Country Music’s Women Earning Only 10 Percent of Radio Airplay, Chart Spots, New Study Finds
Despite an increased conversation around the gender disparity within country music, female voices make up only 10 percent of "country music culture," a new study finds. That number represents the percentage of radio airplay and chart positions country women are earning as of late.
Jada E. Watson, who has conducted a number of studies on women's representation within country music, released a new study on Monday (Feb. 17), examining gender inequality within the genre in 2019. Although, she points out, 2019 was the year in which Kacey Musgraves won the all-genre Album of the Year award at the Grammys; the Highwomen made their debut; and Maren Morris and Carrie Underwood found success with new albums, among other achievements, women remained underrepresented at country radio and on the country charts.
Per Watson's study, songs by women or groups including women accounted for 10 percent of daily spins per Mediabase's weekly country radio airplay charts throughout the year, and 10 percent of both the Top 10 and Top 20 songs on both Billboard and Mediabase's weekly country radio airplay charts. That 10 percent figure also represents the percentage of songs women or groups with women placed on Billboard's year-end country airplay chart.
"Depending on the time of day a listener tunes in to their local station, that’s barely enough to be heard," Watson writes. "It’s certainly not enough exposure to become known, to build a fanbase, to climb charts, to gain enough recognition to have access to opportunities and resources within the industry."
Indeed, Watson discovered, much of the airplay that country music's women received came in off hours, when fewer people are listening. Of that 10 percent of radio airplay, 29 percent came during overnight hours and 22 percent was during evening slots.
"It’s just enough airplay to show that songs by women are receiving airplay, but not enough to make their work visible to viewers," Watson notes. "Over the last 20 years, women’s music has become invisible through the quota system that has limited their space on playlists and their access to prime location in daily rotation."
Watson's study also looks at how this representation -- or lack thereof -- affects female artists' recognition at awards shows and elsewhere within the genre and the cultural landscape. "With increasingly fewer women participating in the mainstream of the industry throughout this period, female artists have fewer opportunities for exposure, leadership and broader contributory acts throughout the calendar year," she points out.
Watson released her study in conjunction with CMT's newly launched equal play campaign. Beginning in January, the network pledged to institute 50/50 video play for male and female artists on all CMT platforms (the company's previous ratio of male/female artists was 60/40).
To help kick off their new campaign, CMT commissioned a study, released Tuesday (Feb. 18), that shows that the bulk of country listeners want to hear more women on the radio. These findings directly contradict to the long-upheld myth that women don't want to hear women, a theory that's gathered steam among country radio programmers since the '90s.
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