MUSIC / If you want to get ahead, get a hat: In America, country music is big business. But how can you sell it in the land of the Ford Escort? Jasper Rees reports from the CMA seminar

ONE LOOK at Garth Brooks or Dwight Yoakam and it's clear why the headliners in the country revival are known as 'hat acts'. They never, but never, take theirs off. If they did, you'd realise why they don't. Unhurt by recession on a worldwide scale, some major country musicians are undergoing a little local hair loss.

They'd have been in top-dollar company at last week's Country Music Association seminar at a ritzy London hotel. The chief prejudice that country faces is that it is too safe and middle-aged, and you could see why when, of all the representatives from the music business who had convened to talk twang, the youngest ones looked senior enough to have teenage children, and had hairlines to match.

The CMA is a trade organisation of which record companies, television and radio stations, tour venues and publishers are all due-paying members. It could only happen with country: somehow you can't see Rai or jazz fusion founding their own equivalent institution. When you hear talk of the Nashville establishment, this is who they mean: the people who determine the parameters of the genre, people like Dan Halyburton, a short, blazered, sensibly moustachioed radio executive from Dallas who is the CMA's current chairman. He takes time out from glad-handing the assembled delegates to explain why some faces don't fit in Nashville.

'Nanci Griffith, just in my view of her work, which is excellent work, was a little toward the folk side of things. I'm a big Lyle Lovett fan - I've got all his albums - but his first album was a strange mix of this fella from Texas who loved big band and quirky offbeat songs. kd lang was always kind of different. There are some guidelines about how you should look and act. Everybody appreciated her musical ability, then she took some politically odd turns and came out against beef. It's a challenge for the record industry to find these acts and have 'em kinda fit.'

Kinda scary. This besuited, benign politburo had descended on London to pool and pick up ideas about breaking country outside its own backyard. CMT Europe, country's equivalent of MTV, has already made a start, but there are still a lot of albums to sell. In the end this was a business meeting like any other. As a promotional video put it with staggering honesty: 'The hot country sound is the sound of cash registers ringing up billions of dollars.'

After half an hour of speeches, the debate was opened to the floor. Someone said that country stars would never make it over here unless they found the time to fly in and promote: Garth Brooks hasn't and Nanci Griffith has, with the result that one is more successful in Britain than the other to a degree that would baffle most Americans. There was a school of thought that we needed our own indigenous country stars for the whole thing to take off. Someone else suggested playing more country on the radio 'but don't tell them it's country'. A former opera singer opined that if Pavarotti could have a number one during an Italian World Cup, then country should hitch its wagon to the American one next year.

The discussion moved along on this level, and the only moment of genuine mouthiness came from Chris Hill of Ensign Records, who have no American parent and so have no country artists on their roster.

'We are a fashion-led country when it comes to music,' he said in the tea interval, 'and that's one of the things that a lot of the people in this room will not understand. If some spiky kid went to Radio One, frightened them by kicking the front door in and said 'Why the hell don't you play this new Trisha Yearwood single?' they would actually think, 'It must be trendy'. ' And steers might fly.

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Arts & Entertainment
Rory Kinnear in his Olivier-winning role as Iago in Othello

Oliviers 2014Actor beat Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston to take the award
Arts & Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for this roles in Sherlock and Star Trek
TV

Arts & Entertainment
theatreAll hail the temporary venue that has shaken things up at the National Theatre
Arts & Entertainment
musicShe is candid, comic and coming our way
Arts & Entertainment
booksHer new novel is about people seeking where they belong
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit