be to approach opinion- and taste-makers in the local Hispanic community. Get them to start listening and talking about your station and their community will begin to follow.

Beyond reading this summary, we recommend you look at the presentation graphs here. and especially to view the videos which are linked throughout this report. Finally, check out Country Radio and Hispanics: Looking Beyond The Misperceptions in this week’s Ross on Radio.

Note to RSS Subscribers: the videos linked throughout this article may not be viewable within your feedreader. Click here to read the article complete with all the videos referenced.

5 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    My name is Rick Trevino. I am a country music singer/songwriter/recording artist for Warner Brothers Records, Nashville. I am 3rd Generation Mexican American. I currently have a single at radio called “Separate Ways”. The video is on CMT and GAC. If you need any help or comments from me regarding the issue of “Hispanics and Country Music” please fell free to contact my manager Milton Walters. 512 251 1308.

  2. Bill Millet
    Bill Millet says:

    The Aug. 1, 2007 presentation of Hispanics and Country – A Deeper Look to the Country Radio Broadcasters and the Country Music Association in Nashville was poorly attended and seemingly under-appreciated, according to those who were there in person. There was no Hispanic representation on the panel and the panelists had no plan to utilize the Edison Report recommendations. An examination of press releases about the event would seem to indicate that Nashville is once again patting itself on the back for being sensitive to the Hispanic community. In reality, the Country Music industry has two primary areas of pain that will continue to get worse if they do not diversify the workplace and provide better opportunities for Latinos in their industry: 1) loss of FM Radio stations to Latino music formats in major markets (as Hispanics become the majority of the population, such as in the Dallas-Fort Worth area); and 2) loss of rack space at major retailers like Walmart.
    Record executives and producers in Nashville do not realize that Latino music producers and Program Directors – associated with the Rock en Espanol and Barchata movement – are now producing music in Spanish that sounds very similar to modern Country that Nashville considers progressive. Only the Hispanic producers and PDs are not calling it Country. Hispanic radio is not willing to give up its 18-25 Hispanic bi-lingual demos – the new big population bubble – to Country Radio. But Country Radio will not be able to grow in the future without this demo.
    National Hispanic leaders are scheduling a major Hispanic summit in Nashville – Fall 07′ – to continue with the Edison Media Research recommendations, and to help Nashville take away some of its pain.

  3. ramen
    ramen says:

    Very interesting article, sure is great food for though. I think no media or business can ignore such a large part of the market, in a world where other business are always hungry for more, you need to see how to reach as much people as possible. Loved the article, great read!

  4. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    I’m Mexican and I love country music! Luke Bryan is my favorite:) I got my sister listening to country and she says she actually likes it:)

  5. Scarlet
    Scarlet says:

    I’m also of latin descent and I absolutely love country music. I have to say that Alan Jackson & Brooks and Dunn are my favorites. 🙂


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