Country Radio’s Female Problem

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Kacey Musgraves and Kelsea Ballerini used their social media platforms to take aim at MacDonald Broadcasting’s 98 KCQ in Saginaw. The Twitter fight began when a Variety editor heard two female artists played back to back on a station in L.A. He jokingly asked on Twitter of the station would be fined for that. That’s when the Saginaw stepped in – foot-in-mouth.

Someone at the Saginaw station tweeted, “We cannot play two females back to back. Not even Lady Antebellum or Little Big Town against another female. I applaud their courage.

That tweet has been deleted but the story, spawned by that one tweet, has been getting national attention.

Country radio has been plagued by the female artist question for years. In fact, it’s one of the questions we asked the PD’s who’ve made our Best Country PD list this year.

Julie Stevens is the PD at Empire Broadcasting’s KRTY-FM in San Jose. “Frankly, I’m tired of it. The truth is, we don’t get as many female songs as male songs and I’ll bet if you looked at the percentage of female acts that get played verses male acts that get played, you would see that the percentages are pretty close. No one wants to talk about that.”

Melissa Frost is the PD for Cenla Broadcasting’s KRRV-FM in Alexandria, LA. This is a subject close to my heart because I’ve been watching this for years! Let’s face it the music business is a hard business for men and women but what happened? When did we go from having female artist like Reba, Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Shaina Twain, The Judds, Chely Wright, Sara Evans, Leann Womack and so many others at the top of the charts and on the radio at any given time to today where you’re lucky if you hear Carrie Underwood, Kelsea Ballerini and Maren Morris within a few hours in a day? I never followed that rule that someone made up about not playing female artist back to back. If it’s a good song then it’s a good song …no matter gender the artist! Some people argue that female artists are just added flavor to your playlist and people don’t really care for them because they can’t sell records, merchandise, and can’t sell out venues and the truth is they can! Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood proved that on their last tours. There are some really talented female artists out there that the world needs to know about and it’s our job to help them be discovered!”

A large percentage of the men who made our list avoided the question completely.

Our Best PD awards will be given out at Bob Kingsley’s Acoustic Alley event Thursday, February 20 in Nashville.

Hubbard Radio’s “Fitz,” who has taken over hosting duties on Bob Kingsley’s Country Countdown did not avoid the question. “We are not being responsible to country music or the format if we are not giving equal promotion and airplay to our female country artists. It’s important and critical to country music, to hear their stories, and get their perspectives, about love, life, and pain, through their music. Let me remind you that it was the ladies who were a major part in building the ORIGINAL foundation of country music. As my Dad says, “Google it!”, or just watch “Country Music, with Ken Burns.” Im excited to announce a NEW feature on CT40 called “Fearless Female of the Week.” It will be our chance to put a spotlight on women who are going above and beyond and who are changing the world around them. I’m also a Father of two daughters. If my little girls decided to pursue a career in country music as an artist, I’d hope that it would be in an industry that is TALENT based, not gender based.”

Even when you’re in a small market, far, far away, one tweet is all it takes to get noticed. And both Musgraves and Ballerini noticed what was said in Saginaw.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Growing up listening to todays country music has been my thing, and to hear that there is a lack of woman on the county airwaves well it’s like Kelsea and Kasey said, it’s BS. in fact there are a lot more female newcomers in the genre right now that really need to be heard, for instance my fav Bailey Bryan, she has a very unqiue approach to country music, the way I would describe her sound would be she turns pop music into country music, which makes it pop-country and has gotten a lot of attention with the fan base, another one I like is Kalie Shorr, songs like Escape, FU Forever, and Two Hands defiantly need to be heard. so the next time you listen to country, check out Perspective, Songbird, and of course Escape and y’all will hear my point.

  2. This is not just a country radio problem. This is a music problem. Take a look at the Alternative Rock chart. Other than Billie Ellish, who do you see? How about Active Rock? Look at Top 40, and the only woman is Lizzo. Before casting the finger at country, fix the rest of the music business. If country wants to fix the woman problem, stop releasing records by men.

    Meanwhile if you look at the Country Top 30 today, there are 7 women, ranging in age from the 50s to the teens. No other genre of music can make that claim. Again, this is NOT a country radio problem.

  3. Perhaps the issue is bigger, as we continue to ignore the fact that 11% of radio stations across the country are programmed by women and that statistic hasn’t changed in 12 YEARS. That is a travesty. And a fact that continues to be swept under the rug.

  4. Female artists don’t research. It’s just that simple. Very few do research well enough in the country format to get power plays/spins…even Carrie and Miranda struggle to research. It’s hard for programmers to play more female artists when listeners rating music rate female artists poorly.

    So why were more female artists played in the early 90’s? Simple. Not as many stations did weekly research.

    Keep complaining all you want about the lack of females. If you are in this fight for more female artists on country radio, the minds and opinions you need to change are the listeners rating music on their favourite radio stations.

    • Hey Mark… what listeners are you talking about? I’m thinking you need to get out of that research box. Dumbest comment I’ve read in a long time. Our listeners really like the newer FEMALE artists and I don’t limit airplay based on gender. Music is music… you can’t OVERTHINK it. There is NOTHING wrong about playing two or even three female artists in a row.My only hard rule is , NO two SLOW songs back to back.No need to sound draggy. LOL.

  5. Glad to see that programming theories from the 1980s are still firmly in place. #winning

    Now we just need to find out why a talent Kacey Musgraves apparently scares that [email protected] out of y’all, since you avoid her like the plague.

  6. I am proud to work for a company that believes in equality and talent over gender. We proudly play female artists back to back sometimes even 3 or 4 in a row, because it’s all about the MUSIC, and NOT about the gender! And, by the way, our listeners LOVE it. #NOTaddedflavor

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