CMT pledges 50/50 video airplay for women; Tomatogate continues

Effective immediately across CMT and CMT music channels

CMT has just announced that it will institute 50/50 video airplay for female artists on both CMT and CMT Music channels, effective immediately. The news was shared this morning by @CMT on Twitter. Out of the full 29-hour primetime video hours across platforms, females are guaranteed to account for half, an increase from the 40/60 ratio, favoring the men.

“Time is really up in 2020! All the talk around what can be done to support females in country music needs to transform into action, once and for all,” shares Leslie Fram, SVP of Music & Talent, CMT. “At CMT, we are stepping up our own commitments, in addition to our work through the CMT Next Women of Country franchise, and will be announcing a new initiative in the coming weeks that will spark this much-needed change in our industry.”

Last week, Fram appeared on TBS’ Full Frontal With Samantha Bee to discuss the issue of sexism in country music. The piece was filmed on-site at CMT’s Next Women of Country event with Brandi Carlile and Tanya Tucker, plus features interviews with Margo Price & Mickey Guyton. The segment sparked an outpouring of coverage of the issue from The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, NPR and more.

CMT remains committed to advancing females in country music and will announce additional initiatives within the coming weeks to create action and change in our industry.

The news comes following a backlash from fans and artists over male parity on the radio. Kelsea Ballerini, Kacey Musgraves, Martina McBride, Jennifer Nettles and Brandi Carlile have all spoken out about radio station programmers refusing to play women back to back.

“If you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out,” Keith Hill, who calls himself “The World’s Leading Authority In Music Scheduling,” said in 2015, which is now referred as Tomatogate. “Trust me, I play great female records and we’ve got some right now; they’re just not the lettuce in our salad. The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists like that. The tomatoes of our salad are the females.”

Five years later Hill says the situation hasn’t changed for the better as he provides more incite into why women aren’t played back to back.

“Radio programmers in country try to get listeners to listen longer periods of time. That’s what drives up ratings. And clusters of sameness slows back to back… we wouldn’t do that either,” he says in a series of new tweets. “The two oldest songs in an hour back to back… we wouldn’t do that. Since country music libraries have many fewer titles by female artist we keep them apart to create the perception of variety and drive loner time spent listening and longer time spent exposed to the stations!”

He goes a bit more in depth on his website, claiming that all 2200 country radio stations agree to play more men than women.

“Has anyone ever infiltrated their ‘super-secret’ conference call where they decide to uniformly and in lockstep systematically agree to add records sung by anatomical men and NOT TO PLAY songs by those with female body parts?” he states. “I wish I could operate on WHAT I WANTED. I wish I could operate with that kind of EMOTIONAL decision making. Instead, I live in a world of measurable metrics. Radio plays songs that drive ratings up. Hence, that’s why nothing has changed in 5 years.

“Does anybody want to take my bet that it will be 15% females on country radio on Jan 17, 2025? Hint! I’ve studied this WHITE, BLACK, HISPANIC, MALE, FEMALE, BALLADS, TEMPO RECORDS BULLS#!+ FOR 35 YEARS!”

Hill also claims Maren Morris’ No. 1 “Girl” was manipulated to receive the accolade.

“Had Columbia [Sony Music Nashville] not called and asked stations to hold back on spins on [labelmate] Luke Combs – Beer Never Broke My Heart the song ‘Girl’ by Maren Morris would probably never reached the #1 spot on any chart,” he claims. “I thought record ‘promotion’ fundamentally was about getting more spins and exposure on their records.”

We are on board with starting the #WomenInCountry movement.

Author: Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.