New Study Shows Staggering Imbalance of Gender Representation at Country Radio

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Women and male-female ensembles (combined) equate 13-15% of the daily spins

As the country music community continues its work to improve the gender imbalance at country radio, a new study proves things are only getting worse.

Adjunct professor Jada Watson from the University of Ottawa published a study on Friday (Dec. 6), via SongData (in consultation with WOMAN Nashville) that focused on the spins across the day. Titled Gender Representation on Country Format Radio, the findings further the ongoing argument over the lack of diversity as females were drastically underrepresented in spins throughout the day.

Watson’s study serves as a follow-up to SongData’s April 2019 study on radio airplay. The report examined gender representation on country format radio, evaluating the airplay received by men, women and male-female ensembles on the yearend (2000-2018) and weekly (2002-2018) reports.

The new study reports that the ratio of spins by males to female artists in 2018 was 9.7:1 with spins for women averaging 4% at its best and 1.7% at its worst during overnight (12:00 – 6:00 a.m.) and the morning (6:00 – 10:00 a.m.), respectively.

“For the first time, this study analyzes spin data on the weekly reports, looking at how men, women and male-female artists are represented by total spins and according to the five dayparts,” Watson says. “While the overall results of the study may not be surprising to our community, the spin data and results on weekly movement provide a clearer perspective of the gravity of the imbalance on terrestrial radio and further underscore the inequality in country music culture.”

These imbalances include:

Songs by male artists are programed more than those by women in every year of this period by approximately 76.0% in 2002 and 90.0% by 2018.

Songs by women receive the same percentage of spins overall (13.5%) as men do in the PMD daypart across this 17-year period.

Male-female ensembles are so significantly underrepresented throughout out this entire period and across every daypart that their total spins (5.2%) are less than half those granted to songs by men in the AMD.

Watson finds that over the course of the 17-year period studied the amount of spins needed to break into the Top 50, 20 and 10 of the weekly chart has increased, making it more difficult for women to attain these positions. The study also found that over the last eight years an average of three songs by women have peaked at No. 1.

Additionally, her research shows that women receive drastically less spins than men throughout the 24-hour cycle. “When the bulk of radio’s listening audience is tuning in, not only do they hear fewer songs (in general), but they also hear few women (specifically),” Watson writes in the study. “In fact, in light of the 11+ to 1 ratio of spins, it would be entirely possible that a station’s listeners could commute to or from work and not hear a single song – let alone a current song – by a women.”

“The results point to the preference for songs by male artists on country format radio, and a prevalence for programming women and male-female ensembles (combined) at 13-15% of the daily spins. All women – whether solo in a group or in a male-female ensembles – are so overwhelmingly underrepresented in this culture that by 2018 it is possible for someone listening to the radio to tune-in for over an hour (possibly even two hours) and not hear a single song by a women depending on the time of day," she writes. "And while there is slight improvement in spins for songs by women the evening and overnight dayparts, these are times of day with the smallest listening audience and fewer opportunities for new and established artists to expand their reach with listeners."

“When entire groups of artists register overall the same percentage of spins as the privileged group do in one daypart, we are dealing with levels of inequity that are culturally damaging,” she adds.

Watson shares some of her findings and graphics on Twitter. For more information, visit SongData.


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