News February 19, 2020

Are female country music acts getting a fair go on the radio?

Managing Editor
Are female country music acts getting a fair go on the radio?
Amber Lawrence hosting her iHeartCountry Australia radio show

fans really do want to hear more female artists on the wireless, according to a new study commissioned by US channel CMT.

It follows the country music television network’s announcement that music video programming blocks will now consist of 50% female artists.

The report, conducted by Coleman Insights, surveyed 1,000 radio listeners aged 25-54 who identified as fans of the genre.

The results were revealing and debunked the age-old myth that male voices carry more influence and keep people listening for longer.

program director Tim Daley recalls an adolescent schooling by his first boss – Country Radio Hall of Fame inductee, Don Rhea – to “never play two females back to back”.

“This perception in US country radio that fans are female, and that females want to hear males on the radio goes back to the 50s, maybe earlier,” Daley tells TMN.

“It’s entrenched thinking with US country radio programmers. And it hasn’t changed.”

Most enlightening from the new report was the fact that 84% of respondents want equal playtime for female artists on playlists, backed up by a belief that 88% think women play a large part in the history of country music.

Fans of all genders and ages are aware that male artists get more play than female artists on stations with a country music format, but most – 53% to be exact – have no gender preference at all. A result that may cause some old-school programmers to fall off their rocking horse.

A whopping 72% of listeners agreed that they do indeed hear more songs by men on country music stations, than songs by women.

Not only do country listeners want equal airplay for women, but 28% would even dedicate more listening time “if women specifically were highlighted”.

How about Down Under?

Closer to home, inside Australia’s burgeoning country music bubble, it appears programmers are well ahead of their US contemporaries.

TMN spoke with a number of industry insiders on Wednesday morning, nearly all of which said that gender bias might exist in other genres locally, but not in country music.

Take a look at this week’s CMC Top 50 Chart and women are on an almost equal playing field. Within the coveted Top 20, almost 50% comprises of female artists or groups.

CMC told TMN that women represented 35% of its airtime in 2019, but that’s not counting groups with primarily female leads like Little Big Town, Lady Antebellum and Jetty Road.

“It’s always a part of our thinking,” says Daley. “On International Women’s Day, we’ll be 100% female, with a few exceptions.

“We would be closer to 50% if the video releases from North America was closer to 50% female.”

It’s a similar story on the TMN Country Hot 50 Chart. About half of the 20 most-played songs on the country music stations that contribute data through Radio Monitor are performed by women.

Melanie Dyer’s ‘Memphis T-Shirt’ is the only track to rack up more than five weeks in the #1 position since the airplay chart re-launched in 2019.

Homegrown country music favourite, Amber Lawrence, who has topped charts and hosts a show for Australian Radio Network’s iHeartRadio, says female acts are getting a fair go.

“This week on iHeartCountry Australia, I have four interviews scheduled, all are women,” says Lawrence.

“I really don’t know if fans have a gender preference, but they certainly have a preference for catchy, strong, upbeat country songs at the moment.

“And I can see that reflected in the charts, regardless of gender.”

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