Time For Change – Tackling Gender Inequality in Country Music

There’s been a lot of talk about the inequality in country music when it comes to airplay and festival line ups. Ever since the tomato-gate incident it’s been a hot topic, but the rate at which things are changing is slow, if there is any change at all. Yes, there’s been a healthy amount of criticism aimed at radio stations. And who can forget the festival line ups which individuals have photo-shopped to show exactly how scarce the female performers are.

While this criticism serves a fantastic purpose and will hopefully lead some to look at their methods, many simply resort to the block button and then carry on as they were – if they can’t see the criticism it isn’t there. Many have thick skins in this industry also, especially when a change in the status quo might mean a change in their income.
So aside from continuing to highlight this inequality, what else can we do to even the balance? Well, there is a hell of a lot we can all do and much of it involves a positive change which doesn’t involve complaining (I’m English, I don’t complain!)

First, go out and support female artists, but more than just buying their music and attending their gigs. e-mail/message radio stations suggesting their songs go on their playlists, but perhaps more importantly, e-mail/message them again to thank them when your suggestion works, or when your favourite artist is played without a prompt. I don’t run a radio station, but I do run a website. What happens when someone sends me a message thanking me for featuring a certain artist? I’ll be more likely to feature them again. Then give the radio station a shout on social media too. Everyone loves a shout, so shout them every time they play your favourite. No, this won’t see that ‘suggested’ 15% number rise quickly to the ideal 50% share, but a move to 20% makes a move to 25% possible, which in turn will make a move to 30% possible – and so on.

Make all-female gigs the best supported events in country music. Go to these gigs. If you can’t go these gigs, shout them on social media. Add the ticket links to these events on your social feeds. The better attended these gigs are, the more likely that a promoter will sit up and take notice. If these gigs are clearly making money, more all-female gigs will take place. In turn, more female artists will be seen, and more individuals will realise how good they are. This will see a rise in female artists at festivals.

Artists supporting other female artists is a must. Many are on board with this, but many aren’t. If all female artists work together, shouting each other’s music, creating Spotify playlists featuring fellow artists, suggesting people follow other artists on social media, this can only help. On Belles and Gals I feature many female artists a week, and the majority of posts I make are supported on social media by the artists involved. But there isn’t always a whole load of support from other artists – it would be amazing if this could change. If everyone supports each other, the move from 15% to 50% will be possible, meaning every female artist will have more than 3x the opportunity to be heard than is currently possible. There are some fantastic initiatives out there looking to change this – Song Suffragettes and Women Crush it Wednesdays being notable examples of this.

Men need to do more. I sent out the following tweet yesterday –

It’s a fact. Come on guys, we’ve all got mums, wives, sisters and daughters. We need to make the change too.

Sadly, much of what I’ve written above shouldn’t be needed. But it is. Country Music Radio assumes that male artists should receive 85% of airplay. If you made a list of the 20 best country musicians, would that list really only contain 3 females?

It’s going to take a lot of work, but it can be done. Let’s do this.

Article written by Nick Cantwell, founder/owner of Belles and Gals.

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