Don’t play female country artists….

if you want your station to do well in the ratings.

So said radio consultant Keith Hill. In terms of attracting listeners on country radio, he said, male artists are the lettuce in the salad, females are the tomatoes. Maybe that’s why Taylor Swift went pop. She’s the lettuce, tomatoes, parsley, onions and peppers, Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake are the….what the heck, might as well use a comparsion as stupid as Hill’s….they’re the cucumbers.

Turns out that women make up 15 percent of country playlists, so that’s why you hear Kenny, Luke, Dierks, Toby, Brad, Blake and, once in a while, Miranda.
Sexist? No. It’s business based on decades of polls, surveys and studies. Now, whenever I’m faced with these kind of stats I automatically assume that market researchers went out of their way to find the dumbest people on the planet. “Wanna take a music survey? Free coffee and donuts!”

It reminds me of the TV critic who noted the sad, ill-informed nominations for The People’s Choice Awards and said the people should not be allowed to choose.

Sadly, this bias goes back decades and there has been a long-standing unwritten rule in radio programming that says, don’t play two female artists in a row because audiences don’t like it. Even sadder, women are often guilty of not supporting their singing sisters. They’d rather hear male vocalists.

So, out their in radio land, for every girl or woman who’s saying ‘You go girl” there’s another patiently waiting for Miranda or Carrie to finish so she can hear Florida Georgia Line. Or, every programmer’s biggest fear…they’ll change the station.

The men are following the dollar. I get that. But why are the women bailing out? Is it an inferiority complex? Jealousy? Envy?

I guess I’m in the minority. Many of my favourite singers are female, from Wanda Jackson and Janis Joplin to Pat Benatar and Amy Lee. And Shelby Lynne, Miranda Lambert, Jennifer Nettles and Carrie Underwood. 

Ann Wilson could match or beat Robert Plant back in their respective mid-70s primes and today it’s no contest. Heart’s singer can still get the Led out while Plant stays at home and dabbles in side projects that are over the hills and far away from anything that sounds like Zeppelin. Plant knows he can’t sing Whole Lotta Love like he did 40 years ago and no amount of money can force him to try.

Then again, as music blogger Bob Lefsetz has said, country is the new rock.

Keith Hill and his sheep are going after listeners who want a bit of twang with their anthemic, guitar-driven rock. Check the bios of today’s country dudes and you’ll discover their influences are not George Jones or Merle Haggard but AC/DC, Aerosmith, Metallica and KISS.

So ladies if you want to have any chance, put down that acoustic guitar, go bigger with the drums and crank up the guitar amps. Dumb it down. Hide the fiddles or bury them in the mix. Write those catchy choruses, cut out that sensitive stuff and party on the back of a pickup. Raise your fist. Whoop it up.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to watch country music awards shows and look forward to seeing and hearing Kacey Musgraves instead of checking my phone until it’s time for a “performance you don’t want to miss,” which usually means Keith Urban rocking it up with Steven Tyler.

About johnnymaraca

sole proprietor of Maraca Media, former radio host (Johnny Maraca's Rock & Roll Riot), copywriter and producer and a print journalism grad.
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