Why Does Country Music Radio Ignore Women Artists?


Where have all the cowgirls gone?

by Nick Patch / The Canadian Press
September 1, 2014 07:00 AM

Country singer Terri Clark is shown in Toronto on Tuesday November 13, 2012. When the Canadian Country Music Association Awards are held this weekend, not a single woman will be nominated in the show’s big three categories. Terri Clark, who’s putting out her 10th album this week, says it’s simply reflective of a major trend in country music away from female voices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Take Terri Clark, the Montreal-born, Alberta-raised Grand Ole Opry member whose career will be 20 years and 10 albums in with the Tuesday release of “Some Songs.”

That’s also the title of the first single, a feel-good summer breeze that has risen to the Top 20. That should be good news, but it’s the way it’s risen — haltingly and laboriously, like a pack-hunched hiker mounting that one last incline — that has the astute Clark concerned.

“I’ve definitely noticed a difference from the last record I released, in the speed that my single’s climbing … in a not good way,” a candid Clark said during a recent chat in Toronto. “It’s probably the slowest. And I don’t think that’s a reflection of the music. It’s a reflection on the climate right now and the male-dominated thing that’s going on.

“It’s hard for me because I’m not exactly sure where to point the finger. I don’t think it’s the song. I don’t think it’s the music. Is it the fact that I’m a woman or the fact that I’m a veteran artist and a woman? Two strikes against me?”

Certainly, one needn’t look far to find evidence that country gender imbalance has grown wider than the brim of a Stetson.

As one example, the Canadian Country Music Association Awards will be held this Sunday in Edmonton, airing on CBC-TV. In the evening’s top three categories — the fans’ choice award along with single and album of the year — not one of the 15 nominations went to a woman.



  1. I am so sadden to hear this and to see that NOT one of the 15 women were nominated 🙁 somebody NEEDS to get on this we have amazing talented women in this musical world and they need to be reconized for ther talent NOT there gender

  2. I’ve followed this situation for years and am going to respond to the reasons given in this article for not playing more (solo) females.

    “Karen Daniels, a morning radio host at Vancouver’s 93.7 JRfm new country station, says it’s indeed a struggle to find female talent to fill the airwaves.”

    It might be a struggle to fill the entire top 30 with female talent, which no one expects, but it’s not a struggle to play and keep at least few more solo females in the top 10, 20, and 30. Country radio plays only 2 or 3 solo females on a regular basis and there are more talented solo female country artists with great music and sending great radio-friendly songs listeners love to radio. The truth and problem is country radio IGNORES and REFUSES to play some of the very best talent and music they’ve had available to them for years! Ever heard of Kellie Pickler, one of the most talented artists, singers and performers in country music, one of the most proven popular on country radio and now the most ignored by radio? Radio played her first 5 singles to #8-#14 and another to #19, and most of those were underplayed and deserved to go to #1 (same as Carrie, Taylor, and Miranda when radio finally started playing her to #1 after 10 singles and what took so long? She’s a solo female). The problem is after those 6 hits they didn’t play Kellie’s 7th or any of the next 5 singles from her 3rd and 4th albums to top 20. And both are the among the very best, most critically acclaimed country albums of 2012 and 2013, with many radio-friendly songs that were released as singles including the type of upbeat country/pop/rock songs radio plays all the time. Kellie rocks country, no or almost no other artist on or off radio has more great radio-friendly songs per album and many were written by the same people who penned songs radio played to #1. Radio research and endless comments on social media show that listeners LOVE hearing Kellie’s voice and songs on the radio, Pandora, Spotify, etc. and her concerts. For example here on page 8 is her latest single at #17 on the Radiofeedback poll, above many songs radio played to #1 or close:


    Radio killed it around #60 instead of giving it any chance and playing it to at least top 10 where it belongs. And all of Kellie’s singles did well on listener polls. For example Makin’ Me Fall In Love Again hit #6 on Callout America when it was just #30 on radio but radio stopped playing it at #30 instead of to top 10 or #1 where it belonged. Kellie isn’t the only solo female who deserves more airplay but she earned a #1 spot years and a few albums ago. Radio dropping her singles from #8 to #60 (completely off the chart and radio) shows that they are unfairly blocking and shutting her out. It’s unbelievable and terrible that radio ignores such a huge popular talent and great music. Why not continue to play her singles to at least #15? I’d love to hear her new songs on the radio at least once a day again and that’s much better than not at all. Same for other great solo females radio isn’t playing and kicked out of the top 20.

    Country radio has regularly played just 3 solo females to the top of the chart in many years so 3 is their limit. Instead of making a little more room for just 1 more of the 3 or 4 very best country solo females and moving Kellie up to #1 where she clearly belongs with Carrie, Miranda, Taylor (when she released country singles) and the many men up there, radio completely stopped playing her to keep solo females limited to a very low total airplay level. They only get what about 5 to 7% of total spins? And it never goes above that low level so that shows they are constantly and severely limiting solo female airplay and aren’t trying hard enough to play more. If radio won’t regularly play a 3rd or 4th solo female with music as great, critically acclaimed and radio-friendly as Kellie’s, who will they play? More men including many with weaker songs that aren’t critically acclaimed or rated higher than Kellie’s on callout polls. 🙁

    “Her station gets dramatically fewer requests for female artists, and she acknowledges that retaining a robust audience tends to mean spinning men.”

    I imagine that’s mostly because since men are about all country radio plays 24/7/365 for years and decades, that’s all listeners hear and know to request and what they are used to hearing. Requests don’t dictate what radio plays though. For years we’ve seen them play many brand new, unknown male artists’ (usually weaker) singles past Kellie’s on the chart, and not many listeners request new, unknown artists or songs. And radio doesn’t play many requests for songs that aren’t programmed and scheduled to play anyway. DJs get in trouble with the boss if they go off the playlist. Radio is mostly a passive format people just turn on and listen to while working, driving etc., unlike Pandora where they have thumbs up and thumbs down (skips). Sure we can change the station but since most country stations play about the same 30 or so songs and none play more than a few women, it doesn’t help and I’m not hearing many of the best and my favorite artists on any station. Most of my favorite artists are country solo females and I want and expect radio to play more than 2 or 3 of the best every day. I loved when they played Kellie’s new songs a few times a day.

    “There’s still this old kind of standard rule in radio that you don’t play two females back to back,” she explained in an interview. “(It) sounds kind of ridiculous in the year 2014 but it just doesn’t come across. Listeners just don’t like it. It doesn’t trend well for us.”

    How many times has Karen’s and all other stations tried playing 2 females back to back though? In my many years of daily country radio listening, I’ve never heard 2 back to back except for maybe once or twice on a special countdown show. A DJ said he almost got fired for playing 2 females back to back. So they aren’t trying it enough. Also, they don’t have to play 2 females back to back to play more solo females because they always play about 15 male songs in a row to 1 female song so there are plenty of (every other song or so) places to add more solo female songs. And again country radio has listeners conditioned to hearing men 24/7/365 since it’s about all they play. So it’s up to radio to break that cycle and try harder to play more solo females. As has been obvious for years, the next logical step is to start with playing the best artist with the best, most radio-friendly songs they’ve been ignoring and aren’t even trying to play anymore. Play Kellie Pickler to #1, not #20, 30, 40, 50 or 60. She brought a fan base to country radio, early sales of her debut album were double Taylor Swift’s (Taylor’s sales surpassed Kellie’s when radio played Taylor more and to #5-1), and she has sold more music than many men radio plays to #1. Don’t blame the problem on listeners and requests because we listeners have done all we can and learned long ago that radio does not play 99% of requests for Kellie and other great female songs no one should need to request to get played. It’s your turn radio, the ball is in your court and I hope you don’t keep dropping it.

    As for bro-country, country radio has always limited solo female airplay (even in the 90s) and stopped playing Kellie to top 20 long before the bro-country trend started just a couple of years ago, so we can’t blame the problem on that although maybe it’s gotten worse since. Maybe solo female spins dropped from something like 6 or 7% to 5% of total in the past few years? I think keeping it at 20-30% is a fair bare minimum start. It needs to greatly increase above the current level. Make room for more great solo female songs!

    “In the last 10 years, only ten percent of No. 1 country hits were performed by women, a 14 percent drop from the 1990s.” http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/dc9/2014/06/bro_country_sexism_ruining_country_music.php



    Somehow pop radio manages to play and keep more solo females in their top 10, 20, and 30 play more to #1, so why can’t country radio? Pop doesn’t have more talented solo females than country and they just play more of the best they have like country should be doing.

    Pop vs. country radio number of solo females played to #1 in 2013:

    Pop: 6 (37.5%)

    Country: 0 (0%)

  3. Canadian Country radio is far ahead of where America is, right now, in terms of spinning females. Jess Moskaluke, Madeline Merlo, Lindsay Broughton, Kira Isabella, Terri Clark, Lindsay Ell…just to name some…all received significant airplay this summer on the Top 40 Country stations I listen to. It’s the States that is having far more trouble than Canada is, and it’s more a case of the listeners not wanting it. Country is an extremely competitive format, and radio is just trying to give listeners what they want. For the time being, that’s College Frat Party Playlist music.

  4. Thank you Poppa. Great comments. The article is lumping ALL country radio stations as one. That is not the case.(Read to Poppa’s post) As far as the CCMA nominations…those are chosen by members of the CCMA, which anyone can become a member, it isn’t country radio choosing who is nominated for awards. It’s radio, record industry professionals, fans and whoever pays for a CCMA membership. Also referring to the article, Terri says that her new song is the slowest rising single of her career on the chart, but she thinks that isn’t a reflection of the music or the song itself, it’s a reflection of the male-dominated thing that’s going on. Maybe the song isn’t as good as she thinks it is. Miranda Lambert/Carrie Underwood -Somethin’ Bad is in the Top Ten this week. If it’s a great song, regardless of gender, it will rise to the top. And nice statistics and links Chris. Too bad they are all U.S. based. Canada is a different radio market.

  5. It’s a different market but what radio plays isn’t THAT much different. Every time I look at the US and Canada radio charts, many of the same US artists and songs are on and dominating both charts, and the top 30 of both are filled with 80%+ men. The main difference is Canada plays more Canadian artists (mostly men) and I see a lot of room for improvement for playing more women in both countries.



    Right now 8 of the Canada Country top 10 slots are filled with US artists: 8 male, 1 group with 2 men and 1 woman, and 1 male feat. female.

    Besides Terri, has Canada country radio played any of the women Poppa mentioned to #1 or close: Jess Moskaluke, Madeline Merlo, Lindsay Broughton, Kira Isabella, Lindsay Ell? I did a little quick research and see that 2 barely hit #10 or 11 with one single (not counting Terri’s #1 singles as that was many years ago). During the past 10 years, how many solo female artists were played to #1 for the first time (only 4 were in the US)? Probably not many or enough. And maybe not as many age 40+ women as 40+ men.

    “If it’s a great song, regardless of gender, it will rise to the top.”

    This is not true for most solo females. Just one example, when US radio played Kellie Pickler’s first 5 singles to #8-14, Canada radio did not play them much at all and all of her songs are great.


    Most of the artists making the best country albums and topping the critics’ best country albums of the year lists are solo females with vocals and songs far better than bro-country.

    Most listeners aren’t in college or frats and want to hear more than college frat party music, many don’t want to hear any of it and some of the party song men released non-party singles recently, but US radio still only plays 2 or 3 solo females to any worthwhile degree and #1.

    Awards nominations are sort of chosen by radio because airplay drives everything and many awards members/voters work in radio. So we don’t see many artists getting major awards nominations until radio plays them to #1 or close.

    The bottom line is listeners want to hear more women on country radio and radio should play more. Some programmers claim they have tried that but they aren’t trying hard enough as they aren’t even playing some of the best female and overall artists with the most radio-friendly songs at all.


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