Study: Lack of Female Artists on Country Radio is Real


On Friday a study was released by The University of Ottawa’s Jada E. Watson in consultation with WOMAN Nashville called “Gender Representation on Country Radio: A Study of Published Reports from 2000-2018.” It revealed a huge disparity between the airplay male and female country artists receive at country radio. It’s a story that has plagued country radio for a very long time.

The report looked at a number of data subsets going back to the turn of the century. The authors of the study say the situation is not improving at all on country radio. In fact, they say, it’s getting significantly worse.

The study shows that the most-played male artist at country radio from 2000-2018, Kenny Chesney, earned more than 6 million spins. Superstar Carrie Underwood earned about 3 million spins, showing that country music’s biggest female superstars are subject to a two-to-one disparity in airplay compared to men.

The findings also show that spins for male artists during their worst years on the charts were still better than female artist’s best numbers for those same periods of time.

Billboard reports from its sources that some of the reasons given for lack of female airplay on country radio include deregulation and automation. “Since the Telecommunications Act was passed in 1996, deregulation allowed for radio conglomerates like Clear Channel, which narrowed the number of unique decision-makers dictating what was allowed the chance to become a hit. Additionally, the invention of automation created opportunities for programmers to schedule songs based on an artist’s gender, or filter songs out of rotation by the same metric.”

Dr. Watson says, “People can only aspire to what they can see — or hear. This report should serve as a warning that urgent action is needed to correct the course and work toward a more inclusive genre that reflects its diverse and growing audience

Read the 5-page summary of the study HERE


  1. These numbers reflect the preferences of country radio listeners, NOT the automation companies, music schedulers, radio corporations (large or small), or any other such nonsense. Radio stations fine tune their programming to attract the largest possible audience within their genre. Country radio is no exception. The real question here, which nobody seems to want to address, is why country radio listeners prefer more male vocalists in the mix than female vocalists. Who’s going to step up to the plate and conduct that research study? Be sure to focus on WHY this preference exists. Don’t just try to prove the bias exists because that would be a waste of time and money. Country radio’s already done that research for you.

  2. Guess we will all have to face up to a reality:
    Country programmers don’t like girls.
    What they do like are boys singing songs for boys.
    Now, I’m not reading anything into that or nuthin.
    That would be, like, weird? 🙂

    • Actually the country audience is more female than male. The men who listen tend to be husbands or boyfriends of women who listen. So no, it’s not boys singing for boys, it’s boys singing for girls. Go to any country concert, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. This is not a radio thing, but a music thing. And BTW a lot of country programmers and DJs are women. The fact that they’re women doesn’t mean they play more women on the radio.

    • Who do we think we are telling people what to like? If more country music listeners, male and female alike, prefer more songs by male artists, then why would you put on your goody-two-shoes social justice attitude and tell them they’re wrong-headed? It’s true this is not a new thing. What the stomping and storming protestors in the gallery fail to realize, partly from failing to hear the message, is that the music industry and the country radio programmers have only succeeded by serving their audience. Trends come and go. Change is slow (slower than most are willing to tolerate). And the tide will reflect what hoi polloi wants to hear. If you want to change what the audience in general prefers to hear, then maybe you should buy a bunch of TV time like they do for the anti-smoking campaigns. This is your brain on Male Country Artists. That kind of thing. And let’s see what happens.

  3. BTW in case anyone thinks this report is strictly about an AM/FM radio thing, it’s not. Sirius/XM reports to the Medabase chart. I looked at the playlist for The Highway, and they play 18 songs an hour, only 2-3 are by women. Also if you look at the Billboard Hot Country chart, it incorporates streaming and sales data, and it also shows a very pronounced male bias. So when people choose music on their own, not from radio programmers, they choose male artists rather than women. Sociologists should study something they know (people) rather than something they don’t (radio.) They might get to the real heart of the matter here, and that is people like what they like, regardless of gender.

  4. Country radio has ALWAYS been dominated by the men. Ask Dolly Parton. Ask Loretta Lynn. It has nothing to do with the number of female programmers or consultants. It has to do with the genre. There was a similar study ten years ago pointing out the lack of black singers in country music. Then Darius Rucker came along. There was another study saying there wasn’t any fiddle or steel in country music any more. They called it Murder on Music Row (sung and written by men, BTW). You can look at the charts and note a lack of teenagers in the chart. There’s a lack of musicians from the northeast in the country chart. But none of this matters. The study suggests it’s a quantity thing. It’s not. If women are looking for role models, they exist now just as they did in the 70s. The lack of women on the radio in the 70s didn’t stop women like Patty Loveless or Trisha Yearwood from getting into country. They got into country music because it’s what they did and because it’s what they loved, and they were going to succeed regardless of past history. Maybe we need some of that now.

  5. Looking back at late 90’s we had several females on playlist. Faith Hill, Shania Twain, JoDee Messina, Sara Evans, Martina McBride,(the late) Mindy McCreedy, The Dixie Chicks, Reba and a few more. Some refer to this as the “man bashing” era. The artists however were very diverse with a distinctive vocal style and look. Some being the best vocally the format has ever heard. The songs were cleverly written about several subjects. The artist was not the writer on several occasions. There were a lot of big hits that were up tempo, with catchy hooks and even though some male gender bashing was happening, it was a fun poke at how guys really are. The current Kelsea Ballerini song seems to kinda fit this template and is a hit.


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