This morning when I received my daily email from the Nashville Tennessean, that was the headline that greeted me. I read the article and wanted to think about it for a little while before offering a response on a topic that I am sure is creating a lot of interest and talk.
First, to give credit where credit is due, the article was written by Cindy Watts and she did a nice job with it. I recommend that if you have not read it, please do. Secondly, I do want to point out that I have met and talked to Steve Buchanan twice. Once in the Ryman gift shop, several years back, and once backstage at the Opry. Both were very short conversations, nothing special, lasting less than a minute. I have met Pete Fisher a couple of times and like my conversations with Steve, they were very short.
Now in reading the article, it is a great public relations piece if you are Steve Buchanan. Based on the article, a reader would think that there would be no Ryman Auditorium, no renovated Opry House and no Opry itself, if not for Steve and his team.
Just to be clear on a couple of points, yes Steve was in charge when the Ryman Auditorium was renovated and it is an outstanding facility, And I agree it might be the best concert hall in the country. But, the plans were in place to renovate the building long before Steve took charge. Bud Wendell was the man behind it, and while he does give credit to Bud, it should be noted that the only reason Steve was involved was because Bud Wendell put him in that position.
Steve Buchanan, Pete Fisher and the entire Opry management deserve all the credit in the world for the job that they did after the flood of the Opry House. I know they worked hard to save the historical items and keeping the Opry going. If there was ever a time to shut down the Opry, as many of us have thought Gaylord would do at some point, it would have been then. Colin Reed gave the financial support to rebuild the Opry House and they did a great job, especially in the backstage area. I personally would have like to have seen more items out front, where the average fan can see it without paying $20 for a backstage tour, but it is what it is. We cannot change it.
Now, for a couple of quotes from the article:
*"Since accepting that first job, the bulk of Buchanan's decades-long career has been driven by one thing: keeping the Grand Ole Opry healthy."
*"It was critical that we change how people thought about the Opry. Any business that's been around 80-plus years has to continually be working to embrace a new fan base."
I don't doubt that Steve Buchanan and Pete Fisher want to keep the Opry healthy and doing well. But, the way they are going about it has just been bad. Let's add it up: 1) Huge increase in ticket prices. 2) Cutting the number of shows. 3) Cutting the length of the shows 4) Cutting the number of artists per show. 5) Cutting the veteran acts on the show, with an emphasis on new country artists. 6) Making Opry membership less important as more non-Opry acts perform on most shows then actual Opry members. 7) Decreasing the importance of the Opry Birthday Celebration. 8) Not having a television deal. 9) Showing disrespect toward the veteran Opry members to the point that if they speak out, they lose appearance slots.
Yes, they have changed the way people think about the Opry. The older fan base, which supported the show each week, has left. Many who do come are turned off that on many nights, the Opry has turned into more of a rock concert then a country music show. They continue to market the younger fans, who do come when there is a special act that they want to see. Yes, they will sell out when Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban or Blake Shelton is there, but other nights, plenty of tickets can be had. And oh, because so many of these new fans are coming just to see a particular act, when a star act cancels out, the Opry has a public relations issue to deal with.
Now for the "Nashville" show. It would seem that Steve Buchanan has tied the Opry's future into this show. I will ask the question, how many of the fans who watch the show now think that Juliette Barnes is an actual Opry member? And it was nice that Brad Paisley found time to "induct" her on the televison show!! Each week, the Opry seems to have at least one or two members of the Nashville cast on the Opry. Heck, most of them are on more than a majority of the Opry's members. The next question is what is Steve Buchanan going to do when Nashville gets cancelled, which might happen as soon as this Spring? I guess he goes to Plan B.
Despite everything, we still go to the Opry and support the show. I know a few who are almost at the point of no return. I'm not there and will continue to go as I do love the Opry. It is still a great show.
I think I have run out of steam and will leave it at that. Please take the time to read the article and I would like to hear what others think.