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Country radio plays female artists back-to-back less than 1% of the time – Billboard

A new study reinforces the belief that country radio has long been reluctant to play women’s songs in general — and almost never plays two female artists back-to-back.

study by Jan Dihm Of Sweet And Dr Jada Watsontitle is They Won’t Play Lady-O on Country Radio: Examining Back-to-Back Plays by Gender, Race, and Sexual Orientation, It pulled from daily logs of 29 country radio stations in large market areas, analyzing 24-hour programming for each month of 2022 to see how often those stations’ listeners heard back-to-back songs by women, artists of color can hope. and LGBTQ+ artists. Country radio stations included in the study included KKGO (Los Angeles), WUSN (Chicago), KKBQ and KILT (Houston), WKDF (Nashville) and WMZQ (Washington, DC).

The study found that on these stations, songs by female country artists were played back-to-back an average of 0.5% of the time. In data that is consistent with SongData’s findings regarding daypart programming, the majority of these back-to-back plays (46.1%) occurred overnight (between midnight and 6 a.m.), while 19% occurred during the evening hours (evening 7 o’clock and between). midnight) – time period with fewer listeners. In the introduction to the study, an anecdotal sample is given, noting that if someone were to tune in to a particular (unnamed) station at 8:35 a.m. on January 7, 2022, it would take them more than nine hours to listen to two songs in a row. It takes more time than female artists.

The report stated, “If you listen to this station non-stop from midnight to 11:59 p.m. tonight, you’ll only hear three back-to-back songs by women compared to 245 by men.”

“We’ve heard for many years that women’s songs should not be programmed one after the other – as we say in the study, this has been part of industry rhetoric since at least the 1960s and also in programming manuals was written,” says Watson Board Via email. “But it’s one of those issues that gets talked about anecdotally and now we have this study showing not only that it’s true, but how important it is for women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ artists on radio.” Disappointing.”

The new report builds on Watson’s earlier work, including his March 2021 study, Redlining in Country Music: Representation in the Country Music Industry (2000–2020)And an updated version was released earlier this year.

“As a listener, it’s so easy to pick up on the bias in country radio when you can spend 20 minutes in your car and go without hearing a single song by a woman, let alone back-to-back songs by women. Dehm says Board Via email. “So, I was expecting the worst, but it was worse than that. My hometown station is San Antonio (KCYY-FM), the station we used in the intro to the piece – [and] You know it’s bad when you start thinking of a station that plays women as one of the 0.99% of ‘better’ stations.

Diehm said that when compiling the study, he and Watson brought in statistics professor Sarah Studd, who ran 1,000 “coin-flip” simulations for each station represented. “Even when accounting for the already low rate of plays for women, 17 of the 29 stations played fewer women’s songs back-to-back than you would expect if the plays were be left on the spot,” he continues. “Not that I needed convincing, but it further proved that these were absolutely programming decisions and not something the stations themselves could talk about. The one-two punch of qualitative stories and quantitative data was enough to move the needle.” can help.

Furthermore, most of the women’s songs that are played back-to-back are not current singles. “Gold Catalog” songs (songs that are several years old) made up 36.2% of back-to-back songs played by women, while recurrents (songs that reached their peak on the station’s playlist but are still are part of the station’s programming) is 43.7%. Meanwhile, current singles from female artists account for only 20.1% of the smaller percentage of back-to-back airplay for songs performed by women.

The effect of current women’s music being absent from country radio creates a damaging spiral that affects other areas of female artists’ careers. This leads to fewer women being signed to record labels, fewer women earning opportunities to perform on major tours, festivals and award ceremony slots and fewer women receiving award nominations, the study claims.

“It creates a culture where women are already competing against other women for the smallest slots,” Diehm says. “Playing only ‘golden songs’ by female artists also means you are freezing them in time, not allowing them to grow or evolve, because God forbid we see a woman achieve power.” Give or take.”

Songs by women of color and LGBTQ+ artists were even less played on country radio – making up less than 1% last year. Songs by female artists earned 11% of the previous year’s airplay overall, with 10.97% of the airplay percentage going to white women and only 0.03% to black and fraternity women. The study further noted that only six solo black women and one group of black women have ranked on the country radio charts since 1958. Meanwhile, LGBTQIA+ artists only received 0.13% of airplay in 2022.

“The bar of entry is high for new women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ artists. And then we’re left with this practice in which radio endorses one woman at a time — and the period for which white women are endorsed is getting shorter,” Watson says. She adds that From roughly 2005 to 2014, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift received “sustained” support from radio and were responsible for 83% of the No. 1 songs by women and 55% of the No. 1 songs by women during that period. 1 song overall by women in .

While the aforementioned female artists still receive airplay (and Swift has transitioned to pop), Watson notes that since 2015, newer female artists such as Kelsey Ballerini, Maren Morris, Carly Pierce, and Lainey Wilson have only received “support short period of time” has been received. “The industry only lets one succeed at a time… It’s a culture that limits the space for white women and throws away their music after it hits the charts. They’re the most vulnerable to BIPOC women and LGBTQ+ artists.” They don’t even open the doors for him.

The report also provides historical insight, showing how female representation on country radio (particularly BoardU.S. Hot Country Songs chart) rose from 6.5% in 1958 to a peak of 33.1% in 1999 (a time when the chart was based solely on radio airplay). But in the decades that followed, charting songs by female artists fell to a low of 11.4% in 2015 (the same year Radio Advisor Keith Hill made his now infamous comments, comparing female artists to “tomatoes” in a male-dominated “salad”. The study states that over the past seven years, the percentage of charting songs by female artists has averaged only 15%.

Although the Hot Country Songs chart now includes data beyond just radio airplay, the study shows that the numbers correlate with Mediabase airplay data from the early 2000s, which was used in the study to calculate back-to-back rates of airplay. was done to.

Moving forward, Watson plans to continue studying the country radio format, but is also interested in “thinking more broadly about the distribution ecosystem and exploring user engagement with Spotify’s recommender system.” ” She has also begun studying the triple A format, which she notes is “a very different strategy to programming and is a format that has been a major launching pad for new artists of all genres”. “

“Country music may be closest to my heart,” says Watson, “but examining the representation of radio programming and other formats in the charts is really important to understand how these genre systems evolved over time and Large industries work together within the ecosystem. Country is not the only format with these forms of inequality.

Board Country has reached out to several radio stations with stations for comment and will update the story as they respond.

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