Scores of women looking for radio play and professional opportunities say they’ve been subjected to harassment during station visits, conventions
Ever since the Carter Family promoted their concerts with posters that read, “the program is morally good,” country music – with its songs about family, faith and idyllic small towns – has thrived on a reputation as the more wholesome of musical genres and communities. But when it comes to what goes on behind the scenes in country radio, that isn’t always the case.
Over the course of four months, Rolling Stone Country spoke with more than 30 sources, including artists, managers and radio reps, who confirmed a climate of harassment and misconduct in the world of country radio. They reveal an environment where artists and other music professionals – especially women – are expected to be overly accessible and use sexuality as currency when visiting stations and meeting with certain program directors, or attending industry events, in the hope of having their song added into rotation. But unlike in Hollywood, where the #MeToo movement quickly caught fire, few have been willing to speak publicly for fear of professional repercussions. As a result, some sources have chosen to remain anonymous.
A young woman, fresh out of college, who was just beginning a promising job in syndication, recalls attending a country radio convention in Nashville, where she was pressured to join a program director from her hometown station in his hotel room.
“I don’t remember what led to this, but he just pulled his dick out and started masturbating,” she says. “We definitely didn’t have sex but I remember feeling like I had to participate. Thank god his boss walked in the room. He quickly zipped his pants up and I just ran out and I didn’t hang out with him ever again. I never reported it, I just put it out of my memory and out of my past.”
Litigation to follow.
Not saying lawsuits and/or settlements aren’t warranted. But hopefully, at least among musical artists, some of the anger and humiliation can be channeled into original songs. What better genre than country to lead the way.