A few years back, you may have heard the slanderous statement made by a radio consultant that, when it comes to country music, women are “the tomatoes of our salad.” Within this analogy, said consultant alluded to men being the “lettuce,” or the most important part of the salad, otherwise known as country music radio.
Following an all-time low turnout on Billboard’s country airplay chart in 2018, the ladies of country music have made an incredibly strong showing in country airplay throughout the first half of 2019. Female artists like Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, Carrie Underwood and Kacey Musgraves are currently tearing up the charts.
Kelsea Ballerini’s “Miss Me More” is the year’s second-most consumed song by a country female solo artist, with 538 million total audience at country radio, according to Nielsen Music’s Mid-Year Report U.S. 2019. Additionally, Carrie Underwood’s “Love Wins” is the year’s third-most consumed song by a country female solo artist, at 414 million total audience at country radio.
It’s no surprise that Underwood is among this group of empowered females: her current “Cry Pretty 360” arena tour, which kicked off in May and runs through late October, is an exclusively female lineup. On selecting opening acts, Maddie & Tae and Runaway June, for her tour, Underwood shared with USA Today:
“It was like, ‘Can I do that? Can I have an all-female tour?’ The more I talked about it, it just felt right. You’ve got to go with your gut. Everybody is so going to be on time and get along. This is probably going to be the chillest tour we’ve ever been on.”
It’s clear that fans are on board with this much girl power packed on to one stage, too:
“We walk out on the first show, and it’s an arena filled with women. Thousands. Little girls, older ladies — it’s just a sea of women. So [the line of thought that women don’t want to hear women] is just not true. You walk out there, and it’s like, ‘Come see for yourself.’ It’s an entire arena every single night,” Jennifer Wayne, Runaway June bandmate, told The Boot.
While all of this is an inspiring cowboy-boot-clad step in the right direction, let us not forget that for every 9.7 songs spun by a male artist on country radio, merely one song by a female artist received airplay in 2018, according to a report by Mediabase.
To give you a better idea of how this adds up over time, the study shows that from 2000 to 2018, country’s top played male artist (Kenney Chesney), received more than 6 million radio spins. On the other hand, country’s top female artist (Carrie Underwood) received just over 3 million radio spins during the same time period.
Throughout the first six months of 2019, the top 5 genre artists in country were all men (as reported from by the Nielsen Music’s Mid-Year Report, which collected data from Jan. 4, 2019 to June 20, 2019). Sharing this isn’t to throw shade at the dudes of country music. We still love you, Luke Combs, FGL and Thomas Rhett; we merely wish country music were more inclusive. (OK, a little bit of shade may be thrown in the direction of “bro-country.” Really?)
All hope is not lost, because some of the industry’s biggest stars are banding together to fight for equal representation. Even everyone’s favorite Southern country-themed chain restaurant, Cracker Barrel, is getting in on the action! The “Five Decades, One Voice” campaign honors legendary women of country music, while pairing them up with a rising star to mentor.
So, you know what? If we must stick with the awful metaphor, let men be the “lettuce” of the salad that is country music.
Because women? They are the prime rib of this potluck.
10 up-and-coming women in country music
- Tenille Townes
- Kassi Ashton
- Renee Blair
- Kylie Morgan
- The Sisterhood Band
- Mickey Guyton
- Abby Anderson
- Ingrid Andress
- Hannah Ellis
- Lauren Jenkins
Keep an eye (and an ear!) out for the above ladies to be featured in upcoming country contests in your FanLabel app!