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THE CASE FOR FEMALE COUNTRY ARTISTS – What Exactly Is It? Do Country Music Fans Really Care?

Image courtesy of freepik.com

If you live in Nashville and have anything to do with the music industry, you know there’s a whole lot of frustrated female country artists walking around.  They’re exhausted.  They’ve been working so hard to get their careers moving forward and many of them are barely making a dent.  Some have been at it for years, spinning their wheels, putting on every new dog and pony show that’s supposed to be what the labels and radio stations are looking for next, just to be ignored, passed over or even insulted for their efforts.  It’s rough out here people.

Many would say that the same happens to the male country artists, and that’s true, it does.  So, why are the female artists voicing their grievances so loudly?  They have to be loud because they aren’t being heard any other way.  Quite simply, the powers-that-be at mainstream radio aren’t giving them equal airtime.  The major labels aren’t signing as many females.  I’m not a numbers person.  I’m not a statistics person either, but trust me, I’ve read up on all of it.  Studies have been done and it’s been proven.  Females are just not getting a fair shake.  You can find these studies online with a simple Google search.  I like to write the way I talk and that’s not going to be with big long statistical data, it’s going to be as if we’re sitting across a table from one another and discussing this over coffee.  That being said, I did do some homework on this.

“Grown-ups like numbers.  When you tell them about a new friend, they never ask questions about what really matters.  They never ask:  ‘What does his voice sound like?’  ‘What games does he like best?’  ‘Does he collect butterflies?’  They ask:  ‘How old is he?’  ‘How many brothers does he have?’  ‘How much does he weigh?’  ‘How much money does his father make?’  Only then do they think they know him.”  – The Little Prince

Just recently CMT announced they would be giving male and female country artists equal time.  They will now play 50% male artist videos and 50% female artist videos.  That announcement was posted on our Think Country Facebook page, along with some other posts concerning the topic and they created quite a stir.  That led me to do some thinking.  The comments that people wrote often seemed to either not really follow the original subject, or they went off on tangents.  I wondered if country music fans didn’t understand the issue at hand or maybe they didn’t read the CMT announcement completely.  Perhaps they just didn’t care what was going on at all and chose to redirect the topic?  I was intrigued.

It interested me because I talk to artists of both genders and I hear both sides of the story, but in general, I hear the female frustration far more often than anything from the males, unless I happen to ask their opinion.  I can recall one interview with country artist, Josh Gracin.  He was put on the spot a bit when I asked him about this subject.  He did his best to give a politically correct answer, but I’m linking the interview here and you can read what he had to say.  I’ll give him this, it’s a hard question for anyone in the industry to answer honestly.  No matter what you say, someone isn’t going to like you for it.  On the other hand, someone else is going to love you for it.  That doesn’t mean that whatever you’ve said is a black and white answer, it’s just what you could come up with quickly in the midst of an interview.  I thought he did well for being caught off guard.

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

https://thinkcountrymusic.com/whats-new/in-conversation-with-josh-interview/

The Josh Gracin interview was just something from a while ago, but I didn’t stop there.  I really looked at the recent Facebook comments and I went a step further.  I talked with two unsigned female country artists and an unsigned male country artist as well.  I asked them various questions about their careers and their thoughts on some other things as related to the whole female versus male artist issue that’s going on now.  Their responses were not only interesting, they were quite varied.  I gave them all the option to remain anonymous, as the music business is tough enough to navigate as it is, but having your opinions on such a heated topic made public could possibly make those waters much rougher.  Surprisingly, not all of them opted to be anonymous.  You’ll hear their thoughts shortly, along with some of the Facebook comments.

First, however, let me talk about what frustrated me.  As I read the Facebook responses to the CMT announcement and the various posts on the subject, I just couldn’t get past the idea that many (not all) people were diverting.  I don’t say that disrespectfully, not at all.  I just mean that aside from those who were obviously happy with the decision and responded that way, other comments were a little all over the place.  I think some who said they preferred male singers over female singers were trying to say they don’t see a problem with country radio not balancing the scales between the genders.  I think.  There were actual debates that turned heated.  I believe, after looking those over again that it was more that both sides weren’t explaining themselves clearly enough.  If they had found other ways of saying what they meant, I don’t think they would have been in such stark disagreement.

One conversation that I did find interesting came amidst a short debate of sorts. Please note that other than adding a comma here and there to break things up a bit, I have, for the most part, retyped the comments exactly as they appeared on our Facebook pages (Think Country, THINK COUNTRY CLUB). I may have made some very minor edits or added notations for clarification.

Lynn Denise Carpenter:  Quite frankly, the female “country” artists now are just not that great.  There are some out there that don’t get very much air play because they aren’t like Carrie Underwood, Maren Morris or Kelsea Ballerini.  I do still love the older female country artists like Dolly and Trisha… but even some of the older female artists are trying to be more hip to try and get a different audience and I don’t like their newer stuff (Tanya Tucker and Reba come to mind).  I feel that our society now is quick to throw the gender or race card out there… but quite frankly, it’s more about talent than anything and some of them just don’t have it.  Heck, there are even some great male artists who never get air play because of the type of country music they play (William Michael Morgan, Moe Pitney).

Mark Owen:  Really? So Maddie and Tae, Meghan Patrick, Kacey Musgraves, Little Big Town, Runaway June, Brandy Clark, Sugarland, Lindsay Ell, Cassadee Pope and many others aren’t as good as Jon Pardi, who was on repeat last week on 98FM.  It has nothing to do with talent when it comes to the radio stations over there (United States), it’s all down to who runs the radio stations, and you might be surprised to see the same 5 companies own the stations so they have the monopoly over the playlists…hence why Kelsea Ballerini and others have all stuck up for what they believe in and well done them for doing it!  Thankfully the UK and Europe stations like Country Hits Radio, Chris Country Radio, Whispering Bob Harris, Baylen Leonard are more diverse in their playlists…hence why I work with Nashville artists and bring them over here (UK) to create a career : Kaitlyn Baker

Lynn Denise Carpenter:  Of the ones you mentioned…Little Big Town (this isn’t a female but a group and I personally love them.  The comment was about female artists vs. male) Kacey Musgraves and Brandy Clark are the only two worthy of mentioning.  The rest are as I mentioned in my comment…not that great.  If it wasn’t for Chris Young, no one would know Cassadee Pope.  I’ll also add that I strictly listen to Sirius XM radio as they have specific stations that play the music I prefer (90s country, 80s country… oh, and traditional country).  OR, I’ll listen to Pandora/Amazon Music…where I can choose the music I want to hear and not what some DJ thinks I might want to hear.

This was mild.  It ended quickly and painlessly, but they both brought up some interesting points.  Lynn Denise Carpenter speaks unfavorably about some of today’s top female country artists.  Obviously a fan of older country music, she isn’t even enjoying what’s being put out by two legends, Tanya Tucker and Reba McEntire.  Only when Mark Owen mentioned Brandy Clark and Kacey Musgraves did Carpenter agree they were worth any airplay they received.  Carpenter’s most positive comments of all came when she talked about William Michael Morgan and Moe Pitney.  At least that’s the way I read it.  How often do we hear that females don’t want to hear females?  Pretty often.  Maybe there’s some truth to that.

We did have other female readers who commented that they prefer male vocalists.  There was only one reader who said she not only preferred female singers, but she related to female songwriters better as well.  Of course, this is an extremely small scale to try and do any kind of accurate measuring from, but it was enough to make me think one of those studies needs to take a good hard look at this.  Before everyone gets crazy and thinks I’m trying to take down female artists, I’m not.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  I love female artists.  I appreciate their songwriting, vocals, work ethic, how they relate to an audience, all of it.  I will champion them in any way possible, but I want to be sure that the fans understand why and I want them to educate themselves on what’s happening with female country artists and why they’re so frustrated.  Yes, there is a time and a place to argue over what artists are better than others and what country music is and what it isn’t, but that isn’t what these females are fighting for.  I will agree those debates might be spinoffs of the heart of the matter, but definitely get to know what that heart of the matter is.  The best place to do that is by LIKING this page:  https://www.facebook.com/changetheconversations/and subscribing to get email updates.  Once you understand what Change the Conversation is all about you’ll be able to make better informed posts on social media and hopefully, form an opinion based on fact.  I’m not saying you need to agree with their mission, I’m just saying you’ll know what they’re trying to accomplish.

As I go around interviewing people here in Nashville, I hear stories from female artists about the struggles they’re having trying to catch a break on Music Row.  Some of them are pretty beat down.  They’re not giving up, but they’ve seen a lot of heartache.  You need to wear a heavy coat of armor if you want to work in this town.  From everything I’ve heard, it would appear you need to wear an extra heavy coat of armor if you happen to be a woman.  I didn’t want to rely on my memory and things I’d heard before, so I talked to a couple of female country artists specifically for this article.  I wanted to see if anything they had to say related to any of what I’d been reading on our Facebook pages.

I’ll delve into that shortly, but first I wanted to mention another female artist that’s been in Nashville for 20 years and she is, by and far one of the single best there is.  She’s Cheley Tackett.  She recently did an interview on the Nashville Meets World show and I’m linking that episode so you can see it.  She addressed not only the problem female country artists face, but even mentioned Think Country and the comments on our website concerning the topic. https://www.facebook.com/NashvilleMeetsWorld/videos/2729851510433099/. One of the other things Cheley talks about is country star Ashley McBryde, who I was shocked to not see in Mark Owen’s list of female artists that deserve recognition.  It may have been an oversight, but Cheley and Ashley are friends and colleagues, so this is a very good podcast and I think you’ll find it worthwhile to watch.

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

One of the females artists willing to share her thoughts was Jamie Burke.  I think you’ll find what she had to say informative and eye opening, especially if you’re outside of the Nashville music industry.  Burke had no problem with her name being published and she is no stranger to the inner workings of the music business, especially as it applies to radio.  Her father is radio legend Joel Burke, who has worked with hundreds of artists as a multiple award winning program director and consultant.  He is respected among his peers, not only in the radio business, but also at the labels, and with artists and managers.  Growing up, Burke learned a lot about the music industry from her father.  Joel Burke is currently Program Director at KCBI in Dallas, Texas and prior to that, worked at KASE in Austin and KYGO in Denver where he earned several awards.

Photo of Joel Burke courtesy of linkedin.com

Jamie Burke went to school in Nashville to study Music Business and has been an aspiring female singer/songwriter for about 10 years.  Here is an excerpt of our online interview:

Think Country:  Do you think major labels and mainstream country radio discriminate against female country artists?  Explain why or why not?

Jamie Burke:  Absolutely they do.  It’s secretly called ‘the good ole boy network’.  If I was a man and knew four chords and was somewhat of a decent singer, I could go get a gig on Broadway in Nashville easily.  I’d buddy up to the bar owner, then start buddying up with other writers, their publishers, then their record rep friends and so on… women do not have this luxury.  We are expected to not just be incredible singers, but to be the full package, fantastic writers, different and unique in some branding/marketable way, and balance beauty and sex appeal.  I will say, however, that I think for a while I noticed that many female musicians in Nashville, and keep in mind I’m citing this because that’s where I was, and where the major labels are, there were a lot of really great female singers, but they all sounded exactly the same, and they all sang slow, sad songs.   So, when I would try to book shows, bars sometimes wouldn’t book me a 10 pm spot because they thought the bar would clear out, that for whatever reason, a woman couldn’t be a rockin’ and rowdy entertainer, and rather than actually click my links or get to know me and my sound, they’d say, “Well, we can put you on a Monday afternoon.”  Just an example.  It’s kind of like as women, we have to not only be the full package, but prove it too.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Burke

TC:  Whether or not you believe there is an actual problem, clearly there is a perceived problem.  Do you feel other genres have this issue too, or is it restricted to country music?

JB:  Well, look at pop or mainstream music right now and look at country.  Women are killing it in pop music.  Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Lizzo, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, Billie Eilish and Camila Cabelo.  There’s an endless number of female acts charting and selling very well.  Who are the female country artists absolutely crushing it on the charts right now?  According to the January 2020 Taste of Country site, just as a glimpse, there are less than five women in the Top 20.  This has been a very despicable and disappointingly common trend among charts for well over a decade in country music.

Photo courtesy of pitchfork.com

TC:  Let’s talk about signed female country artists.  What are you honest thoughts?  Are they proponents of getting more females signed and on mainstream country radio?  Or do you feel they fear that could hurt their own careers?

JB:  There are two fairly new female artists on the scene who I believe have strong staying power, Kacey Musgraves and Kelsea Ballerini.  I think Kelsea is a very well-balanced and likeable girl.  She’s super pretty and I respect her as a writer.  I think she’s a solid, well-rounded young woman and she is clearly passionate about wanting to help other girls’ dreams in country music come true.  Kacey I have met several times, and while she isn’t the bubbly kind of girl, she’s smart and she knows who she is.  Her songwriting is absolutely brilliant and inspiring.  She is stunning, her voice is unique, and to me, she understood branding from the minute she popped on the scene in Texas, long before she came to Nashville.  I would really like to see major breakthrough female acts like we did in the 90’s, with Faith Hill, Shania Twain, Reba McEntire, Martina McBride and Jo Dee Messina, but I don’t see that much among what’s being put out there.

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

TC:  What about signed male country artists?  Do they have any stake in this?

JB:  Unless you’re a female artist, you don’t know what it’s like to be a female artist.  Being a female artist means you’re sitting at a bar and really love the writing of the guy singing on stage, and when you approach him to co-write, his girlfriend or wife stares you down like you’re a homewrecker, or he obliges and there’s a 50/50 chance he tries to hit on you.  Being completely honest though, just on what I see, I haven’t seen too many of these bro-country guys have any staying power, not like what we see with guys like Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley, George Strait, Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley and Garth Brooks.  I think this is all because the labels are more interested in getting fast cash with number one hits.  Then they just kind of toss you to the side once you dwindle out instead of investing time and resources into “What makes _____ so special?” or “Do they always wear ______?” or “What about their voice makes them instantly noticeable?”  Anyway, as far as the guys go, I’ve seen a few really great singers and entertainers come out, but I haven’t heard major hits from most, with a few exceptions like the insanely talented Dan + Shay and Thomas Rhett.  I fully believe we will see those three guys around for decades and they will keep giving us sensational songs.

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

TC:  That brings us to unsigned male country artists.  What are your thoughts here?  You are around them enough.  Do you think they feel there is an imbalance or do you think they feel just as passed over by labels and mainstream radio?

JB:  I don’t believe many, if any, frankly care about an imbalance.  I think they want a record deal.  Cut and dry.  I can’t speak for how they may feel about getting passed over or not by labels, and if they do care about an imbalance, they aren’t making it known.

TC:  In your own personal experience, and everyone has different circles as we know, which gender tends to work harder?  That includes all facets.  Songwriting, playing gigs, everything toward getting that record deal.  Give examples of your experiences and names aren’t necessary.

JB:  As I feel this whole conversation is about sexism, I don’t think I can really answer this as “boys are gross and lazy and women are boss babes”, you know?  I think we are all working hard and want to make our dreams come true in music and it’s not limited toward a specific gender, but I do think one gender is given far more opportunities than the other.  I’ve seen guys who I quite honestly thought stunk as vocalists or entertainers get gigs downtown or midtown that I wanted, or get added as openers for major artists when I was either told “no” or never got an email reply, phone call back, etc.

TC:  Do you feel that unsigned females come across as “whiny” if they express their frustration with the music industry?

JB:  You can’t just complain and not do anything about it.  It’s like not voting and bitching about the state of the political climate.  You have to make a stance, but you have to also be a part of the solution.  If radio and labels are telling us to stop singing slow songs all the time, then balance your gigs and records between uptempo, midtempo and slow.  Write with eclectic people.  Gig more.  Be uniquely yourself.  To quote Dolly Parton, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”

Image courtesy of thequotes.in

TC:  When you met with the major label or labels and were rejected, what reason or reasons were you given for being turned down?  Were you offered a chance to return at a later date for another audition?

JB:  One of the last meetings I had a major label essentially ended on a “Well, we think you’re great!  You’re gorgeous, you’re funny, you’re likeable, you’re a brilliant writer, like those are all number one hits waiting to happen, but you don’t have any kind of financial backing and honestly, it’s a lot easier for us to find someone who already has a massive following, say, from a reality show.”  I left feeling very frustrated.  People are coming to Nashville to “make it” but all you need to make it, they were saying, was a few million bucks or a large audience who already knew you.  I wanted a fair shot and wanted to believe that someone, or a group, would believe in me and my messages and want to do the work with me to put my music out.  I had a meeting with a major publisher about a year and a half ago and two to three other male writers were in the room.  He listened to each of us pitch him a handful of our songs and point blank told me I was “a brilliant writer and standout vocalist” but I should “try to write with some of these guys”, as well as “We aren’t really signing female writers,” because, in layman’s terms, female writers weren’t interesting enough and tend to cause problems.  He then stayed and chatted it up with the male writers as I was packing up my things. I left a voicemail two days later to thank him for his time and let him know I’d written hundreds upon hundreds of songs and would be happy to share more with him.  He never got back to me.  Those other guys all had a song or two from that night get put on hold or cut by a major artist.

TC:  When you had your meetings with the labels did you go by yourself or with a manager?

JB:  I’ve done it both ways.  Sometimes I think things are said more bluntly when it’s just me and kind of off the record, and a bit more business/sugarcoated when I’ve brought representation.  I’d rather us all just be blunt.

TC:  More and more indie artists are choosing to forego management and publicists.  They feel the expense is not worth it and sometimes they even think the representation can do more harm than good.  Do you agree or disagree with that sentiment?

JB:  I disagree.  I think at this point what someone needs is a really badass team of management, publicist and distribution.  My opinion is keep them and get rid of the label.  Cut out the label and do whatever you want and own your stuff.

TC:  In my observations, I hear the same things over and over from country music fans.  “All male country artists sound the same”, “all female country artists sound too pop”, “country isn’t country anymore”.  This, I think, comes directly from what they hear on mainstream country radio.  What are your thoughts?

JB:  Well, many of the guys are singing the same crap.  We get it.  You went to a bar, saw a hot chick wearing cut offs, you got her tipsy, you took her in your truck out to the riverbed and y’all did the thing.  Which, by the way, sounds super sketch.  So, yeah, they’re gonna sound the same and therefore, they aren’t memorable.  Part of the whole “sounding too pop” thing is just a progression of what country music is these days, so the old school fans may be feeling disgruntled.  It’s grown more mainstream so you aren’t hearing those old school 1940’s style wailing steel guitars.  That’s now classic country.  The same way we’d look at classic rock and today’s rock  You can’t hate today’s rock bands just because you loved hair bands in the 80’s.  Just appreciate it for what it is becoming.  Country music, however, is an incredible genre where we get to tell stories, not just emotions, and I hope that this is what the staying power will be, cutting a technically pop song and slapping a banjo on it during production doesn’t make it country for me, but that isn’t me saying “country isn’t country anymore”, that’s me saying, “Listen, if this is a great pop song, let it be a pop song.  If it’s country, let it be country”.  Does that make sense?  I love old school country.  I love 90’s country, and I love some of today’s hits.

TC:  Are country music mainstream radio listeners too difficult to please?  Are their tastes too fine-tuned for just one mainstream station per city anymore?

JB:  Ah!  Radio, radio, radio, here’s what makes a good radio station, it’s connection!  If your DJ’s the music and program direction aren’t connecting with the audience, then you just have a boombox playing sound.  Radio’s disadvantage is that we don’t have the flashy images of television or social media to show us how exciting visually this artist is, so radio has to be just that little extra 10% of excitement for the mom driving her kids to school in the morning or the young millennial letting music play at their cubicle in the late morning while they finish emails or the dad driving home in rush hour.  It’s not that the listeners are too hard to please, it’s that radio needs to hone in on who their audience is, do research and program the music effectively according to data.  All of that while maintaining a connection between songs that draw the listener in.  This includes an exciting morning show team, midday, afternoon and overnight person.  It’s a well-oiled machine that requires all-hands on deck.  I strongly believe in radio and its outreach to listeners and communities, and I genuinely love it, because to me, there’s nothing better than hearing a song that stands out so much that you have to stop what you’re doing and either listen for the DJ to tell you who that artist was or Google it yourself.  To be able to excite someone and create feelings solely based on sound is inexplicable beauty.

Image courtesy of clipart.email.com

TC:  In a nutshell, do you feel the problem, or perceived problem with female country artists and the major labels and mainstream country radio is more with the female artists or the country music fans?

JB:  I think it’s a little bit of everything, but I put most of the blame on “The Man”, the guys in empty suits who make the rules because they make the money.  If fans had quality product from female artists, they would listen and buy.  They have to stop chasing these number ones, this creates one-hit wonders or “Where are they now?” artists.  I am a strong proponent of branding.  Branding and marketing, paired with someone unique who has something different to say.  Look at Reba.  You know it’s her within the first few words of a song because of her voice.  She’s distinct.  She’s a fiery redhead.  Look at Taylor Swift, right on the scene it was sundresses, big hair flips, flowers on the CD, the love sign and chunky cowgirl boots.  Then she brilliantly re-brands herself with every album.  That’s how you become an artist, not just a singer.

TC:  What would your suggestion be for the quickest, most painless solution?

JB:  Sounds cliché, but when was the last time these labels and head honchos went down to a small club after work one day and just scouted?  When did they last listen and soak in what is happening outside of their circle?  I think that’s step one, listening and taking chances.  Step two is radio and TV must split things 50/50, which CMT has already begun and I highly applaud them for this.  Make it fair and square.  We women have a lot to say and we deserve a chance.

TC:  Is social media feeding the fire and causing more harm or is it helping?

JB:  Both.  It helps us connect with our fans, followers and friends, but it can be a terrible place because of online trolls and haters, but also just because of our own self-doubt and insecurities.  It creates this world of instant gratification and immediate imagery as well, and that, I think, puts so much emphasis on our appearance.  It’s not just, “Oh, you’re so pretty”, but “What are you up to?”  So, it’s partly, “I want to look pretty” and partly, “I need to stay and look relevant.”  As women, this is tough, especially because guys get sexier and distinguished with age and women become less “signable”.  Since I’ve turned 30, believe me, I’ve been told this several times and it just blows my mind!

TC:  Final thoughts?

JB:  I believe if you’re a good writer, a solid entertainer, a good person and have something unique to share and say to the world, you should just be given a fair chance to do so, no matter your race, gender, age or sexual orientation.  I think the beauty of the world, as well as music, is all of us being uniquely ourselves and true to that.  As times are changing, my hope is to see not just more women signed, but more interesting and diverse artists signed and sharing their stories and songs with us all.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Burke

I was impressed with all that Jamie Burke had to say.  She was completely candid and willing to go on record.  I applaud her for being courageous.  As she said, if you believe you have a reason to complain, don’t just complain, be a part of the solution and stand up for what you believe in.  Work for ways to change your situation.  I do think she’s not just talking the talk simply by putting her name and opinions on this piece and I thank her for it.

Next, I spoke with another unsigned female country artist who chose to remain anonymous.  That is perfectly acceptable.  I was thankful for her assistance and it allowed her to be honest.  Her name isn’t unfamiliar in Nashville which is a good reason for her to maintain her privacy and I fully respect that.  You will see the same questions as in the first interview.  As these two artists are different people, so are the answers.

Think Country:  Do you think major labels and mainstream country radio discriminate against female country artists?  Explain why or why not?

Unsigned Female Artist:  I do, but it’s a pass the blame game.  Radio blames labels for not sending them more female songs, especially uptempos, and major labels claim that females don’t perform well on radio, and therefore don’t make as much money as male artists.  I think until each party accepts responsibility in the matter, it’s not going to get any better.  I’ve had labels as well as publishing houses tell me that they “already have a female artist/writer” and cannot take on another.  Meanwhile, their male roster has eight to ten times the amount of artist/writers.

Image courtesy of commpro.biz

TC:  Whether or not you believe there is an actual problem, clearly there is a perceived problem.  Do you feel other genres have this issue too, or is it restricted to country music?

UFA:  I think country music is currently experiencing this more than most genres, pop for example, will play many females back-to-back without a second thought, but I don’t think it’s always been this way.  In the 80’s and 90’s, females in country music were a huge fraction of the artists getting airplay and signed and promoted by labels.  Although bro-country may eventually make its way out of popularity, we are still feeling the effects of it with the acts the labels and radio choose to push.  There is a preconceived notion that just because requests for male country songs outnumber requests for female songs, that listeners don’t want to hear female artists.  If we look at the law of averages, if you have 10 choices and eight or nine of them are male choices, what is the probability that you’re going to request a male over a female?  Probably pretty high.  Country radio listeners are not being given an equal spectrum of options from which to choose their preferences.

TC:  Let’s talk about signed female country artists.  What are your thoughts?  Are they proponents of getting more females signed and on mainstream country radio?  Or do you feel they fear that could hurt their own careers?

UFA:  I believe many of the signed female acts are participating in female empowerment.  Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert, for instance, took exclusively female openers on their tours.  Hillary Scott from Lady Antebellum called out at least 20 up-and-coming female artists during her awards acceptance speech that she felt should have been considered for the category.  Jennifer Nettles wore a white pantsuit along with a pink train to the 2019 CMA Awards red carpet.  The back of her jacket said, “Equal Pay” and the inside of her train said, “Play our F*@#iN Records” and “Please and Thank You].  While you can always find a female here and there with different ideas, I think the same can be said for males.

Photo courtesy of hollywoodreporter.com

TC:  What about signed male country artists?  Do they have any stake in this?

UFA:  Maybe it isn’t as widely publicized, but I feel like the majority of signed male artists have been pretty quiet about their thoughts on this.

TC:  That brings us to unsigned male country artists.  What are your thoughts here?  You are around them enough.  Do you think they feel there is an imbalance or do you think they feel just as passed over by labels and mainstream radio?

UFA:  Having spoken to many friends who are unsigned male artists, and so talented, the collective thought seems to be that they see the favoritism of males over females in radio and labels.  That is not to say that they do not deserve airtime or a spot at the label the same as anyone else, but they feel less pressure to compete for it and take a more measured approach.  Most of my guy friends who are artists are in no rush to package themselves into a finished product the way I see female artists doing.  That is also because the age range of “signable” male acts is more extensive than females.  Male acts can be signed even into their 40’s, while females tend to be promoted by labels only when they are in their teens and 20’s.

TC:  In your own personal experience, and everyone has different circles as we know, which gender tends to work harder?   That includes all facets.  Songwriting, playing gigs, everything toward getting that record deal.  Give examples of your experiences.  Names not necessary.

UFA:  I don’t think I can generalize and say one gender works harder than the other.  Guys definitely have less pressure on them to act on a timetable, but they are equally dedicated to honing their craft and building their brand in my opinion.

TC:  Do you feel that unsigned females come across as “whiny” if they express their frustration with the music business?

UFA:  Haha.  Probably to some who are using this “whininess” to justify their sexist choices.  Oddly enough, I don’t consider myself an uber-feminist.  That being said, I think the issues that I have with the music industry are based on valid, real concerns about what I have observed in my time pursuing a music career in this town.  I love male country music, I just think there is a huge discrepancy in fairness in our current climate about who is getting the opportunities.

TC:  When you met with the major label(s) and were rejected, what reason(s) were you given for being turned down?  Were you offered a chance to return at a later date for another audition?

UFA:  I met with the same major label twice, spaced out by a year.  The first time I was rejected, they told me that I “had talent”, but “didn’t know my sound yet”.  The second time they told me that my “sound was too defined” and that they wouldn’t have anything to develop.  Honestly, I think both times were forms of shop answers they give to a lot of indie artists they meet with when, for whatever reason, they don’t have the time, money or space to take on another artist.  Both times I was told to “keep in touch” and to let them know when I was playing shows in the area.  I also met with a data analyst at another major label who told me that artists were not even considered when below a certain number of spins, followers, sales, etc., however, when looking at some new signings at the label, I found that many of them did not meet this so-called “minimum requirement”.  At the end of the day, it’s “who you know” and whether or not the label has to invest a lot of risk into making you profitable.

TC:  When you had your meetings with the labels did you go by yourself or with a manager?

UFA:  I went with a manager, also a female, who has been in the business for over 30 years.

TC:  More and more indie artists are choosing to forego management and publicists.  They feel the expense is not worth it and sometimes they even think the representation can do more harm than good.  Do you agree or disagree with that sentiment?

UFA:  I think in any business relationship, you need to be careful with who you trust and who you invest in.  I think the right representation, as well as the right publicist, definitely does more good than harm!  There are a lot of firms out there and sometimes it’s trial and error before finding one that best serves you as an artist, as well as your financials.  A good manager will only take a back end percentage, that way it is in their best interest to work their butt off for you because their paycheck depends on your success.

TC:  In my observations, I hear the same things over and over from country music fans.  “All male country artists sound the same”, “all female country artists sound too pop”, “country isn’t country anymore”.  This, I think, comes directly from what they hear on mainstream country radio.  What are your thoughts?

UFA:  Everyone is going to have their own unique taste, obviously.  I think it’s great that Nashville offers stations like 95.5 FM that plays to the more traditional country listeners, while 103.3 FM, for instance, has more of the mainstream “today’s country”.  Radio plays a big role in what gets to the listeners’ ears, and so when the DJs, or primarily the umbrella companies they operate under, limit their listening options to chasing the trends, you are going to have a lot of similar sounding music.  I think the more listening options that are offered, the more country music fans will find that there are songs and artists for everyone.  That is why, in my opinion, younger people are turning off radio and curating their own playlists with artists they discover on their own.

TC:  Are country music mainstream radio listeners too difficult to please?  Are their tastes too fine-tuned for just one mainstream station per city anymore?

UFA:  I don’t think the listeners are the issue.  On the contrary, they ultimately are the deciders of who is able to make artistry a long-term career.  Do they have all the options of listening choices that they should have on country radio currently?  Hell no, but with the growing popularity of streaming services, listeners are more in control of their listening choices.  In a perfect world, they’d decide the whole dang thing.

TC:  In a nutshell, do you feel the problem, or perceived problem with female country artists and the major labels and mainstream country radio is more with the female artists or the country music fans?

UFA:  Female artists obviously perceive the problem first because they are affected by it firsthand.  While I have lots of fans and followers who are awesome advocates and will join in the cause to get more female artists on radio and in labels, the majority of country music fans, I believe, are in the dark about the discrepancy because it’s been so gradual.  Suddenly, you look at the lineup for the major country festival you’ve been attending for the past five years and it has maybe one female artist on it.  The more attention the issue gets in the media and by the artists themselves, especially male signed artists, the more the country music fanbase is going to pay attention and voice their own opinions.

Image courtesy of buckeyecountrysuperfest.com (as example of a festival with only one female artist on the bill)

TC:  What would your suggestion be for the quickest, most painless solution?

UFA:  I don’t think there is a quick fix, but I think that every facet of the country music industry taking responsibility for their role in the discrepancy between male and female acts is the beginning.  One party isn’t at fault, and it’s not a fix that can happen without a mutual group effort to be conscientious of favoritism and reanalyze just why the problem exists in the first place.  The data needs to be reexamined.  If it appears male artists are making more money than females, let’s look at where that data is coming from and whether a fair sampling of songs, opportunities, audiences and artists are being included in the mix.  If there is not a baseline of equality, you are inevitably going to get skewed data.

TC:  Is social media feeding the the fire and causing more harm or is it helping?

UFA:  I think social media, even with its own demons, helps bring an awareness that might not otherwise be there.

Once again, a look at the struggles from the inside.  This is real life in Music City.  This is a story that, for the most part, plays on a loop around here.  There are slight variations, but the theme remains the same.  Females are being dealt a crummy hand, yet they continue to come back to the table and play whatever chips they have left, hoping for a better turnout each time.  It’s not like they aren’t trying.  They are.  They’re just getting a little worn down sometimes.  You all know the old saying, “You can’t fight City Hall”.  In Nashville, it may as well be, “You can’t fight Music Row”, but don’t tell that to thousands of female artists that aren’t taking the inequality lying down, and I applaud them for their persistence and strength.  These ladies are a rare breed.

I talked with an unsigned male country artist about this article and asked him what he thought.  Initially, I was supposed to chat with another male artist, but as eager as he was to contribute, suddenly, I heard nothing back.  Perhaps he was advised by a representative or someone else not to take part, or maybe he just decided he didn’t want to.  In any event, it would have been nice if he’d let me know rather than leaving me hanging, but here we are.  What I gained from the other male artist was interesting.  I had an in-person discussion with Adam Yarger.  He is an unsigned male country artist.  He is a Pennsylvania native now living and working in Nashville.  Here’s how that conversation went:

Think Country:  Do you think female country artists are the ones having a problem with the music industry or is it the country music fans that are upset with females not getting played enough on mainstream radio?

Adam Yarger:  The way I see it, there are female artists that are doing well, I just think there are a lot of mirrors going on that people can’t really see past, because if you really boil it down to, “How’s this person doing?” or “How’s that person doing?”, it’s like, I heard on the radio a couple months ago that Maren Morris was upset because females aren’t getting equal airtime on the radio and CMT, and all that.  I totally understand their frustration and I think it’s kind of crazy myself because these artists are good.  These female artists are fantastic if you think about it.  There’s a lot of really talented female writers and it’s like their stuff is good, it’s all good, but somebody else is in control of what’s going where and how it’s all getting played.  If you look at it, some of these people, I get a little lost, like, “What are you really mad about?”, because if you’re selling out shows and they’re getting your music and your content, I mean, maybe it’s not being played on the radio, but they’re getting it.  They are definitely getting it.  I do definitely understand the frustration about getting equal playtime, I get that.  There are a lot of really talented people that do need to be recognized.   If you even looked at the guys, there are a lot of great guys that are doing great things.

TC:  Let me ask you this one.  I’ve heard from another artist that labels don’t want to sign females because their concerts don’t sell enough merchandise and concessions.  I have a problem with that, but I’m not a numbers person and I’ve not looked up the statistics, but maybe I’d agree on concessions.  Guys probably buy more beer because in general guys can drink more beer.  They can eat more pizza, but merch?  I disagree there.  I think women buy more merch, women are shoppers.  At a female headliner show, say a Carrie Underwood concert, you’re going to see a lot of girls buying Carrie Underwood t-shirts, a lot of young girls.  I can’t see many guys buying those.  So, I don’t know.  What do you think about that?

AY:  I disagree with that idea.  I think women buy more merch.

TC:  Do you feel like unsigned female artists or any female artists that are voicing their frustration over the state of the country music industry are coming off as whiners?

AY:  Well, I do think it’s silly that it’s not equal play.  I did see that CMT is going to make it 50/50 and there you go, it’s a great start. I think some of the people that may be saying women are whining and stuff like that, I don’t know, maybe they are whining, maybe it’s an attention grab thing, but I do see the offset scale, very much so.  In my own experience listening to female artists, there was this time we were all tubing down the river and I made a playlist.  A Carrie Underwood song came on and my buddy was like, “Man, you listen to a lot of girl country!”  It was like, “This is fuckin’ good.”  If it’s good stuff I’m not gonna discriminate if you’re a female or a male.  If you’re music’s good, who cares?  Like Tracy Chapman, I thought it was a guy singing and then it was like, “Wait? That’s a female?”  It’s still fuckin’ good!  Then there’s the other side of this where sometimes, maybe just write better music, because that’s what somebody would tell me and I’m a guy.  If I looked at it as guys get more play, and maybe I’m being biased, but I’m a male and I haven’t had one set of eyes on me (label-wise) except for Black River through Kent (Wells) look at me, and they blew me off so fast because “there’s not enough buzz around town” about me.  It’s like, that’s why you brushed me off?  When “I Learned It From Hank” (Adam Yarger original song) came on he was like, “What’s this song?”  That got his attention and then he’s telling me there’s not enough buzz around town.  It’s a political game for sure.

TC:  In your own experiences, and everybody has their own very finite circle of people that they do their thing with, in your experience, including everything, playing gigs, songwriting, all of it, which gender works harder toward the ultimate goal?  The ultimate goal is landing a record deal.

AY:  Wow.  I don’t know how to answer that.

TC:  Nobody does, but it could be different from day to day.

AY:  Alright, so I will say, for females, I feel 150% more than I feel for guys in that aspect because label execs most likely aren’t going to be coming on to males in a meeting, whereas like with females it could be something like, “Oh, nice rack” or “Pretty eyes with nice eyelashes” and stuff like that.  I know that shit goes on and I think everybody knows that and it’s really fucked up.

TC:  That is and it shouldn’t happen.

AY:  That’s way heavier for females and you have to work harder to navigate around some pig trying to come on to you and you’re just there to do business.  You’re not at a bar.

TC:  You’re not trying to hook up.

AY:  Right.  You’re there to have a meeting.

TC:  I really love that answer because I don’t think that’s something that ever really gets talked about, at least not often and not publicly.

AY:  I mean, I’m not going to say some people don’t sleep with execs and stuff like that because I know that shit goes on, but what if the guy comes on to a female artist and she doesn’t want to, that guy just literally dumped that girl’s career.

TC:  Not to mention, how much time did that girl spend trying to figure out how she was going to do her hair, how to do her makeup, what she was going to wear, which shoes and on and on, it takes forever for female artists to get ready to go anywhere.

AY:  I had one meeting with Eric (he did not specify who Eric was and I did not ask) and if I had all the numbers and everything was right and if it all came down to me hooking up with some guy or girl (shakes his head and rolls his eyes), that’s a really personal thing to try and do in a business meeting.

TC:  Also, when I’m talking about being a hard worker, it could be a guy or a girl, I even count things like working another job.  Do they work their day job and then go play gigs at night or play gigs during the day and go to their other job at night?  Do they have kids they’re responsible for in between trying to work on their music?  All of that is encompassed in being a hard worker.

AY:  Right and all these females that are doing this kind of stuff, from my experience, there’s females out there driving to these gigs like I’m doing, lugging this gear in and out, setting up, tearing down and that’s fucking amazing.  That’s really hard stuff, like, that’s crazy.

TC:  It is. That’s serious work.

AY:  And it shouldn’t go unnoticed.

TC:  That to me is all part of what makes it a hard job.  I think a lot of fans don’t understand all that goes into it, not to mention you have a life besides this.

AY:  It’s made in the shade to these people and I get it all the time.  Like, I post a video in the middle of the week that I took earlier that day and I’ll post it in the middle of the day and I think these people think I literally sit on my ass all day and do nothing.  The times I’m not here doing music or traveling, I’m working, cutting my hands up working at my dad’s machine shop.  It’s like, I gotta pay the bills.  I’m not rollin’ in the dough.

TC:  Some fans might think you just live wherever it is you play your gigs.  You don’t go home and you don’t go to sleep.  It’s kind of like when you were a little kid and you used to think your teacher lived at school.  They slept in their classroom.  It’s kind of a strong analogy but yeah, as far as rolling in your own gear and having to find parking, it’s like, “What? You don’t have a driver?”

AY:  Yeah, “You don’t have a bus?” A fan asked me once, “How do you get around to all these gigs?” I said, “My Chevy Cruze in the parking lot,”, he looked at me and said, “You drive that everywhere?”, and I said, “Yes sir.  The seats come down and there’s a formula to fit everything in the car to go out and play these shows for like, a hundred bucks.”  He was like, “Wow, that’s crazy.”  I’m thinkin’, yeah it’s crazy, it’s borderline insane.

TC:  (Laughing) You should be in therapy right now.

AY:  Back problems from sitting in the car all day, no problem. (Laughing)

TC:  Those are the kinds of things I hope this article shines a light on.  I think some fans don’t want to hear it.  It’s kind of like they don’t want to go in the tunnels underneath Disney World.  They don’t want to break the magic.  I mean, I don’t want to break the magic all the way but I do want them to understand that for artists of every gender when you’re working as an unsigned artist in Nashville and pretty much doing everything on your own, it can be grueling.  We’ve barely scratched the surface.  Females have more on their plate because of all the additional preparation.

AY:  Don’t break the magic all the way, just get under their skin a little so they understand.

TC:  That’s all I want to do.  I want them to be a part of this and still be country music fans.

Adam Yarger ended up in the hot seat by dumb luck.  I happened to be interviewing him that day and decided to ask him if he’d be willing to participate in this piece.  He was more than happy to do it and said he didn’t mind putting his name on it because it’s a subject he’s passionate about.  He isn’t disgruntled or annoyed by this movement.  Quite the opposite actually.  He seems to empathize with female artists that are forever running uphill on Music Row.

Photo courtesy of Think Country

I wanted to get back to one of the questions that I asked Adam Yarger and that was the one about merch and concession sales at country music shows.  I was told by a female artist friend that concerts headlined by females don’t sell as much merch or concessions as concerts headlined by males.  This information was conveyed to her by someone higher up in the Nashville music chain.  While I have a hard time believing males purchase more merchandise at concerts, I can accept that male concert goers are likely to spend more on beer.  I did a very non-scientific study of my own on this.  I went to our Think Country and THINK COUNTRY CLUB Facebook pages and I asked country music fans if they buy merch and/or concessions when they go to shows.  I didn’t specify that it had to be a female headliner.  I just wanted to know, in general, what the patterns were.  My suspicion is the gender of the headliner probably doesn’t make much of a difference.  People are creatures of habit.  If they’ll buy t-shirts at concerts, it will be at any concert.  Same thing with beer.  Here are some of the comments:

LaVonda Harrison:  Yes on merch.  If it’s GA (General Admission) no on concessions because that means possibly losing my front row spot.

Sarah WestCoops:  T-shirt if I can afford it and they are cool shirts.

Teri Barkley DeBruyne:  Depends on the venue.  I buy popcorn at the Riviera Theater because it’s old school popcorn from the machine and delicious, but if I’m at Darien Lake I’ll buy a big slushy.  If I’m at Sportsman’s I’ll buy wings.  I don’t really buy concert t-shirts anymore, they are usually pretty cheesy and expensive.

Kim Segers:  Sometimes on merch and usually a couple of beers.

Manuel Martinez:  I eat, drink and buy a shirt, wear two times, then give away.

Julie Tracy:  Nah, usually can’t afford extras.  This is ANY show I go to.

Lori McCauley:  Tank tops and drinks and koozies sometimes.

Sharon Goucher:  T-shirt.

Steve Basic:  I always buy a shirt.  Add a couple of beers, great music and I’m a happy man.

Carrie Farley:  I like to buy merch if I can.  Food too.

Mitzi Spann:  I usually buy a shirt.

Robert Gasser:  I like to buy a CD or album and get it autographed if I can.

Laura Hebbes:  Sometimes, I like to have a look, just depends if there is anything I like.

Lisa McDaniel:  Merch and Jack and Coke.

Tracey McAllister Merrick:  Merch!!!!

Kimberly Dodds Wright:  Merch

Steve Delchow:  Beer

Claire Louise Norman:  I sometimes buy a tour book depending on who it is.  Don’t usually buy a drink as I’m happy with water (and it’s free).

Olivia Searle:  I tell myself I hardly wear the merch when at home yet I still normally come away with two t-shirts, a hoodie, baseball cap and a fridge magnet if they have one.

Linda Carnley:  Both

Tabatha Brooks Lelonek:  Both

Amanda Lubiani Brimm:  Just left Ashley McBryde concert and bought both.

Julie Thomson:  Half my wardrobe is full of band t-shirts.

Christopher Ashford:  Baseball cap, koozie, wrist bands are all good options.

Suzanne Drews:  Merch depends on what it looks like and how much.

Mandi Coleman Webster:  Always get a shirt.

Celesta Lee Griffith:  Yes always.

Marisa Czempiel:  I love merch and usually buy a t-shirt if I find a design that I like.

Dallas Green:  All of the above lol.

Debbie Baker-Smith:  Rarely buy anything.  Last time it was a poor quality t-shirt that was overpriced.

Holly Leann:  Always merch!

Michelle Williams:  Merch!

Craig Parry:  Whiskey

David Hobbs:  Always try to buy merch to support the artist.  Shirt or hat.

Brandie Lynn:  Both lol.

Cheryl Strait Wright:  Usually some type of merch.  I like to collect koozies, but will buy a shirt sometimes.  Usually a beer or two at the concession stands.

Amy Tyler:  It depends on what the merch looks like.  I normally buy the shirts with the tour dates on the back.  I wished the shirts came in a different color than black.  It also depends on the artist and how many times I have seen them.

Susanne Nelson:  Merch

Matt Thorpe:  For me it depends on who I’m seeing and where.  Like when I saw Shania Twain a couple of years ago, I got (and still wear) the shirt I got.  If it’s C2C, I’ll get a drink despite how expensive and overpriced my drink of choice (Oasis) is, and some of the signed CDs.

Tara Sheaffer Trainor:  Nope.  I’m too cheap.

Kevin Wells:  Merch

Sheryl Kaping:  I buy a hoodie and a drink.

Tracy McHugh Tompkins:  Usually a hoodie/zip up and a few beers!

K Kay Stein:  Merch, always

Laura Cooney:  Only if they have ladies fit t-shirts.  I might make an exception if it’s say, the first year of a festival or something (though then it’s more like a souvenir).  With regard to concessions, if I’m reviewing and have been comped my ticket then I’ll usually buy a soft drink, but otherwise I tend not to as it’s always way too overpriced.

Michelle Mosby:  Yes and yes, always a t-shirt, hat and koozie.

Kat McReynolds:  MERCH first

Cheri Sheppard:  Yes, I have to buy a concert t-shirt I’m never going to wear again for memories.  Wish they were cuter most of the time. I would pay 20 more dollars to have better quality.  It’s not a country concert without a beer.

Sonya M. Roberts:  I always support the artist and an adult beverage is a must!

Deb Lay:  A beer, some water and every once in a while merch.

Katie M. Lovering:  Depends on the country artist.

Debbie Taylor Jochimsen:  Merch every time.  Always a t-shirt for sure.

Angie Quilliama:  Merch always!!!!  Beer always lol.

Rebecca Timme:  Definitely merch!

Sandy Doyle:  Yes merch.

Kelsey Dobbins:  Yes I almost always buy merch.  I usually don’t buy concessions since I’m most likely in the pit and don’t want to lose my spot lol.

Donna Herrington:  Always water, usually two to ration throughout the show.  If there is a cute hoodie in my approved color list, it’s gonna be mine (unless it’s $70 like John Mayer’s and Lenny Kravitz’s both were).  Other things that tempt me are cute v-neck tees or baseball styles (again if they are the right color), but NO shirts with an artist’s face on them!  Not happening… hate that!

Stuart Reekie:  Merch always.  The drinks and food are always way overpriced.

Erin Evans:  Well, I’m going to have to get a koozie, and a koozie for whoever I went to the show with.  I’d better get an extra one in case I lose or damage the first one.  Since I’m waiting in line I’m going to need that tank top/t-shirt/hoodie that I don’t have because I can check the size in person and not have to guess from the website.  I definitely will that stadium cup over there (and one for my friend), but I definitely don’t need the signed guitar there. #MyFavorites #TakeMyMoney

Sheena Whidby Agan:  Always a drink, I usually go in wearing the artist’s merch, but if I see something else I don’t already have I’ll go ahead and buy it.

Alex Tempest:  Merch is well worthwhile at gigs.  I also like to buy music direct from the artist, vinyl especially if they have it.  It’s one of the best ways to sustain musicians.

Chrissy Gunnon:  A shirt every single time for my 13-year old daughter.  She wears it for a while and then we add it to a box.  She has a collection of shirts and once she’s older we plan on making a quilt out of all of them.  She wants to be a singer, so I thought it would be nice to have on her tour bus if/when she makes it.

Michelle Dunnell:  A t-shirt is usually a guaranteed purchase.  I’m in the UK and get excited when a band sells a koozie as they aren’t really common over here, although that’s gradually changing.

It’s a small sampling of answers and none of these people specify whether or not they buy merchandise and concessions solely at concerts headlined by male or female artists or both (probably because I didn’t ask), but I think we can assume, in general their habits don’t change much from concert to concert.  If you tend to buy merch, you’re going to buy it no matter who happens to be playing.  If you buy concessions that won’t change either.  I’ll leave the conclusions as to who does what more often up to you.  Again, it isn’t scientific, it’s common sense.

All of this leads me to my own conclusions on the whole ball of wax.  I have to start by saying in the interviews I’ve done with unsigned female country artists, both on and off the record, I’ve heard things.  Many of them are frazzled.  They simply don’t know what to do anymore.  They’ve pulled out every trick they know on how to get the industry’s attention, and they’re simply out of gas.  The problem is, no matter how many times they try and reinvent themselves it doesn’t seem to matter, because Music Row has their mind made up that women just aren’t worth it right now.  Women aren’t making them money.  Listeners don’t want to hear female artists back-to-back on radio.  All of this is happening in the real world.  This isn’t anything female country artists are “whining” about and trying to go all 1960’s hippie-protester, “let’s start a revolution” about.  They aren’t doing this just to hear themselves be loud or be noticed because they have nothing better to do.  These are extremely busy people.  This is actual life thousands of women are living.  As real as the life you are living.  As much as you may work a job week-to-week and wonder if it will be there a year from now, or feel you aren’t being paid what you deserve for the amount of work you do, or keep getting passed up for the promotion you want, it’s really no different.  They’re just in a different job.

CMT choosing to air videos with a 50/50 male/female split is a great first step.  It won’t solve the problem, but it’s crack in a huge wall.  As others have said, the blame game needs to stop.  Labels need to stop blaming radio and radio needs to stop blaming labels.  Fans that enjoy female artists needs to start speaking up.  Start emailing both labels and radio.  Make those emails relevant to the topic, which is you want to hear more female artists.  If you’re concerned about not hearing enough old country music, that’s another subject.  If you’re concerned about male country all sounding the same, that’s another subject.  If you’re concerned about female country sounding too pop, again, something else.  Right now, let’s fight one battle at a time.  The way to fight a war is one battle at a time.  Let’s get this one battle out of the way.  If we can win this, we can move on to those other battles and eventually, the fans can hope to take country music back from music executives that may not even know much about the genre.

In the meantime, after you’ve contacted the labels and the radio stations and asked them to please get more females on their rosters and their playlists, do the next best thing to make yourselves happy, start curating your own music playlists.  It’s not difficult.  Go to the various music platforms and pick and choose artists that you love.  Find new ones.  There are thousands upon thousands of artists just praying for you to find them and spin their music.  Don’t know who fits your taste?  Ask me!  I can direct you to people.  Whether it’s traditional country, bluegrass, Americana, bro-country, pop country, alt country, and the list goes on, we hear it all here.  Get on Apple Music, Spotify or whatever service you use and just start surfing.  You’ll be amazed at the talent out there.  Don’t be afraid if they only have a few monthly listeners.  Try them out.  They’re waiting for someone like you to get their engine started.  You might even be the one to help launch their career.

If you’re one of the people who says you prefer male voices, please give some different females a chance.  It might be you’ve only heard the females the labels have exposed you to.  There are so many outstanding female vocalists that have powerful voices.  Perhaps your ear just isn’t a fan of high-pitched sounds.  There are females with great deeper vocals and they will rock your world, I promise.  Don’t give up on the women, please don’t.  They also write some amazing songs that you can probably relate to in ways you never could have imagined. Let’s face it, not many of us ladies have ever really downed moonshine with our honey in Daisy Dukes, have we?  We have lived through a whole lot of the things women write and sing about though.  Trust me on that.  When in Nashville, get to a songwriter round and see some of the incredibly talented unsigned talent.  It isn’t all about honky tonks.  Need direction on who and where?  Ask me!  I’m super passionate about this.

All of the excuses, women don’t buy enough merch and concessions, women don’t want to hear women, women can’t play uptempo songs, women singers empty out bars and all the rest are just excuses.  It’s getting old.  The whole topic is fatigued.  Can’t we put this one to rest already?  If the people at the labels would just bite the bullet, take a chance and start signing some of the incredible females they see, the radio stations would start playing more females (even back-to-back) and see what happens, what’s the worst that could happen?  Money gets lost?  I’m sure it will get made up somehow eventually when things go back to how they are now and we again have frustrated artists and more complaining.  Or, it could turn out to be the best thing ever and new female entertainers could be discovered that fans adore.  Finding a brilliant marketing plan and a little old fashioned positive thinking could go a long way.  It’s just, who will be the ground breaker?  Which label or radio station will be brave enough to make the first move?  That’s what I’m waiting to see.  It will be an exciting day when it happens, won’t it?

Farewell Angelina Photo: 90 East Photography/ThinkCountry

Ava Paige Photo: Patti McClintic/Think Country

Lauren Duski and Payton Taylor Photo: Patti McClintic/Think Country

 

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*Featured image of Tenille Townes courtesy of 90 East Photography/Think Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Patti McClintic
I’m Patti. Rock music is my first love. My daughter, who was a country fan as a teenager, dragged me in when I'd drive her to school and we would have radio wars in the car. I'd have on my rock station and she would switch it to the country station. Guess who always won? As they say, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, so I did. patti@thinkcountrymusic.com First it was all modern country, but my parents were big Merle Haggard fans. I went along with them to a Merle Haggard/Phil Vassar show at the local fair and that was it. I was hooked on the Hag. Since that day, I've become a fan of bluegrass and I continue to explore all facets of the country genre. I guess you could say, I'm all in. When I'm not up to my neck in any kind of music, I enjoy genealogy, history, my granddaughters and my addiction, SongPop. I guess it could be worse, right? I'm a Buffalo, New York girl living in a Nashville, Tennessee world, and I'm livin' the dream with my husband, my dog and my two cats.
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