A new study provides some surprising insight on just how difficult it is for debut solo female artists to find success on country radio.
Devarati Ghosh, a New York-based political economist and country music blogger conducted the revealing study. Ghosh studied Billboard‘s Country Airplay chart for the study, commissioned by Change the Conversation, a group based in Nashville, Tenn., wanting to bring gender parity to country music. The study’s findings were broken down into three time periods: 1992-1999, 2000-2007 and 2008-2015.
In the first time span, when artists like Martina McBride, Faith Hill and Shania Twain made their debuts, 41 new solo female artists and 67 males were introduced by major labels and earned airplay on country radio. Out of those groups, 44 percent of women and 42 percent of men earned a top 20 hit. From those artists, 89 percent of women and 86 percent of men went on to get a second single in the top 20.
Between 2000 and 2007, the numbers begin to worsen for women, when only 40 percent of the 43 new female artists made the top 20, compared to 55 percent of the 56 new male artists introduced. Even worse, only 53 percent of women scored a second top 20 hit, compared to 71 percent of men.
According to the study, things haven’t gotten much better for women in recent years. Since 2008, only 31 women, compared to 51 men, have debuted on country radio. What’s more is that 57 percent of the men have gotten a top 20 single, while only 32 percent of women have. Incredibly, 75 percent of new male artists have made the top 20 a second time. How many females have achieved a successful second single on country radio? Zero. Even though artists like Kacey Musgraves have found much success in recent years, not one female solo artist has managed to have a second hit single on the top 20 of the Country Airplay chart.
“What we see is that the proportion of solo females being brought to country radio remained pretty steady over the three blocks, but [their] success rate… has declined significantly,” Ghosh said of the results in a recent blog post, according to Billboard. “Meanwhile, success rates for men in scoring initial radio success have climbed, while the success rates for solo men in consolidating initial radio success have remained considerably higher.”
Although the average numbers of debut women on country radio have stayed similar over the years, women have had much lower success when it comes to charting successfully. Is this due to listeners wanting more male voices, or is it something bigger? The “Tomatogate” controversy earlier this year shed new light on the true politics behind finding equality on the radio. Although the study doesn’t give specific reasons for why women have been struggling to find success on country radio, it gives interesting insight into the realities of trying to find success as a new solo country artist.