Spurning the strategy of successful country artists such as Shania Twain and Faith Hill, the Dixie Chicks have opted not to become crossover artists-meaning they won't water down their country sound to appeal to a more mainstream pop or rock audience, considered a safer marketing tack by many.
In so doing, the group is becoming a case study in how music companies are acceding to the wishes of new artists, forgoing short-term sales gains and, instead, managing their music assets for the long term.
THROUGH THE MEDIA
"The way we view crossover is what we do with media, touring and marketing" not changing the music, said Mike Kraski, senior VP-sales and marketing for Sony Music Nashville, which owns Monument Records, the band's record label.
The Dixie Chicks, for example, are to be profiled in a new spinoff of VH1's "Behind the Music" show that will do a series on current artists. The series focuses on musical acts of the '60s, '70s and '80s and rarely profiles country artists.
To promote the Aug. 31 release of their second album, "Fly," the group has been booked to appear during this summer's Lilith Fair tour, which customarily features a broad range of mostly rock and pop female artists and doesn't normally include country acts.
"[The Lilith tour] exposes them to people who don't listen to country radio," said Mr. Kraski.
RADIO CONCERT PLANNED
The group also is bringing its music to the masses by producing a syndicated half-hour radio concert that will air Aug. 24 with the AMFM Inc. radio networks and launching a new single, "Ready to Run," with the July 30 release of the Richard Gere/Julia Roberts movie "Runaway Bride."
Both "Ready to Run" and a remake of "You Can't Hurry Love" will be on the movie's sound track CD.
The Chicks are searching for more ties with consumer-product marketers, as a follow-up on this year's appearance in a print ad campaign for Candie's shoes.
"We were in magazines we wouldn't normally be in-Elle and Harper's Bazaar," said Simon Renshaw, manager of the group. "Traditionally, you can't get in there."
TV ADS ON TWO SHOWS
For the upcoming album, Mr. Kraski said ad buys have been set for the WB's "Dawson's Creek" and NBC's "Friends."
The Dixie Chicks also are buying ad time on cable's Lifetime Television and VH1, which played their first video despite the group rejecting the network's request for a remixed version leaving out the banjos and fiddles, he said. The ads are being done in-house.
Mr. Renshaw plans more consumer promotions to extend the Chicks' name, including an outdoor campaign for the new album.
Ever since the release of "Wide Open Spaces" last year, a double-platinum CD that sold 6 million copies, there's been tremendous temptation to go mainstream. Big sales and interest in the Chicks also whetted the appetite of many non-country music stations to play their music.
But some stations requested the music be "remixed," said Sony Music executives, to create a mainstream rock/pop music feel sans the country-tinged instruments.
KEEPING THEIR INTEGRITY
"The Chicks' argument is that this alters their sound and doesn't make them who they are anymore," said Larry Pareigis, VP-national promotions for Monument.
"The difference with what we have done with the girls is keeping their musical