Music is diverse however its artists are not and female artists are under represented in all genres of music. Although male artists have proven to make ratings on the radio, artists should not be discouraged from entering the music industry based on their gender; therefore, songs which portray women as sexual objects must be eliminated and radio stations should be required to equally represent female and male artists.
A song’s popularity is determined by the broadcasting companies who choose which songs to play across their radio stations each week. Often radio stations play music by artists who have previously proven to make ratings, providing a challenge for new artists entering the music industry. However female artists face the greatest challenge when pursuing a career in music. Though dismissed by the majority of listeners, the ratio of male to female artists on the radio greatly favors men. In 2017 the top 10 artists played on the radio were male, according to Billboard’s Year End Charts. Additionally in rap and country music, male artists represent over 90% of the top 50 songs played on the radio in 2017 (Billboard). In a study taken by Music Victoria, a non profit organization which promotes up-and-coming artists, they discovered that female musicians felt overlooked because of society's perception that a woman was unable to perform on stage as well as a man. The media also plays a role in the creation of this perception of women in the industry as the media often refers to women as female musicians rather than simply musicians (Music Victoria). Furthermore, Forbes found that the five highest paid rap artists are male and of the seven most paid country music artists only one female is represented, Reba McEntire (Forbes).
"Male artists represent over 90% of the top 50 songs played on the radio in 2017"
Every year award shows recognize music’s most listened to artists. The Grammy Awards, music’s biggest night, continue to recognize the same artists each year. In a study by People Magazine they found that “between 2013 and 2018 a total of 90.7% of nominees were male, meaning just 9.3% were women” (People). Award shows argue that female nominees are being recognized; however only two female artists won an award at the Grammys in 2017, one of which won for Female Artist of the Year. Upon their research, People Magazine found that the issue of gender inequality at award shows is a result of the male dominated higher ups who choose the winners each year. At the Grammys in 2017 “two heads of the Recording Academy were honored. Both male. The show is produced by a man. The chairman of the board, vice chair, and president are men” (People). Unfortunately gender inequality at award shows spans beyond the Grammy Awards. In April of 2018, Billboard announced the nominees for this year’s Billboard Music Awards. The nominees for Top Artist of the Year include one female artist, Taylor Swift, while the Top Rap and Top Country Artist of the Year nominees are all male and at the iHeartRadio Awards no female artists were nominated for Top Artist of the Year across all genres of music (Billboard). Recently artist Kelsea Ballerini in response to a poll by our campaign Next Women of Country, which asked fans to vote on which artist they were most looking forward to seeing perform at the American Country Music Awards, stated “I just don’t want the new females in country music to be misrepresented to the fans or the media as the popular girls in high school that pose for pictures like we’re bffs but secretly despise that one that dates the quarterback... This isn’t Mean Girls, this is country music” (Instagram), commenting on how award shows pit artists against each other. Though the poll was harmless it opened up a conversation about artists supporting one another, revealing that just because the top female artists are given recognition at award shows doesn’t mean that all females are receiving the same respect.
“Between 2013 and 2018 a total of 90.7% of nominees were male, meaning just 9.3% were women”
Radio stations cannot enforce what people listen to, however they should not discriminate against artists on the basis of gender. Radio stations assume that listeners prefer one genre over another because of song lyrics; whereas a genre defines “a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Female artists recognize this and as a result are changing the way people perceive rap and country music by writing songs which tell a story. A study we created, found that despite 54% of poll takers commenting that they disliked country music, 95.5% of poll takers admitted that they enjoyed songs which tell a story demonstrating how male artists have created negative stereotypes surrounding country music.
In 2015 radio consultant Keith Hill in an interview with Country Aircheck said “if you want to make ratings in country music, take females out,” later addressing the women in country music as tomatoes in a salad and the males as lettuce, claiming that female artists were an unnecessary addition to the genre (Dries). Upon hearing Keith Hill’s comment, the Tomatogate moment accelerated bringing forth what people knew but no one was talking about. To expose how female artists are breaking down the barriers of country music, the Song Suffragettes, a group of female singer-songwriters lead by artist Kalie Shorr and Todd Cassetty, have been performing in a showcase at The Listening Room in Nashville every Monday since 2015. In the wake of the Why We Wear Black campaign at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards, twenty-three Song Suffragette artists banned together to produce the song Times Up. The women of Song Suffragettes utilized their talent to add their voices to the current conversation on gender inequality and sexual harassment prevalent throughout America and on a local level within the country music industry. In an interview, Candi Carpenter who played a role in the song’s creation posed that,
“if we want to see more women at the top of the charts, we have to support, love, and champion one another without jealousy. Let’s celebrate our differences, and what makes our music unique. Armies can accomplish a lot more than one lone warrior. We are an army of girls with guitars.”
Knowing this we created our campaign to encourage songs which convey women as sexual objects to be eliminated and the equal representation of female and male artists on the radio, at award shows, and on music festival stages. However the main thing a fan can do is legally download music from the artists they like, which sends a message to the labels and radio stations that supporting those artists will make ratings. Rather than complain about how there’s nothing on the radio listeners should become engaged, get involved, and call their local radio station and ask for what they want.
I am currently a student at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles as a marketing major. Upon realizing that I wanted to change the way people perceive country music and to help women have a voice, I began The Women of Country in 2015 promoting new female artists and sharing their stories with the world. You can find me via Instagram @nicolemmarchesi or contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org