Story at a glance

  • In January, Country Music Television announced that it will start giving equal airtime to male and female country music artists.
  • A new study shows that a majority of country music listeners want equal play for female artists on the radio as well.
  • Seven out of 10 listeners also want more female artists in the genre, research found.

Beer, trucks and girls — that’s the stereotypical image of country music in America. And while there are countless songs about girls, there are much fewer by them. 

New research, however, shows that it’s not because country radio listeners don’t want to hear music by female artists. More than 8 out of 10 of listeners want equal play for female and male country artists on the radio, while 7 out of 10 say they want more female artists in the genre, according to a new study. 

But between 2014 and 2018, only 16 percent of top country songs were by female artists, with even fewer female songwriters, according to a study

“The age-old myth that ‘women don’t want to hear women’ has led to a multitude of unproven public claims about female voices on the air, including ‘you can’t play two women back-to-back’ or ‘ratings drop when you play women’” said Leslie Fram, Senior Vice President of Music & Talent at CMT, in a release. “When we approached Coleman Insights about this specific line of research, we were shocked to learn no one had ever commissioned data on the listeners themselves.”

The data showed that 72 percent of country listeners report hearing more songs by men on the radio. At the same time, 53 percent of listeners reported no gender preference, and 88 percent acknowledged that female voices have played a pivotal role in the genre's history. 

“This tells us country music fans want to hear good songs period. But it also tells us that we are training listeners not to hear female voices. Without creating an equal playing field, fans don’t know what they are missing. This is about a balance of gender and diversity. It’s essential for all voices to be heard,” Fram said. 

In a SongData study about inequality on country music radio, principal investigator Jada Wilson explained that without ample air time, female artists can not get enough exposure to become known, build a fanbase, climb charts and be recognized in the industry.

The investigation is part of CMT's Equal Play campaign, a year long initiative to increase female representation in country music. In January, CMT committed to equal air time for male and female country music artists on both its channel and sister channel CMT Music.

Published on Feb 18, 2020