by Jada E. Watson
“Play our F*@#in records please and thank you.” Those were the words written inside the stunning Christian Siriano and Alice Mizrachi-designed cape worn by Jennifer Nettles on the red carpet of the November 2019 Country Music Association Awards. With “Equal Play” written across the back, Nettles made sure that the issues facing women at country radio were a topic of discussion before the ceremony even began. While there was no talk of unequal airplay inside Bridgestone Arena that night, Nettles’ fashion statement underscored the problem and made a critical mark on the event.
Today SongData is releasing a its second Report on Gender Representation on Country Music Radio, a follow-up to the April 2019 study of the yearend and weekly reports. The Report released today analyzes gender representation on weekly reports between 2002 and 2018, focusing on how men, women and male-female artists are represented by total spins and according to the five departs. A 7-page Brief provides a snapshot of the study’s findings. The full analysis can be read in the Report.
This report was prepared in consultation with WOMAN Nashville.
In April 2019, SongData published a study on radio airplay. Prepared in consultation with WOMAN Nashville, the report examined gender representation on country format radio by analyzing the airplay received by men, women and male-female ensembles on the yearend (2000-2018) and weekly (2002-2018) reports. This was the first study to evaluate gender representation by spin data, and it offered a new perspective on how women factor into programming decisions.
The key findings for that report include:
- An average of 18.4% of songs across the yearend country airplay reports from 2000 to 2018 were by women;
- Women are gradually filtered out of the top positions of the yearend reports, with 10% in the Top 20, 7 % in the Top 10 and no #1 songs;
- Total annual spins for male artists in the Top 150 of the yearend reports increases from 5.8 million in 2000 to 10.3 million in 2018, while spins for women decrease from 2.8 to 1.1 million resulting in a 9.7 to 1 ratio by 2018;
- An average of 19.6% of songs across the weekly airplay report from 2002 to 2018 were by women, this number includes 8.8% current songs and 10.7% recurrent songs;
- Like the yearend reports, women are filtered out of the top spots of the weekly reports, with an 8.8% average of songs in the Top 10 between 2014 and 2018.
In this study, the last five years (and in some cases 2018, specifically) emerged as particularly alarming years for country music culture. Results show that, despite heightened awareness to inequality on radio since 2015, the number of women and male-female ensembles – and the number of songs by them – declined to drastic points. Women received such an incredibly small percentage of radio airplay that they did not receive enough spins to tank in the top positions of the weekly charts or even make the Top 10 of the yearend reports.
While these statistics were troubling, to be sure, many questions remain about how women are factor into daily programming decisions. One of the looming questions surrounds the daily distribution of spins. Part 1 revealed a significant decline in the number of overall spins for songs by women between 2000 and 2018, but how does this play out on a weekly basis and throughout the 24 hour day cycle? How many times a day does a song by a female artist actually get heard by the listening audience? At what time of day is an audience most likely to hear a woman’s voice? These questions are critical to this discussion, not just because they give us a sense of how often and when songs by women are programmed are on country radio, but because they also tell us about the experiences of listeners. Radio plays an important role in introducing new songs and artists, but in this role they also shape the genre’s culture and the listening audience’s perception of who is contributing to country music. With so few songs by women included in daily programming, audiences are becoming increasingly unfamiliar with women’s voices and stories. This is damaging to the genre, to its artists building careers from the exposure radio provides, and to the audience that looks to radio as a guide for what constitutes current country music. It also sends a harmful message about how women are valued in society.
“When entire groups of people register overall the same percentage of spins as the privileged group do in one daypart, we are dealing with levels of inequity that are culturally damaging.’
Using the same dataset that formed the basis of the analysis of Part 2 of the April 2019 report, this new study released today evaluates representation of spins for songs by men, women and male-female ensembles on the weekly reports as played across the five dayparts. These results show disheartening inequity. Women are not receiving anywhere near the same amount of spins in any daypart as their male colleagues and the difference has grown significantly. The last five years emerge as problematic here, too, showing a significant lack of diversity and that women are not afforded the same opportunities as men. The results presented here provide a clearer perspective of the gravity of the imbalance on terrestrial radio and further underscore theinequality in country music culture.
Inquiries and requests to use or reproduce graphics can be sent to Jada Watson at info@SongData.ca.