The divide between male and female artists in the country music industry is one that has been highly discussed in recent years, and newly published comments made by a male industry professional have made it clear just how big that divide really is.
In an interview with the Nashville-based industry journal Country Aircheck, radio consultant Keith Hill had some controversial advice for radio programmers in terms of choosing what artists – and what sex – they should focus on playing.
He compares the radio landscape to a tossed salad, saying, “Trust me, I play great female records and we’ve got some right now; they’re just not the lettuce in our salad. The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists like that. The tomatoes of our salad are the females.”
Hill even goes as far as saying, “If you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out.” These harsh words quickly sparked responses from some of country’s biggest female artists on their social media pages. The controversy, now labeled with the hashtag #saladgate, moved Martina McBride to ask her fans what they thought about the comments on her Facebook page.
Miranda Lambert also responded on Twitter.
I am gonna do everything in my power to support and promote female singer/songwriters in country music. Always.
— Miranda Lambert (@mirandalambert) May 28, 2015
Hill hasn’t made a public apology for the comments, but has communicated with a reporter for CMT in an attempt to further explain his comments. “My job is to trick people to listen longer. You know how I do that? I never give them onion, onion, onion. I never give them carrot, carrot, carrot. I never give them a half hour of lettuce, lettuce, lettuce,” Hill says. “And guess what? I never give them tomato, tomato, either. It’s just a strategically measured mixing.”
Although the business side of radio does involve strategic decision-making when it comes to deciding what types of songs to play, it seems like Hill is still missing the point. The nonchalant way he lessened the importance and worth of female artists is a blinding example of the kind of sexist undercurrent that has flowed quietly within the country music industry for decades. However, the huge stream of support and discussion developed from Hill’s comments displays that there’s hope for females to climb back to their rightful spot as musical and intellectual equals in the genre.