As of August 18th, Colt Ford’s new album Declaration of Independence is the best selling Country Music album in the nation (Nielsen Soundscan). However, what a soundscan won’t reveal is how Colt Ford managed to get to the top without any radio airtime or support from Country music stations across the nation.
Posing this very question at Chuck Dauphin, editor at Music News Nashville during a “#CMchat” twitter discussion panel hosted by social blogger Jessica Northey from Finger Candy Media, I got the following response:
Colt Ford has a ton of fans….and they have followed him for a while. Smart guy!
— Chuck Dauphin (@ChuckDauphin) August 21, 2012
If you’re new to Colt Ford and you happen to add Declaration of Independence to your digital music library you’ll quickly find out that he is independently signed with Average Joes Entertainment, his very own label. The genre assigned to this album is Country & Folk, while it probably should be Country & Rap due to the fact that Colt uses “spoken word” to express himself musically. In an interview held in April of 2010, Colt was asked about the “cross-over” genre Country-Rap. He was quite blunt about his answer and insisted that “he doesn’t really like the term country/rap. A lot of people think that’s negative … where I think they’re confused at, rap is not a genre. Hip-hop is a genre…”
Since then, rap has influenced many different country stars as well. In fact, Toby Keith‘s big hit “Talk About Me,” which includes a “spoken word” segment, was one of the audience favorites when Toby performed at the San Manuel Amphitheater in Devore, CA last week. Some of artists close to Colt have actually gone ahead and cut his tracks on their own albums. The most successful example is “Dirt Road Anthem” currently one of Jason Aldean‘s biggest hits.
Colt Ford’s success cannot be traced back to Jason’s support alone. Other artist on his fresh new album include Jake Owen, Darius Rucker, LoCash Cowboys, Jerrod Niemann, Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley – all of which not only collaborated with him musically, but also supported Colt’s marketing strategies most avidly. In a way that is the second reason that makes Colt such a “smart guy” (borrowing Chuck Daughin’s tweet once again.) Colt has always been a master in the art of social media marketing and getting fans hyped up about his upcoming releases, shows and exclusive content. Seeing it from one of his die-hard twitter follower’s perspective, there’s hardly anything more exciting than @ColtFord tweeting a thank you note celebrating his No. 1 success.
What a day to have the #1 Record in the Country. WOW it is all because of yall. Thank you so much from the bottom of My Heart I Love Y’all
— Colt Ford (@coltford) August 15, 2012
Colt was not the first artist to fuse a formulaic music genre with hip hop. Many artist had done it before him. Kid Rock, for instance was one of the first pioneers of “cross-over” rock. In fact he has become so popular that just recently he’s managed to make his mark in classical music as well. (Read about how he helped the Detroit Symphony out of a massive slump.) Other artists like Everlast (Whitney Ford) actually crossed over from hip hop to start a career in acoustic blues-rock, using rap as their musical form of expression. While not literally “crossing-over” Colt found his influences in hip-hop as well. In the same 2010 interview he states “I grew up listening to country, so I knew about that. And then, like a lot of kids, I Iiked a lot of the hip-hop stuff. I liked Run-DMC and a lot of different genres, and for me to make a recored, I had to be honest.”
In an interview with Detroit’s 99.5 WYCD, Colt discusses the authenticity of his music. “It’s just so personal for me,” he says of “Back.” “Really, that song is my life right there in front of you. Everything in that story is real.” The honest representation of reality he refers to is easily found in his lyrics and the content of his songs, which constitutes the third reason behind his success. The lyrical flow speaks to his young audience, who have artists like LMFAO and Chris Brown on their mp3 playlists along with Colt Ford and Blake Shelton. However, inviting artists to collaborate with him isn’t always easy. When asked about this new track “Black” featuring Jake Owen, Colt mentions that it took quite a bit of convincing Jake’s label, that this was indeed the right move.
In spite of the fact that he remains unsupported by radio stations and airplay, he found his way to the top harvesting the genuine friendships with artists like Jake Owen and Jason Aldean. He was carried by the support of his fans using guerilla marketing strategies and the power of social media. Perhaps the story of his success is spinning a larger tale about the future of radio and the art of marketing music in general. Putting it plainly: It’s always nice to hear country artists on the radio, but their exposure on Facebook and Twitter directly effects the measure of their success.
Find out when Colt Ford is coming to your city!