I've thought that there was trouble at the long-running Midnite Jamboree, the free show held at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop on Saturday night following the Grand Ole Opry, for some time. The show, which began in 1947, has undergone a number of changes in recent years. Those changes include an unsuccessful attempt to tape the shows at 10 PM then play them back at midnight the following week and, most recently, weeks of archived shows instead of live broadcasts.
A post on the website of country singer Gary Hayes gives some indication as to just how severe the problem is. Glenn Tubb, the nephew of Ernest Tubb, confirms that the Midnite Jamboree is in serious financial trouble. Hayes reports that it costs approximately $2,500 per broadcast, which is money that the store on Music Valley Drive (where the show is broadcast from) is simply not recovering in sales. Glenn Tubb states (per Hayes' quote), "The record shops can no longer support the MJ because people have quit buying records, thanks to the free downloads on the internet."
The post goes on to say that a "Midnite Jamboree Association" is being formed. Members will make an annual contribution in order to keep the radio show going.
I hate to say this, but I don't think this will help. In the first place, most of the people who go to Nashville as a "country music tourist" no longer care for the history or traditions of country music. This is why the Opry is in bad shape, and that problem is trickling down to the Midnite Jamboree. Secondly, there are few artists who want to support the Midnite Jamboree. When Charlie Louvin appeared on the show in 1993 he stated that the main artists did the show gratis. I don't know if that's true anymore or not, but if it is, what artist is going to sacrifice a paying gig on Saturday night at one of the countless clubs in Nashville (or Branson, or Austin, or Pigeon Forge, or country music cruises or festivals) to do a free show? Alan Jackson did a show downtown at the original store (more precisely, out in the middle of Broadway because of the huge crowd), but that was ages ago. The superstars don't care, and the Opry stars don't care. How can they attract an audience when the singers don't even show an interest?
There are other issues, too: as the blog said, people can obtain music in other places far less expensively than the full list prices at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. Using a popular example, the new Garth Brooks CD is less than $12 at Amazon while nearly $13 at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. Digital download sights offer an even bigger discount. Similarly, the wide array of country music at the stores holds little interest to modern country fans.
The February 14 show, featuring Glenn Douglas Tubb, is scheduled to be the last live Midnite Jamboree until after Memorial Day, well into the "tourist season." Archived shows will run on Saturday night.
I hope the Midnite Jamboree can continue. In order for this to happen, however, the stars and the fans have to band together and support the legendary program.