Unless you’ve been in hiding, on the run or simply not paying attention, you might have heard some chatter about the lack of women on country radio.
For instance, on Billboard‘s Dec. 8, 2018-dated Country Airplay tally (which reflects weekly play on a panel of nearly 150 country radio stations, as monitored by Nielsen Music), not one female soloist or all-female duo or group resided in the top 20 for the first time since the survey launched in January 1990.
As for groups specifically, the last time that an all-female act of three or more members ranked in the top 20 on Country Airplay, until this week, was August 2005, when SheDaisy‘s “Don’t Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” the trio’s fourth of four top 10s, hit No. 7.
On the new, June 15-dated list, the drought of almost 14 years ends as Runaway June‘s “Buy My Own Drinks” lifts 21-20 in its 34th week, increasing by 1% to 9.7 million audience impressions in the week ending June 9.
“Drinks,” written by Josh Kear, Hillary Lindsey and Runaway June, the threesome of Naomi Cooke, Hannah Mulholland and Jennifer Wayne, is the lead single from the group’s first LP, Blue Roses, due June 28 on Wheelhouse Records.
The playful, empowering single is the act’s third Country Airplay entry. Debut track “Lipstick” peaked at No. 28 in February 2017 and “Wild West” reached No. 36 in March 2018.
While Runaway June is the first all-female group to crack the Country Airplay top 20 in nearly a decade and a half, female bands are no strangers to the genre. Perhaps most famously in the last 20-plus years, Dixie Chicks rolled up 14 top 10s, including six No. 1s. (Among female duos in recent years, Maddie & Tae have tallied two top 10s, including the No. 1 “Girl in a Country Song” in 2014. Also this week, Kelsea Ballerini and Maren Morris rank in the top 10, while two high-profile new singles by female artists soar onto the chart.)
“We’ve been on ‘Drinks’ from the beginning and it’s doing great for us,” Tim Roberts, WYCD Detroit program director and Entercom Communications country format captain, tells Billboard. “Runaway June brings a unique sound to country radio. What makes them so special is that Jennifer, Hannah and Naomi all bring unique talents to the stage and their vocal blend is special. I think they speak directly to a lot of women, as they are all strong individuals and tireless workers.”
Charlie Cook, WSM-FM Nashville pd and Cumulus Media vp country formats, concurs. “[“Drinks”] got immediate response and you can see the audience singing along when they play it live. We were early supporters and it has paid off. Onward to the top 10. They deserve the attention.”
Runaway June is currently touring as a supporting act, with Maddie & Tae, on Carrie Underwood‘s all-female-billed Cry Pretty Tour 360. Launched in May, the 60-stop trek runs through Oct. 31.