The issue of possible gender bias in country radio is not a new one, and it has been on the front burner again of late, including the release of the report “Gender Representation On Country Format Radio” which came out last month. The topic was addressed again during the debut of Country Radio Broadcasters’ webinar series CRS360, which kicked off at 2pm CT on Thursday, May 23. It was the first of a two-part series and featured Stone Door Media Lab’s Jeff Green, Vanderbilt University Postdoctoral Scholar Rachel Skaggs, Ph.D., and Cumulus Director of NASH Programming and WKDF/Nashville PD John Shomby. The discussion was moderated by SummitMedia VP/Programming and President/GM of the company’s Wichita cluster, Beverlee Brannigan.
Green, whose analyses were based on data from Shazam and Pandora, said he confirmed that female country artists aren’t getting a “fair deal” from radio. Green said, “They don’t and never really have.” And the gender gap has been more pronounced in recent years. “From 2007-2018 on average about 30% of the 2,300 country single releases have been by female artists,” Green said, adding that 30% of the music released should account for the same percentage of what is “most added.” “But that’s not what’s been happening,” he said. “Female-artist share of top ten most-added since 2015 is only 24%, not 30%.” In terms of top ten most-added country singles during this time, Green says 64% of those by female artists charted, compared to 77% of top ten most-added country singles by male artists. “Of those that did chart, the average peak position for females was just 25, compared to 14 for males. That’s a big difference. Only ten female country artists have achieved any Top 15 hits in the past two years” — male artists who have had Top 15 hits in the same time period is 55, he added.
“One key finding in my research is that an artist’s gender has different effects on the song’s likelihood of success depending on the kind of success, or the venue of success,” Dr. Rachel Skaggs explained. “Only 26% of Billboard Year End Hot Country Songs for 2000-2015 were performed by a woman. During that same time 48% of Grammy nominees for Country Song of the Year were from female artists.”
Skaggs’ research found that songs performed by women are 135% more likely to be nominated for a Grammy, while songs performed by women are 76% less likely to appear on the Billboard chart, thus explaining the disparity difference among “venue of success.”
John Shomby, Cumulus Media Nash Network Director of Programming, said stations strive to “make sure the best songs are playing as often as possible without fatiguing the listener…There are somewhere between 30 to 40 songs that are for consideration for a country programmer each week and usually an average of one to two open spots to fill.”
He added, “Playing the best songs as often as possible relates directly to ratings. When a listener tunes in, you want them to hear as much as the best that you have to offer,” Shomby offers. “Share points mean revenue… one share point could be equal anywhere from $100,000 to $1.5 million per year depending on the market size.”