The Women in Country Music Revolution Is Really Rolling Now
Revolution is a big, strong word, but if words become actions, then the country format is on the brink of one. Wednesday night's (Oct. 17) CMT Artists of the Year ceremony set the stage.
There are historically low numbers of women getting songs played on the radio, despite nearly five years of analyzing, organizing and protesting. In 2018 just two songs with a lead female singer topped the Billboard Country Airplay chart, plus "Meant to Be," pop star Bebe Rexha's song with Florida Georgia Line. Popular streaming playlists are just as void of women. Rarely are female artists well-represented on major festivals. We haven't had a female CMA Entertainer of the Year since 2009!
On the red carpet prior to the 90-minute CMT broadcast, there was an unshakable spirit of unity that extended to women who couldn't attend and the women that came before them. The collaborations, the tributes, the speeches ... it wasn't rhetoric. Karen Fairchild listing 35 country singers she believes deserve radio airplay is not rhetoric. Carrie Underwood pleading to get more country women on the radio is not for promotional purposes only.
There are two major tours featuring a cast of all female artists scheduled for 2019. Expect each to take this fight from city to city across America.
The message and consequences are clear: Change, or an entire generation risks being muted. Change, or country music's best artists will take their music to New York City or pop radio. Perhaps what's clear now that wasn't before is that the women involved recognize it's going to be a long fight if true change is the goal. In a good year, just 25 percent of the Top 100 country songs were by lead females. Could we get to 30, 40 or even (gasp!) 50 percent women and live there? That's going to take a cultural shift, not just an industry shift.
It's going to take people in important, gatekeeping positions to stop asking if they're part of the problem, and instead how they can be part of the solution. It's going to take fewer punches to the nose and more invitations to discuss. Fairchild and her counterparts aren't just talking to those on the distribution side of the industry — record labels, publishers, booking agents, managers and publicists all need to be listening closely. And fans. It's as easy as reaching to learn about someone new and supporting her by buying her music and spreading the gospel.
"Women are making so much great music right now," Martina McBride says in the above video.
She's right. It's a quantity, not quality problem. It's about accepting responsibility instead of deflecting in. Your turn.
See 2018 CMT Artists of the Year Red Carpet Pictures: