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The Midweek Motivator – Where Are The Girls

What had been a slow-burning theme seems to be edging toward a point of combustibility. In one of American radio’s most widely consumed and coveted formats, the debate expands: what’s happened to Country’s female talent? 

Opinions range from “Nashville favors males and male-based groups” to “If Nashville could find more female talent they’d record them!” Audience Development Group loves programming the format and we’ve had inordinate Country success. We’ve watched it grow beyond its stereotypical and inaccurate Nineties perception as a “fun large-flanker format, better suited to some geographies than others,” to today’s mass-appeal, big league Mainstream format; one that produces tonnage almost everywhere. Who wouldn’t want Country in their cluster? 

Yet randomly monitoring many highly respected format ratings-leaders we see great stations like KBEQ, KYGO, KKWF and WUBE to name just a few, playing one female artist in a given hour, sometimes none. We picked the 11:00 AM hour for cross-comparisons but it could have been 3:00 PM or 9:00 AM; the pattern remains more or less the same. Keep in mind our footnote; these are outstanding radiobrands! 

So we’ve randomly asked some opinions from accomplished Country PD’s, each of whom enjoys ratings and revenue success regardless of market size. 

In Colorado: MBC Grand’s Ty Morgan, PD for The Moose: “I’m personally tired of having to defend the gender balance in our format. We’re playing hits and it doesn’t matter; male or female; a great song is a great song! I’m open to the conversation but it has to start with the labels.” 

Wisconsin: Fletcher Keyes, longtime Madison Country PD with a lot of success says: “Why” has no logical answer unless it’s a stupid response such as, ‘I don’t like female artists because they don’t ‘work well.’ Female artists tear it up in other format genre; concert tickets, merchandise, social, etc. Not to forget, they research well in other formats. Women who are Country P-1’s tell me they love female artists on the radio and will say ‘I’d really love to hear more!’ Incidentally, 3 of my 5 top-testing songs right now are from females!” 

Missouri: Randy Brooks’ huge Zimmer-owned regional power KIX 102.5 which factors in four states, with a 15.4 Metro share adds: “Some have actually said, probably inaccurately, ‘female listeners tend toward male voices.’ Yet females are a main consumer target and I suppose their purchasing trends have had a history that has led labels to promote in a certain way. If women want more female artists, they should support them. The dollar drives everything including the Recording industry. If trends support it, we’ll see more female artists emerging. We want to play them!” 

A highly respected longevity Top 20 market PD-who asked we respect his anonymity-added, “In the long run this can hurt us. As good as our male artists are, eventually sameness can kick-in to any format and may well impact ours.” 

The order goes fame, then fortune. This issue really turns on talents’ fan-appeal. Yet it’s uphill without a label’s push.