Are women relevant to country radio? The answer to that question shouldn’t even need to be addressed with the female country stars it helped birth, but a country radio programmer is making headlines after making many controversial comments in not one, but TWO publications this week.
Keith Hill, who calls himself “The Worlds Leading Authority In Music Scheduling” (vomit), first spoke to Nashville publication, Country Aircheck, on his rather asinine opinion as to why he doesn’t play many women on the radio and why other programmers should follow his lead.
“If you want to make ratings in Country radio, take females out,” he states in the article. He claims that his market research states mainstream country radio generates 70-75% more female listeners who “like male artists.”
“Trust me, I play great female records and we’ve got some right now; they’re just not the lettuce in our salad,” Hill asserts. “The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists like that. The tomatoes of our salad are the females.”
Really? Just really? A salad? That’s the best you have, Hill? Come on! Country females dominated the charts in the ’80s and ’90s… McBride, Reba, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Terri Clark, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Patty Loveless, The Judds, Wynonna Judd, Barbara Mandrell, Tammy Wynette, Suzy Bogguss, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis, Alison Krauss and many more!
Where are these artists now? Many are still recording music but Hill and his corporate cronies aren’t playing them so they aren’t being heard on mainstream radio. Luckily, Cumulus and Big Machine Label Group have joined forces to play newer and OLDER songs from these artists (and the males, too) with NASH ICON so they have an outlet to be heard. Why? BECAUSE THEY NEED TO BE HEARD!
Another example of why many of these artists aren’t being heard anymore is because many stations delete older songs from artists, especially females.
“Don’t treat your library like a room with one door. If you bring songs in, take songs out,” Hill states.
I have had a radio DJ tell me in person that management at their station went through their catalog and deleted most of Reba’s pre-2000 songs — when she mostly dominated the charts — because “they didn’t have room” for them anymore. Imagine how many other artists (male and female) have received this treatment from the more than 2,500 country stations in the nation.
Country singers Jennifer Nettles and Martina McBride both took to social media to express their disgust with Hill.
Nettles tweeted, “I see an opportunity here. I big ole vagina shaped opportunity” while McBride took a more formal approach.
“Wow …. just wow,” McBride writes. “Just read this from a major country radio publication. How do you feel about this statement? I especially want to hear from the females. Do you not like to hear other women singing about what you are going through as women? I’m really curious. Because to me, country music is about relating. Someone relating to what you are really going through on a day to day basis in your life. Did you girls (core female listeners) know you were being ‘assessed’ in this way? Is this how you really feel? Hmmm…”
CMT’s Alison Bonaguro spoke with Hill about Nettles’ and McBride’s comments and just seemed to make things worse.
“The producers of country music all want to sell a lot of records,” Hill states. “They don’t want to sell just a few. And they aren’t personally motivated by wanting to get women back on the air or wanting to get the banjo back on the radio. They’d would make Balinese gong records backwards if they sold the most.”
He also claims, “I don’t know why people want to gargle glass and eat razor blades when there’s donuts and salad.”
CMT president Brian Philips told the Tennessean that radio programmers should stop making up rules, such as not playing women back to back on country radio, and just focus on finding talent.
“It is an industry trying to come to terms with living in a moment and trying to mark it off by saying, ‘This doesn’t work.’ It is a mysterious art form,” Philips says. “One day somebody shows up and the universe gets turned upside down and everything you thought was true is no longer true. That is the miracle of Nashville.
“Everybody needs to cool off and do their jobs. They will recognize talent when it walks through the door and there will be much celebration. These imaginary rules that have people laughing at us have got to stop.”
I fully applaud Philips and his comments, however, I doubt the current “formula” will change. Instead of playing this hip hop infused B.S. that’s labeled country these days, programmers should be playing actual artists that have talent and that includes females. Programmed drums and other effects don’t constitute “country.” Sure, genres change and blend all the time, but all you hear on today’s radio is a male artist singing bro country songs with the same hip hop infused beat. It’s rather sickening if you ask me.
I think women are very relevant in country radio today. Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift (pre-1989) have made a killing at radio. However, they are only three artists compared to the dozens in the past three decades. Maddie & Tae, Mickey Guyton, Kelsea Ballerini and a few other females are having some success at radio, but not nearly the support of previous female chart toppers.
We are on board with starting the #WomenInCountry movement along with 2Steel Girls and their Facebook page “Support Country Female Artists” which received over one thousand “Likes” the first day it was launched on Wednesday (May 27th). Share this article and tweet your favorite female country star using the #WomenInCountry hashtag and make country radio programmers know that listeners do want to hear their favorite female country artists played more than a couple of times a day, if that.