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New Country Radio Study Debunks ‘Men Rate Better Than Women’ Theory

Research concludes vast majority of listeners want equal play for males and females.

Written by Chris Parton
New Country Radio Study Debunks ‘Men Rate Better Than Women’ Theory
Carrie Underwood Cry Pretty Tour 2019 © Steve Jennings

The longstanding bias against female voices at country radio has just been scientifically debunked, with new research concluding fans actually want to hear more women in country music.

Announced today (February 18) just ahead of the annual Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, the results of a study done by Coleman Insights reveal that “not only do 84 percent of listeners want equal play for women on radio, but 7 out of 10 want more female artists in the genre.” Twenty-eight percent of listeners said they would, in fact, listen to country radio more if more female artists were being played, verses 11 percent who said they would listen less.

The new data flies in the face of prevailing industry wisdom which has led radio stations to avoid playing songs by country females, fearing their ratings would go down and would lose advertising business, thus endangering the station’s viability. But those beliefs were apparently never tested until now, even after the practice became a media flashpoint starting in 2015.

“The age-old myth that ‘women don’t want to hear women’ has led to a multitude of unproven public claims about female voices on the air, including ‘you can’t play two women back-to-back’ or ‘ratings drop when you play women’” said Leslie Fram, Senior Vice President, Music & Talent, CMT, who commissioned the study. “When we approached Coleman Insights about this specific line of research, we were shocked to learn no one had ever commissioned data on the listeners themselves. CMT took it directly to the fans and what we found couldn’t have been more clear: listeners want equal play and women do want to hear women on the radio.”

Furthermore, 72 percent of respondants recognized radio’s gender bias in favor of male artists, but 53 percent reported no gender preference and a whopping 88 percent acknowledged the “pivotal role females have played in country music’s history.”

Fram will help present the findings during an industry panel today, officially kicking off CMT’s year long Equal Play Initiative, which seeks to dramatically increase female participation in the genre’s mainstream and create a path toward gender parity. In January, CMT announced plans to program 50/50 video airplay for female and male artists across CMT and CMT Music channels, and CMT Radio followed suit.

“This tells us country music fans want to hear good songs period. But it also tells us that we are training listeners not to hear female voices,” Fram’s statement continued. “Without creating an equal playing field, fans don’t know what they are missing. This is about a balance of gender and diversity. It’s essential for all voices to be heard.”