CMA Awards to shine a light on the women of Country

Posted at 6:11 PM, Aug 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-19 20:38:03-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire, and Dolly Parton are three of the biggest names in Country Music, and they've all hosted the CMA Awards in the past, but the announcement of them hosting the awards together is a big show of support for women in general by the Country Music Association (CMA).

In the past few years, women in Country Music have spoken out about how Country Radio and the industry as a whole hasn't shown much support to women, and they've been working to change the industry and given women more equality.

"The CMA participating in this conversation is a really great step, and hopefully will continue to sort of change even more minds, because people listen to the CMAs, it's a really important organization in Nashville and in Country Music, so hopefully people will listen," music journalist Marissa Moss said.

Moss has written for Rolling Stone, Billboard, and Nashville Scene, and she's spoken outwardly about gender inequality in Country Music, specifically radio, in articles and on social media.

According to Moss, Country radio plays significantly more men than women, even though there is a wealth of talent in the genre from female artists.

"You could listen to 10 songs by men and not hear one from women," Moss said of Country radio. "There's sort of all of these myths out there that women don't want to hear women or women don't test well on Country Radio, and there's no real data backing that up, but people kind of stick by the same old ways."

In the past year, only one women reached number one on Country radio for one of her own songs. That artist was Maren Morris. Prior to Maren Morris achieving a number one single, you have to go back 74 weeks to Kelsea Ballerini's last number one single to find a woman at the top of the charts, which is a striking example of the problem of gender inequality on the radio.

Moss said the issue manifests into itself, making the issue even worse. "You're not gonna hear songs by women, so that means you're not gonna want to hear songs by women. You have to hear music to like it."

Moss says the only way to address the issue is to give women a platform, like CMA is doing.

And the CMA Awards are a great time to do it, with Country Music fans from around the world tuning in. If women are showcased right, it can start a change to give women more of an equal playing field.

“It’s a tricky one because you don’t want everything just to be a novelty or like, 'Hey ladies, here’s your women night,' and then we go back to all dude programming tomorrow," Moss explained. "Nobody wants that, but on the other hand, we’re in such a crisis of representation right now that you have to try a little bit harder than you normally would.”

But according to Moss, there has been progress in the industry.

“You had a festival out in Chicago called Lake Shake that had an all-women day at their festival, you have people like Maren Morris and the Highwomen and Carrie Underwood all speaking out," Moss explained, but added that it hasn't made a significant impact when it comes to airplay on Country radio.

While much of the issues that are brought out when it comes to Country radio are about women not receiving equal play, Moss said that male artists and artists of color are also finding it hard to get played on Country radio.

“I think it’s frustrating for men too, because if you’re someone like a Charlie Worsham, or a Kip Moore, or someone who’s a little bit different, you’re sort of encountering some of the same challenges at Country Radio too. They’re not wanting to give you a chance.”

Moss said that while people can report the information and complain about it, or even call their radio station, she believes it will take a movement from the whole industry to create change.

She believes popular acts that are being played on the radio, such as Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban, Luke Combs, and others, need to call program directors at radio stations and request that they play artists that currently aren't getting play on the radio. She also believes the major acts need to take women out on the road more to give them more exposure, since they're not getting that exposure from Country radio.

"It's in the hands of men too, you know, it's the future of the genre here, it should matter to them too," Moss said. "It shouldn't just matter to the women that are in it now, we want Country Music to maintain an amazing legacy, and women are a huge part of that."

Some artists are doing that, with Dierks Bentley and Keith Urban both taking women out on tour with them recently, but Moss said it needs to be done even more to even the playing field.

The fact that CMA is planning to highlight women both in the form of hosts and in celebration at the CMA Awards is a big win for women, according to Moss, but she said she hopes women are also represented when it comes to nominations and awards, with women missing out on a nomination in the Entertainer of the Year category for multiple years in a row.

More information is expected about the CMA Awards in the coming months, but Moss and others fighting for equality in the industry said that this was a great step in the right direction.