Study: At All Times of Day, Country’s Women Find Themselves Crowded Out of Airplay
In partnership with WOMAN Nashville, Dr. Jada Watson and the SongData Project have released a new report on the distribution of song spins on country radio, highlighting the breakdown of spins allotted to female artists and male-female groups at each time of day. As listeners familiar with country radio playlists might expect, both demographics are underrepresented, no matter what time of day it is.
The new data comes as a follow-up to a study released in April, which showed that the most-spun woman between 2000 and 2018, Carrie Underwood, received half as much airplay as the top overall artist, Kenny Chesney. That study makes the point that many male artists -- such as Florida Georgia Line and Thomas Rhett, to name two -- have risen to prominence on the radio within the past five years but have earned more career spins than some of the most-played women who have been active on radio since the early 2000s.
In April, FGL sat at No. 13 on the most-played list and Rhett was at No. 16; meanwhile, Miranda Lambert clocked in at No. 21 and Faith Hill landed at No. 48. If these relative newcomers are eclipsing even the genre's female mainstays, up-and-coming women stand little chance of getting even moderate airplay, the study points out.
The new data takes an even closer look at the building blocks of country radio airplay, breaking spins down to the four times of day (early morning, midday, the after-work commute and overnight) that comprises radio's 24-hour cycle.
Taking all four segments of the day into consideration, female artists earn just 13.5 percent of spins in total -- the same amount of spins that their male artists receive during the afternoon sector alone. According to the above chart, women account for 6.5 percent of spins during the daytime hours of country radio, which span from 6AM to 7PM; male-female groups receive just 5.2 percent of overall spins.
The study also examines the breakdown of new singles from women versus older songs. The 6.5 percent of daytime spins that female artists earn represents both new and recurrent singles, and an examination of only new singles from both male and female artists shows an even starker discrepancy: In 2018, the ratio of new singles on country radio by male artists to those by female artists was 4.2:1.
Songs performed by women fell by 48 percent overall between 2000 and 2018, but the new data shows that by 2013, new songs by women were outnumbering older songs. That suggests that songs by female artists that fall out of current rotation are dropped or reduced by radio programmers at a greater rate than those by male artists.
Meanwhile, Watson points out, the number of new male artists who have been able to shoot to the top of the charts seemingly overnight, landing at No. 1 with their debut singles, has only grown over the past five years. Luke Combs, Riley Green and Travis Denning are just a few examples of this phenomenon.
The new data presented adds to an already well-documented phenomenon at country radio, which is the barrier female artists face to break onto the charts. It doesn't change the April study's findings, nor does it change the suggestions Watson posed to country radio at the conclusion of those findings; however, it does break the problem down to new, elucidating specifics.
"What we see in the results is a feedback loop that has slowly eliminated opportunities (in the form of spins) for female artists, and gradually erases them from the genre's ecosystem," Watson concludes. "Women's voices and stories have become increasingly unfamiliar to audiences as a result."
To read the full report, visit the SongData Project's website.
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