Think super-long tour bus – sponsor ads plastered on the side, bikinied girls hanging out windows, and a guitar-playing hunk at the wheel- No Shoes Radio
Originally published on Suite101 October 19, 2011
When a man becomes an industry, there is no telling what kind of derivative products his name might sell. Sausages took Jimmy Dean from down-home country to Wall Street business. George Foreman and all the little Georges have gone to the bank with George Foreman Grills. Sarah has her perfume, Paris her shoes, and Alec Baldwin’s Here’s the Thing radio program out of WNYC. But for sticking with his roots, few can top Kenny Chesney’s move into radio with No Shoes Radio. Opened for a short run in 2008 and revived to thrive in 2009, No Shoes Radio available worldwide online, via iTunes and other media. In two years, its pulsing beats and Kenny’ed format has caught on among tens of thousands of individual listeners each month.
Kennovations Work on No Shoes Radio
Kenny Chesney is not the first to buy a business that promotes his own music, but No Shoes Radio has a few tropical twists that other star-power entrepreneurs may soon copy. Backed by Kenny money and sponsors, the station doesn’t rely on advertising. Rather, it features short segments paid for by the likes of Hooters and Corona, already heavy riders on the Kenny band wagon. Plus, instead of being an in-name-only owner, Kenny appears in dozens of radio spots, talking about tours, band members, and fans who have struck a special note. Those fans call in on a dedicated phone line with messages of appreciation, questions, or comments about an “outta sight” performance on Kenny’s “Goin’ Coastal” tour.
The Fans Are Always a Focus
Even the cynics in the room have to bow to the sincerity of Kenny’s recognition of the synergy between artist and audience. “It’s awesome to me the number of people who don’t really know who you are, but who’re finding this music now and are curious, and my attitude is always to let people have a sense of who you are, so they know where this music and these songs come from. Because it is my life, or the life of people I know.” At least a portion of Kenny’s fame is anchored in this appreciation of the humanity behind the ticket sales. At one concert this past year, as rain pelted tens of thousands, he openly acknowledged the audience’s musical soul and community spirit.
Slightly ironic, when you consider that for many of these fans, standing in the wet and wind and cold to see Kenny play and sing is a dream come true. Watching the man share his songs and then being able to hear them again on a radio station with the completely come-hither name of “No Shoes Radio” constitutes moments of the good life. Brett James, with whom Kenny co-wrote current hit “Reality”, explains that, “…people come to his shows to escape reality.”
That Tropical Magic at Work
Escapism stands as the classic password of island life, a mental atmosphere that Chesney called on in a previous hit, “No shirt, no shoes, no problem”. The lyrics provided the seed of an idea that has since taken a radio station from simply air waves to air conditioned island breezes. Promoted at every concert to hundreds of thousands of fans, as many as 100,000 in two stadium shows alone, Chesney has tapped into fandom’s desire to stay connected. Kenny’s station, plus Kenny’s tunes amid an eclectic selection of everything from Bob Dylan to the Beastie Boys, draws music lovers of every genre. How can you not feel the gently wet tug of the surf and hear the hiss of a just opening bottle of beer when a constant stream of lilting melodies are soothing your frazzled spirit?
Slip off your shoes, and stay awhile. Turn it up, they’re playin’ our song on No Shoes Radio.