Country music is all about loving life and cherishing the moment. But how can we sing along to those classic country lyrics when we know the harsh truths behind country outlets? Male artists are played disproportionately more than female artists on radio and television networks. I cannot accept this reality, and neither can country greats like Shania Twain, Kacey Musgraves, Gretchen Wilson, Olivia Lane and Jake Owen. They, along with Country Music Television, have started a 50/50 play time initiative to guarantee that female artists are given an equal amount of playtime on radio and television to men.
I am not the only country fan who has been awaiting this necessary change. A recent CMT poll found that over 80 percent of poll takers want equal playing time for men and women. And according to Variety, Amazon Music has found that over the last six months, the request for female artists has risen by 60 percent. So why haven’t country listeners been given what they want in the past? According to a Fox News article on the subject, a deleted tweet by 98 KCQ Country radio station stated that they could not play two female artists directly after one another, no matter how well-known or popular they are. It seems a little odd, right? Yet it gets odder when one discovers that Fox 17 News sought out similar country music radio stations and was met with silence and refusal to make a comment, even by many Nashville-based stations. It seems as though country radio is hiding something, but whatever it may be, I don’t think it’s worth holding on to if it means losing a big portion of their listeners or viewers.
Country artists are anything but quiet about this unequal aspect to their profession. Many are taking to Twitter with plenty to say, as they should. Kacey Musgraves, especially, has brought attention to this subject when she retweeted a tweet from Chris Willman that told a surprising story: at a panel on women in the industry, when asked why Musgraves does not receive a lot of playing time, the panelist’s response was, “Sometimes the best songs win.” Well, Musgraves recently did win – a Grammy, one of the most major indicators that an artist’s songs are of high caliber. This tweet and the story it tells are a mirror to what is going on in country music currently; talented female artists with extremely successful songs are not met with the same enthusiasm from radio stations, producers and others in the music industry as they are from listeners. Instead, they are met with inequality from an industry that seems to favor male artists, leaving women to fend for themselves.
I am not arguing that female artists are more talented than male artists and should receive more airtime than them. I am arguing for equality in the country music industry, and that extremely talented female artists should get the airtime they deserve and aren’t left in the dust because radio stations don’t want to play two females’ songs back-to-back. Talent should dictate who gets on the radio and whose music videos get played on television channels, not gender – and it looks like CMT is the first of hopefully many to take steps to achieve this. This network is working to break down the barriers in country music that have prevented female artists from literally having their voices heard. But who will be next to follow in CMT’s footsteps?