2000: Country radio wars! - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

2000: Country radio wars!

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(WAOW) -- It's time for another throwback Thursday, as we celebrate 50 years on TV. This week -- we're talking radio wars!

In 2000, country music was really heating up in popularity in Central Wisconsin.

Many radio stations are trying to cash in on an audience that continues to draw big numbers.

Mark Skibba programs the music at WDEZ. He says the country craze started with just one man back in the early 1990s.

“There was one guy in country music, Garth Brooks, he showed up on the scene in 1990. And a lot of people came to the format then. So, if you play music from before then, they are not as familiar with it. If you play only music after then, then the people that listen before then don't know what the old stuff is,” Skibba said.

Skibba says country music has undergone some big changes over the last decade. Many stations that play the format continue to go back and forth between playing the new country and the classic country hits.

Bill Mitchell began his radio career in the 1970s. He says in the last decade, the format has gone to a twang sound to more of a pop sound.

“I remember when the format was called country and western and there were differences between that,” Mitchell said.

WYTE in Stevens Point used to be know for playing almost nothing but new country. But they recently went back to playing more classic country hits after they noticed a demand for it not being met by any of the other stations.

“When I came here to this station about 10 weeks ago, they were playing nothing but the new country. And I think you have to play a complete country package to get an overall audience.”

That audience continues to get bigger, allowing some of the hottest country stars to get air time on other stations.

“Our goal is to make those songs ours and then when a listener hears it on another radio station, their comment is, 'hey, why are they playing country, it's so good, I can go to WDEZ and get some more,'” Skibba said.

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