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Big Radio's Big Problems
Country radio has a huge problem. A new study has figures to prove that women are receiving drastically low airplay on commercial country radio.
A recent study by Jada E. Watson, a musicologist and country music scholar at the University of Ottawa, in partnership with Country Music Television (CMT), found that only 12.4 percent of songs played on country radio were from female artists between 2010 and 2019, compared to 81.6 percent by men. Additionally, only one of those women was a woman of color. The study analyzed data from Mediabase’s annual Yearend Country Reports, which features data from 156 individual stations and helps to craft Country Aircheck’s weekly Airplay Charts, a leading country radio trade publication.
The gender disparity in airplay between men and women has increased in recent years. It’s no surprise that the amount of women getting airplay in country radio has decreased since the ‘90s . The study shows that the number of songs by women within the Top 150 of the Mediabase Published Panel dramatically declined by “66% from 50 songs in 2000 to 17 in 2018.”
The numbers for women being represented in Mediabase’s Top 60 demonstrates that this disparity is not self-correcting. In 2019, only four songs by women reached the Top 60 and Maren Morris was the only female artist to reach the coveted top spot on the list. And between 2010 and 2019, the most played male (Jason Aldean) received around twice as many plays than the most played female (Carrie Underwood). What is the most revealing about radio’s role in the unequal airtime for women is that listeners want women to receive the same play as men.
This study illuminates the clear gender bias in country radio and shows that big radio is out of touch in supporting those artists whose music they utilize for free. This should come as no surprise, as big radio seeks to keep getting bigger and paying less attention to local and diverse audiences. They’ve recently argued to get even bigger, wanting less local control and more national programming that can marginalize underrepresented artists like women in country music.
Radio's Other Big Problem
Women seeing more airplay is only one part of radio’s problems. The other? Not compensating artists when their music is played across the AM/FM dial. Fortunately, a new legislative solution has been introduced in Washington to better protect and empower all musicians.
The AM-FM Act, a bipartisan and bicameral bill co-sponsored by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), empowers all musicians by requiring radio stations to ask permission and negotiate a fair market rate, before playing music. Finally, artists would have control over how and where their music is played, and a right to earn fair compensation for their work.
Even better, the AM-FM Act has important protections in place to help the local radio communities across the nation stay local. These safeguards will ensure that small and non-profit stations can continue to partner with artists, fans and communities. If only big radio could get on board.
To learn more about the bill and other important music policy issues, visit the Recording Academy's issues and policy page and contact your members of Congress today to let them know it's time to hold today's streaming giants accountable for their big-time profits by making sure creators of all types and levels see a fair piece of the pie.