“I Say, Include Women.” An opinion piece by Lindi Ortega
Editor’s Note: Lindi Ortega is a Canadian-born, Nashville-based singer and songwriter. She won Roots Artist of the Year at the 2014 Canadian Country Music Awards, and was nominated for Female Artist of the Year as well. Her Dave Cobb-produced 2013 album Tin Star won high praise amongst critics, and she is set to release her latest record Faded Gloryville on August 7th.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – –
I have thought long and hard about the salad/tomato analogy espoused by radio consultant Keith Hill to describe
men versus women in country music radio. It may seem surprising, but I do not think referring to women as “tomatoes” was the most damaging part of his analysis. Even though he very well could have been stating the raw truths with regards to statistics, I feel his most damaging statement was:
“If you want ratings in country radio, take women out.”
This very well may be true. It can also go along with statements like this:
“Sex sells. If you want to attract attention and sell music as a woman in the industry, then be sexy.”
This may also very well be a factual statement. But does that mean that every woman should follow this
What if a women doesn’t want to sell sex? Should she do it because it will make her more money? Because it has become standard industry practice? Because she will be seen as a better business woman?
I think what first needs to be resolved here is the idea that there is “woman music,” and “man music,” and they are two separate entities. What happened to music just being music, enjoyed by all?
When Playboy tweeted to singer/songwriter Neko Case that she was breaking the mold of what women in the industry should be, Ms Case fired back with “Am I? IM NOT A FUCKING “WOMAN IN MUSIC”, IM A FUCKING MUSICIAN IN MUSIC!”
There is a strange irony in a pornographic magazine commenting on women breaking the mold of what
women should be. And by the same token, that irony exists in a man, Keith Hill, advising that women should be “taken out” of country radio in accordance with his statistical analysis.
You see, the thing about statistics is that they can change. Statistics are rarely set in stone. You just have to look
at politics to see how popular opinion can shift and sway. To make such an iron-clad statement and assert that
country radio should “take women out” reminds me of a statement that was perpetuated not too long ago
in our history that said “women should not vote.” Or other statements like, “Women should not be in prominent business positions,” or “women cannot play sports.”
Women have had to fight to be treated as equals in society. We have had to fight for equal pay. We have had to fight against sexism, harassment, misogyny. And as if we don’t have enough battles, now we have to fight to get equal play on the radio. The entertainment industry has got to be one of the most difficult industries for women, because we are faced with so many double standards. We decide to have children and suddenly we are asked about how we can handle having a child and a career. Or the public is more concerned with who designed our dress rather than what inspired our craft.
But circling back to “take women out,” just think of those words: “TAKE WOMEN OUT.” I can’t begin to describe to you how my blood boils at those words. Erase us, delete us . . . make it so we don’t exist. TAKE WOMEN OUT.
It is no secret that today’s country music radio has its fair share of detractors. You would be hard pressed to find someone who says they think it is a format that is really progressive, perpetuating quality songwriting, and talent. If this is what you are looking for, try NPR, or most local and satellite radio would cover you for quality control. There is indeed great music being made in this day and age by men and women alike, but it’s not allowed to be called country, it is shunned by mainstream country radio stations and relegated to the world of Americana, but that’s a whole other can of worms altogether.
As for Country Music Radio, it has become the “bro country” domain. It is a world full of frat boys, partying and drinking, and making sure their women wear tight jeans and are referred to as “girl.” Radio has the power to influence its listeners. So I would say, in that respect, country music radio has done its job. Women have been so devalued in song that listeners do not even want to hear them make songs. When a female song does make it through the cracks, its one that seems to only perpetuate the idea of women as props, reiterating that we are “girls” and exist to wear pretty skirts.
Gone are the days of Loretta Lynn singing “One’s On The Way.” Gone are the days of adult issues like divorce, resonating with mature audiences. Gone are the days of originality, not only in style but in songwriting. In that classic era you could tell the difference between Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. Artists were easily discernible and legends arose because of their unique qualities that made them not only country music legends, but revered and respected all over the world.
Remember when Blake Shelton went on about how only old farts and jackasses listen to classic country and he said that we need to evolve? What does it mean to evolve in the new country era?
“Country music has to evolve in order to survive. Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music. And I don’t care how many of these old farts around Nashville going, ‘My God, that ain’t country!’ Well that’s because you don’t buy records anymore, jackass. The kids do, and they don’t want to buy the music you were buying.”
After Ray Price, one of Shelton’s idols, was offended by Blake’s words, he released this statement:
“I hate that I upset him. The truth is my statement was and still is about how we as the new generation of country artists have to keep re-inventing country music to keep it popular.”
It appears for new country music, “evolve” means “TAKE WOMEN OUT.” Seems more like regressing if you ask me.
Country Music Radio was once a great thing. It had its golden era where it inspired and resonated and produced many classic artists and songs by both men and women. Look how things have changed. The entire music industry fell on hard times and has since desperately tried to stay afloat. The only way they know how to stay on top is to make lots of money. A shift in its core audience went from more mature folks, to the younger generation, because that’s where the money is, and as Blake Shelton said, “the kids” buy the music.
Now the industry is stuck and afraid. Country Radio found a formula that made them money and they are scared to veer from it. Nobody wants to take that risk. Nobody wants to give “kids” the benefit of the doubt and assume they can comprehend something musically cerebral. With this shift in country music, women became ousted from the game—a game where they once reigned supreme. Recent examples include, Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Shania Twain. And even more recently, holding a corner of the industry for themselves are Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert. But it seems like the door has been shut behind these women and new country radio has locked it up and swallowed the key. How has it come to this? Somewhere between the desperate attempts of the music industry to revive itself and its radio consultants whispering in the ears of country music programmers we believe that we must exile women to survive.
Some people have said to me “I don’t get why people are so mad at Keith Hill. I didn’t read his article as an attack on women, I read it as more just stating realities of the business.”
I don’t think Mr. Hill really meant to blatantly attack women either. Sure, he was stating statistical analysis and realities. But, whether he meant to or not, he made a statement that perpetuates sexism. “TAKE WOMEN OUT.”
Imagine if all the country music radio programmers decided that they would do just that. They read the statistics, they want to get ratings, so they decide to take Mr. Hill’s advice.
Well, that is what is actually happening, and in my opinion, it’s an injustice.
There comes a time when ethics must outweigh capitalistic interests.
It’s a dangerous and slippery slope to advise that WOMEN, be taken out of country radio. Not because they are bad songwriters, not because they are terrible singers, not because they don’t measure up to men. Simply because they are women. We should not stand for such a negative and damaging message. We must speak against this type of dialogue if we are to truly evolve as an industry.
I have nothing to gain here, as I am not an artist that would be played on commercial country radio anyhow. But this matters to me because I care about the fate of women in music and it would be a shame for them to become extinct because some radio consultant scared programmers with statistics.
INCLUDE WOMEN, and I do not just mean young 19-year old girls pandering to the bro country formula, but women who write great songs and make great music. I would bet my last dollar that if country radio included them more in their programming the statistics that led us to this dismal place would change significantly.
June 29, 2015 @ 6:48 pm
Looks like another gal I have to add.
July 13, 2015 @ 6:34 pm
I disagree with the notion that women have long been given the shaft in country music. I can name countless women who became legends. From Kitty Wells to Jean Shepherd to the likes of Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton. More recently there was Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Miranda Lambert, and the list can go on. And I just remembered Janie Fricke, one of the best of all time. And then there were Mary Chapin Carpenter and Kathy Mattea and also the Judds, who successfully married country and folk. And, although not specifically classified as country acts, Linda Ronstadt and more recently Norah Jones have done a tremendous service for the genre.
June 29, 2015 @ 6:52 pm
Well said, Lindi. Here’s one sexist thing I particularly hate; the pay rates. Nobody can deny that it’s usually the woman that ends up being a single parent. I was raised by a single mom. So let me get this straight: a man who ditched his wife and kids and lives a carefree life automatically makes more money in the same job than the woman who has to care for children, when it’s nearly always the woman who needs it more? That doesn’t make any logical sense.
June 29, 2015 @ 7:47 pm
Sounds lawsuit-worthy. What industry is this?
I don’t think that women always need the money more than men. Often, the men are the ones that support the family (including a homemaking wife as well as kids).
June 29, 2015 @ 8:23 pm
But when there is a divorce, it’s usually the woman who ends up with the kids. Or the mother just never got married to the deadbeat dad. My father has never paid child support, so it was all up to mama. We don’t even know what became of that guy. Either way, there are far more single mothers than single fathers. Considering that, the women usually need more money.
June 29, 2015 @ 8:40 pm
True, but for married families, the men usually serve as the primary breadwinners. In any case, if a company is paying men and women differently per hour for the same job, then a lawsuit should be filed. The Lily Ledbetter Act eliminated the 180-day statute of limitations on such suits, and so it does not matter how much time has elapsed since the discriminatory pay period.
June 30, 2015 @ 3:30 pm
The primary reason that men earn more than women is that men tend to take higher paying jobs and tend to work more (both in terms of hours per week and lack of time off for vacation/maternity leave). Looking at a field like medicine, the areas more heavily populated by women are lower-stress lower-pay branches like nursing, pediatrics and obstetrics, while men tend to take up positions like surgery. Adjusting for those factors, the wage gap shrinks considerably (the adjusted gap is maybe 5-7%, which is obviously too high assuming all things are equal except gender, but there’s a halfway decent argument that that figure may be explained by other factors that we simply don’t have data for). You also need to look at the fields which are, in general, more populated by women (child care, teaching, etc.) and those more populated by men (STEM fields).
There’s also the fact that men are generally the ones paying alimony and child support after a divorce. If your father was required by law to pay child support and failed to do so he should have been taken to court. If that was impossible for whatever reason then you really should be blaming him and not the system.
July 1, 2015 @ 8:51 am
It doesn’t matter anymore, the government [taxpayer] steps up to foot the bill and single mothers live well in America these days. So well that they don’t have to worry about birth control or random encounters, each unplanned bundle of joy is a pay raise!
June 29, 2015 @ 6:54 pm
It is no secret that today”™s country music radio has its fair share of detractors. You would be hard pressed to find someone who says they think it is a format that is really progressive, perpetuating quality songwriting, and talent. If this is what you are looking for, try NPR, or most local and satellite radio would cover you for quality control. There is indeed great music being made in this day and age by men and women alike, but it”™s not allowed to be called country, it is shunned by mainstream country radio stations and relegated to the world of Americana, but that”™s a whole other can of worms altogether.
AT YOUR SERVICE
June 29, 2015 @ 7:02 pm
That line of Hill’s remarks offended me more as well.
When I hear it quoted aloud, I think of an official urging a sniper to attack confirmed targets. The vegetable analogy is insufferable in itself, but where the latter quote is descriptive sexist, the former snacks as actively threatening.
There’s not a single word I disagree with in Ortega ‘ s commentary. And we already know inclusion expands the pool of opportunity from a business standpoint.
Ortega ‘ s looming release was already the release I’m most effervescently anticipating (which is saying a flaming lot when Jason Isbell and likely Sturgill Simpson also have new albums looming). But my emotional incentive to have her back and buy her latest has only heightened further.
June 29, 2015 @ 7:19 pm
Sturgill was talking about using EDM in his next album. I’m scared… However, I still honestly believe Zac Brown’s lastest album was not a sellout moment, but rather a clever, subtle rebellion. It’s got horrible pop nonsense mixed in with music that is closer to their style. Jekyll + Hyde is the name of the album. Y’all really don’t see what that symbolizes? Jekyll=substance, Hyde=crap. The album is a clever attempt to show how stupid these current trends are. Sturgill might do something similar, just a lot better so there’s no way to get the wrong idea.
June 29, 2015 @ 7:25 pm
Dave Cobb is producing Sturgill’s next album. Check his track record. Everything may not be in your favorite genre, but the dude knows how to get the best out of artists.
June 29, 2015 @ 7:40 pm
I don’t mind if Sturgill is bringing in electronic elements in his music, as long as he’s doing it for the right reasons. If he thinks it sounds cool and he’s inspired by incorporating new sounds then he should go for it, even if the end result doesn’t please all his current fans, at least he’s following his muse. That’s the whole point of experiments. Sometimes they fail, but sometimes they end up sending the genre in a whole new surprising direction.
June 29, 2015 @ 7:27 pm
It’s terrible for radio to exclude women and not give their songs a chance no matter how good they are, to maintain a ridiculously low female airplay level. That practice keeps many of the best country artists and songs off radio.
June 29, 2015 @ 7:35 pm
I’m just pissed off that we’re living in a time where an article like this needs to be written. Radio programmers have spent so long pandering to the almighty dollar that they’ve lost touch with their own humanity. They’ve completely forgotten what it’s like to judge a song on its own merits.
June 30, 2015 @ 3:32 pm
Don’t blame the radio programmers, blame the listening public.
June 29, 2015 @ 7:38 pm
I truly don’t understand this nonsense about female performers. Two of my fave performers, you and Sarah Buxton write amazing songs, have distinctive voices and put on the most entertaining stage shows. So many fantastic Country/Americana female performers out there that I have seen or will see this year. Shania Twain, Kacey Musgraves, Kasey Chambers, Carrie Rodriguez, Jess Klein, Betty Soo, Amanda Shires, Carrie Welling, Marta Pacek, Rachel Potter, Jill Andrews and many more. Plus it seems to me that just a few years ago a majority of country radio songs were: Dolly, Shania, Faith, Martina, Rosenne, and Emmylou.
So Lindi please just keep doing your thing so your fans can come out and see your shows and buy your music!
June 29, 2015 @ 7:39 pm
*Standing and applauding*
Very well thought out and very well written.
I haven’t listened to much radio in the past 3 years, and really none lately. Music radio, anyway. Across all genres, mainstream is just terrible. I know it sucks for artists, but it makes it pretty easy for me…….if you’re on the top anything list, probably not gonna like it. Sad.
June 29, 2015 @ 7:39 pm
You go girl!!! I still love how feisty you are I am so glad you are still the same person who quit our shitty min wage customer service jobs together!!!
Once again always voting for equal rights!!
Lindi shout it from the roof tops!!
Lindi rocks in the music biz and is a talented MUSICIAN!!!!!!!
June 29, 2015 @ 7:44 pm
Great article Lindi. I totally agree with you. There have been, is now and always will be amazing women in Country music. To even suggest taking women out of country music is just insane. I think in some ways country music is still run by the Good Old Boys as they call them. And that’s a shame. I think that’s why they came down so hard on the Dixie Chicks when they made that mild statement about Bush. They picked on them because they were strongly opinionated women and not what they said in some ways. But that’s a whole other story as well. More power to the ladies of country music I say.
June 29, 2015 @ 7:49 pm
~ Some of us will “always have your back”! I believe women of country have a much better sound and quality of written lyrics! You bring the most unique style of country music that I have heard since the days of “Outlaw Country, that is reminiscent of 30’s 40’s and 50’s. I am not real crazy about the (corporate) sound of today’s country music. It’s the same old crap, over and over! Good ole’ boy country music really sucks (my opinion)! Lindi, you have the most incredible, high energy and unique flavor that in my books, is top-notch!!! I know you will use that high energy to keep kicking in them doors. Scratching, red boot kicking and fighting to remain a class act! I saw you in Minneapolis and have followed your music since the old days of Myspace! I, for one will always have your back! Keep the spirit alive!!!! Peace (with a little red boot) Through Music! Regards, Williebthere
June 29, 2015 @ 7:50 pm
When I first started listening to country back in the very early 1990s I absolutely loved the female artists at the time and bought a ton of their albums. It was a terrific era. Now what little I listen to on the radio (not by choice, it’s what everyone at work plays and it’s what every store in this town plays in the background) not only has very little music by female musicians but only a small bit of that is actually any good. It’s incredibly depressing.
June 29, 2015 @ 8:08 pm
Lindi, we loooooooooooooooooooved you when you came to Asbury Park in the middle of winter. I haven’t seen such a great show in so many years, decades, lifetimes. I had a whole crew there and you just knocked us all down. Strike! Lemme know when you are coming back, we don’t give a damn what they call it or where they allow it.
June 29, 2015 @ 8:29 pm
I very much like this tomato! My search into the Americana/alt-country world has led me to another quality artist!
June 29, 2015 @ 8:37 pm
Amen!! The majority of albums I’ve purchased lately have been female artists… your Tin Star, Kacey’s latest, Brandi Clark, Angaleena Presley, Sunny Sweeney, Miranda, Ashley Monroe…. the only major male artists I’ve purchased in years are old guard– George Strait, Willie, Alan Jackson. The guys who write creative music don’t get airplay, it’s all “bro-country” which all sounds alike… I read somewhere that a lot of their songs are written by just a few songwriters… but do they have to write the same damn song over and over? Willie’s written hundreds of songs– each one unique. The women are writing more interesting songs, by and large, than the men… you have to listen to the “Americana” genre to find the good male songwriters/singers. They need to ditch the bro-formula– it’s boring, it’s sexist… and it’s wearing thin.
June 29, 2015 @ 9:02 pm
In the alternate dimension I recently discovered, the one where pop never took over country, Lindi Ortega is the top female artist in country music, and one of the most successful of all singers. There are no gender discrepancies in that world’s country music, and that world’s country music is actually country music. It seems that is the default reality, while your reality is an inverted flip-flop of that reality. Such a shame that you have to live in a world where country radio plays everything except country, and actual country music can’t be called country. It should be called “Mainstream Country: No Country Music Allowed” because that’s the reality of your world. Oh well, I’ll just go listen to Ms. Ortega’s latest #1 single. I would post the link, but the resulting paradox could destroy your dimension. Doom wishes your Lindi the best.
June 29, 2015 @ 9:46 pm
She makes some good , if over-worked , points . However I think the issue is far more logically understood when we just face some truths.
The targeted mainstream country demographic is women 16-40 ( 18-50 , 14-30 …take your pick …same difference…mostly female ) and they all seem to want to listen to ( look at ) the bro boys and buy their songs and concert tickets . That female market doesn’t seem to mind or be offended by the way they are stereo-typed and referred to by the bro boys in a song lyric . They don’t seem to mind the mindless and generic nature of those lyrics OR the sameness of the music from one song to the next . They don’t seem to mind , care or even know whether or not those bros can actually sing ( most are , of course , auto-tuned and relatively unchallenged by the material ) . Like it or not , the business IS about sex and its those ladies interested in the hunky , half- shaven , bulked up backward -hatted bros that is keeping it afloat right now . NOT the song lyrics , NOT the instrumentation , NOT the dance-factor as there is no dance factor anymore , and NOT THE FEMALE PERFORMERS . Its McGraw’s chiseled semi-emaciated frame , the Kruise Kids’ bare biceps , Dierk’s curls , Keith’s androgynous caricature etc. Its the ladies that love that male-ness of the business that are supporting it .Not to mention that all of those cardboard cutout bros are singing trite lyrics all about their “girl” song in and song out. The female country audience are the ones to blame for radio not including more female performers and artists , unfortunately . There will always be a market for a hunky guy in music or in movies or in sports because there will always be women for whom any actual talent these guys may or may not possess takes a backseat to their looks .
I empathize with women in country music right now . In my opinion they are writing and recording THE BEST material ….material with something to say , with integrity and emotion and performed by some VERY seriously talented female vocalists . But country-music lovin’ ladies …you’ve seen the enemy …and its yourselves. And you know it .
June 29, 2015 @ 10:11 pm
Luke Bryan’s ass is the main attraction. But I don’t really see how girls are attracted to these douchebags. I was always the geeky single band kid while all the girls wanted the absolute dumbest of the hunky football players.
Dierks doesn’t have curls anymore, and I’ve never heard of the Kruise Kids. Dierks, McGraw, and Keith are far from the worst offenders or biggest problems though. That dishonor goes to Luke, FGL, Sam Hunt, Cole “Swindle,” and Jason Aldean. Jason isn’t even attractive at all. Seriously, my mom is Luke and Jason’s age (really) and she thinks Jason is one of the ugliest men alive. She’s not part of the problem.
I hope my soulmate shares my disdain for dumbasses like Jason, but most of the girls I know think him and his bro buddies are God’s gift to women. Oh, and they think they sing country music. I wish they knew it’s not country…
June 30, 2015 @ 5:38 am
Kale: Women in general are part of a curious mindeset I’ve noticed. Many of them talk how much they don’t want to date an “asshole” but then the only guys who have the “attractiveness” or the “swagger” they want are that same bunch of “assholes.” I think a lot of dudes don’t learn how to treat women because they’re so used to coasting on their looks or being a football player. Actually at work last night I had a girl come in, she asked where the virgin olive oil was and I told her it was next to a very disappointed Popeye the Sailor. She of course thought that was hilarious and my manager asked me why I didn’t get her number…
June 30, 2015 @ 10:01 am
“I think a lot of dudes don”™t learn how to treat women because they”™re so used to coasting on their looks or being a football player.”
And now because they grow up listening to misogynist bro-country lyrics on country radio, with no respectful male and female point of view songs to balance things out.
October 28, 2021 @ 11:44 am
Learn the Red Pill, my friend.
Women, in general, do like dating the swaggering assholes. It gives them the tingles. They might say they don’t to save face but they really do and their dating habits prove it. Guys in response have adapted to that mindset.
June 29, 2015 @ 10:20 pm
I will ask this again though: How does the artist’s looks translate into the radio format? Of all the music media, radio should be the least susceptible to the artist’s appearance.
June 29, 2015 @ 10:29 pm
I guess women just picture the men when they come on the radio. They couldn’t care less what it sounds like. Music from Luke Bryan makes them think of Luke Bryan, and that’s all they want. As long as it’s from a hot guy, they’ll like it. as for guys like Cole “Swindle,” I guess they look him up to see what he looks like. Or maybe it’s just his connection to Luke.
June 29, 2015 @ 10:39 pm
Strange. Isn’t it easier to pay attention to the sound of the song on the radio instead of trying to visualize the singer?
I’m not saying that the looks don’t play any role, but that the sonic component should serve as the overriding factor on the radio. Maybe the bro-country fans just like that type of music.
June 29, 2015 @ 10:56 pm
No they don’t. Most people don’t actually like music. We do, but most people just listen to stuff they can dance and party to. These women don’t care about the music. They don’t know if it sucks or not because they don’t know better. Most people rarely listen to the words, and they sure don’t know anything about music. So it IS easier for them to visualize the singer than to listen to the sound.
June 29, 2015 @ 11:29 pm
If the bro-country fans don’t care about the music, then why would the country industry go out of its way to alienate traditional country fans? Shouldn’t they ask the attractive male artists to sing traditional country songs instead? In that way, the bro fan base remains satisfied due to the attractiveness of the singer and the traditional fans would remain satisfied with the music.
June 29, 2015 @ 11:56 pm
I guess it’s 50/50. They want something they can party to and don’t care about how stupid it is. They wouldn’t listen to traditional country songs no matter what the singer looked like. But they also wouldn’t like bro-country as much if they weren’t attracted to the singer. Basically, they think songs with substance are boring. So they really don’t like music in general or even country music, they just like to party and hear about being country, thinking that if its called country, it must be country.
June 30, 2015 @ 12:02 am
Let’s not forget the role that being fashionable plays in this . Women more-so than men , in my experience (I grew up with 3 sisters ) are into being fashionable and I ‘m not just talking shoes or hairstyle . Women , more-so than men , want to be SEEN to be fashionable….they need the approval and acceptance of other women more than men need the acceptance of other men . They need to like the same things other women like in order to feel ‘ included ‘ ( within reason , of course ) and that includes music ….whereas men like what they like regardless of whether its trendy , timely , popular or not ( and that includes shoes and hairstyle ). This plays an enormous part in the popularity of the Bros . Its cool , its hip , its trendy to like the bros as long as you don’t mind the stereo-typing in the lyric . Its all woman wiggling around front ‘n centre at every music show televised. For the bros, its all about writing for , dressing for , singing about it and selling it sexually to women .
June 30, 2015 @ 12:07 am
I can certainly understand the appeal of lyrics that focus on women’s physical appearance. However, all of this can be accomplished while still maintaining a traditional sound. Take a look at this Joe Nichols video from the pre-bro era, for example:
What accounts for the sudden rise of the bro-country sound?
June 30, 2015 @ 12:24 am
Also, how does the concert attendance data square with the data showing that the radio audience for bro-country is disproportionately male, as shown by Windmills Country?
June 30, 2015 @ 12:12 am
If they did not like music at all, wouldn’t we expect at least some variation in the sound? The fact that bro-country uses such a rigid sonic style shows that the particular style is valued by the audience.
June 30, 2015 @ 7:06 am
Conditioning . Record producers and engineers will tell you that it’s imperative to incorporate production elements that mainstream listeners are conditioned to respond to : ” megaphone ” sounding vocals ,synthetic drum loops with handclaps, heavy bottom-end mixes , highly compressed vocals which are mixed thus to compete with traffic and general environmental noise , specific rhythms with specific tempos and VERY little in the way of dynamic contrast where radio play is desired . Add to this a lyric which demands little in the way of a listener having to process it ( too distracting in a vehicle or in the workplace ) and you have the recipe for catching the ear of listener conditioned to respond . All very Pavlovian and very successful at garnering and keeping an otherwise undiscernig listener who simply hears and sees it as hip and trendy and are satisfied with that .
June 30, 2015 @ 9:23 am
Here’s a great ” lesson” in CONDITIONING a listener by Canadian pop band Marianna’s Trench .The lyric is a clever dissertation on ” how its done ” when you want to catch a listener’s ear
June 30, 2015 @ 9:53 am
Sure hot bros is a factor but it’s not the only one and there are hot girls who can actually sing, write and pick great songs. Pop radio also targets women and has no problem giving female artists far more airplay than country radio. Millions of women want to hear women on country radio. If women wanted to hear only men or hot men on the radio, women would not be outselling or scoring as high and higher than men on listener polls. Do the millions of people, mostly girls and women, who bought Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Kellie Pickler, Kacey Musgraves, etc. music only care about hot guys? Many were dumped by guys and want songs about that and other topics.
The only real problem is that radio constantly playing men has listeners very conditioned to hearing that. So the only way to correct the big lack of female airplay on country radio problem is for all of country radio to stop ignoring and refusing to play more women and start increasing airplay for them, just like they did for men and pop radio does. When more female pop artists release great songs, pop radio gladly fills the top 10 with them so not long ago 6 of the top 10 songs were by solo females. When more female country artists release great songs, country radio ignores them and leaves them stranded at #20-60+ instead of playing them enough to reach the top 10 like they should.
“That female market doesn”™t seem to mind or be offended by the way they are stereo-typed and referred to by the bro boys in a song lyric .”
Many women and men are offended by bro-country and just look at the success of Girl In A Country Song for example. Many, maybe most of the listeners complaining about bro-country and the lack of women on country radio are women.
It’s very unfair for anyone to blame this problem on women instead of radio and that offends women. Also keep in mind that many listeners don’t even know they are being conditioned by radio playing men all the time and being human isn’t their fault either.
June 30, 2015 @ 11:18 am
Chris …just to be clear …I didn’t say there wasn’t a market for female artists on country radio .It happens to be a different market than radio is serving RIGHT NOW , however . There is a market for anything and everything if its properly cultivated and given a chance to find what radio is offering . Radio seems to be happy selling the bros to the ladies who want that , at the moment , and they are doing it successfully ….apparently . If we woke up to far far better music in mainstream country and the stations committed to playing a better music for a significant length of time with a much healthier ratio of female to male, indeed they would tap into an entirely different , more discerning and caring market than they presently pander to . Unfortunately the $$$$ tell them ” it ain’t broke so we ain’t about to fix it ” .
I have more females on my playlists than males ….from classic country by Emmy-Lou and Patty Loveless , Janie Fricke and Loretta to Holly Williams ,Sara Evans , Erin Enderlin , Kacey , Brandy , Lindi Ortega and on and on . This is all terrific stuff which I’m convinced would find an audience if it were playlisted by radio . However it would be a different audience – female AND male -than radio caters to right now .
June 30, 2015 @ 1:16 pm
So how did things end up this way? How did we go from the country music of 2010 to the music of 2013? Where did the fans of the pre-bro sonic style go, and how did the new sound acquire such a large fan base so fast?
June 30, 2015 @ 2:17 pm
“So how did things end up this way? How did we go from the country music of 2010 to the music of 2013? Where did the fans of the pre-bro sonic style go, and how did the new sound acquire such a large fan base so fast?”
Exactly, Eric. Those fans of pre-bro are still out there waiting to hear some substantial music …..why isn’t radio giving it to them ?
I think that file sharing , everyone and his brother uploading what they consider a good video of them singing an original song and /or a cover of someone else’s , TS, Bieber , Miley Cyrus and others being launched to a much younger demographic who not only could ( and would ) steal or purchase and distribute their music online AND had it purchased for them helped to water down the songs lyrically and musically for the younger pop-centric listener while broadening that youth fan base ( teenage girls and their moms ). All business …..all run by folks who don’t care or know or concern themselves with what’s good or what’s offensive or what’s ear candy ( here and gone ) or what has some timeless value etc.. Whatever makes $$$$ is what counts and whomever coughs up those dollars is who they are chasing .
June 30, 2015 @ 2:39 pm
Albert, that still does not address the question of why country music specifically changed so drastically from 2011 to 2013.
Miley and Bieber have nothing to do with country, and both of them were popular well before bro-country. Teen pop has long been a mainstay, going back to before Britney Spears.
As for TS, she never participated in the bro-country movement. If anything, even the songs from Speak Now would be considered traditional country today.
So once again, what factors caused country music to change so drastically?
June 30, 2015 @ 3:11 pm
“TS, Bieber , Miley Cyrus and others being launched to a much younger demographic who not only could ( and would ) steal or purchase and distribute their music online AND had it purchased for them helped to water down the songs lyrically and musically for the younger pop-centric listener while broadening that youth fan base ( teenage girls and their moms ). ”
I think this precipitated the onslaught of the substance-less , trite , throwaway lyric in country music – gone was any significant narrative or movement- all party all the time ….writers wrote down to the demographic when a younger market was identified and did away with the issues country was known for speaking to….adultery , drinking , working hard or being out of work , raising kids , serving time , falling in love ,family , farming and lifestyle , growing old , the passing of time and front porch wisdom while creative use of metaphor and other writing craft was replaced by syncopated lyric for syncopation’s sake ,often no writing ‘hook’ and very weak musical hooks . I could go on and get into more technical aspects of the sound itself , but I’ve mentioned some of those in other posts . ( compressed audio which reduces the dynamics of the music …dynamics responsible for emotion in a piece as well as contrast from song to song etc.. )
June 30, 2015 @ 3:49 pm
Once again, all of those issues in the music industry significantly predated the rise of bro-country. They do not explain the sudden rise of bro-country in the 2011-2013 period.
A more convincing explanation that I’ve read is that hard rock fans (primarily young males) migrated heavily to country music in the lead-up to that period and were drawn to Jason Aldean and Brantley Gilbert. This audience favored macho partying lyrics, and the success of Aldean and Gilbert caused the industry to change gears entirely.
June 30, 2015 @ 4:42 pm
“A more convincing explanation that I”™ve read is that hard rock fans (primarily young males) migrated heavily to country music in the lead-up to that period and were drawn to Jason Aldean and Brantley Gilbert. This audience favored macho partying lyrics, and the success of Aldean and Gilbert caused the industry to change gears entirely.”
I’m sure that played a part and it would make sense ….rock died so where do THOSE fans go . But it doesn’t account for the female fan base/demographic that radio and the industry rely on as market ( $$$ ) for advertising revenue and product and have for some years . That demographic is a fact and is referred to in stats by radio , labels , artists ( and their lyrics , of course ) . Ralph Murphy , former president of ASCAP cites the “young female factor ” as THE driving force in records becoming hits and has done research/breakdowns, analysis of songs from tempo to key to intro times to number of times a chorus is repeated, number of weeks it takes a song to go to number one , peak listener times ( referred to as basically DRIVE TIME…on the way to and from work , school , sports practice etc.. ) male or female vocalist , subject matter , song structure ( Ralph is a writer ) and more ( Check out MURPHY’S LAW ).
Its common knowledge that pop country radio is geared to female audiences . I’m sure there are many other factors contributing to the popularity of bro country and the inferior music it has spawned but we know it ain’t DUDES paying to see / hear Luke Bryan and the Kruise Kids based on the research these various vested interests have carried out .
June 30, 2015 @ 5:22 pm
Tons of industry insight on Ralph’s page . And if you are interested , his seminars can be found on You Tube videos. Ralph tells it like it is and if you are a songwriter, you NEED to listen to what he’s got to say about WHY songs are hits in those seminars .
June 30, 2015 @ 5:24 pm
Young females also loved Taylor, Carrie, and Rascal Flatts. The rise of the bro-country lyrical and sonic style was intended to bring in young males who love hard music and party-based lyrics.
Basically, the industry gave up its middle-aged female fan base in exchange for young males. Before bro-country, young females would listen to country with their mothers. Now, they listen to it with their boyfriends.
June 29, 2015 @ 10:07 pm
Very interesting point about the door being “shut” behind Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert because it has been that way for years now. Hopefully country radio will get behind Kacey Musgraves’ Goddamn single this time.
June 30, 2015 @ 1:06 am
I’m right inside the demographic (27 year-old male). However, at least 80% of the time I listen to female country singers, because I find both their voices as well as their songwriting to be much more diverse. I’m craving for more female material! The men on today’s country radio almost always sound the same, and I’m sooo tired of their party anthems. Today’s only males I can really stand listening to are the Zac Brown Band (except for their latest album) and maybe some Toby Keith. Other than that, it’s the likes of Strait, Jones and Haggard that dominate the male side of my playlist, while on the female side I don’t have to cling to the golden ages to hear good songs. Keep fighting, women of country, I’ll buy your stuff anytime!
June 30, 2015 @ 7:45 am
Amen to that Swiss
June 30, 2015 @ 2:18 am
Lindi is my hero.
June 30, 2015 @ 3:06 am
I arrived through Lindi’s Facebook page and was pleasantly surprised to discover it had taken me to SCM!
SCM is my favorite music website, and Lindi is my favorite country artist after Dolly.
Much love from the most country-loving frog on the other side of the pond! Merci!
June 30, 2015 @ 6:39 am
Thanks for reading Litchee!
June 30, 2015 @ 4:59 am
As brilliant as Tin Star!
Thank you, Ms. Ortega!
June 30, 2015 @ 5:35 am
Lindi, if you stopped playing country music it would be the day that country music died. Please don’t let that happen, It would be ok if country music radio as it is known today had a very hard look at how mundane it has become and decided to look to people like you for future inspiration,
June 30, 2015 @ 5:42 am
I’m not a huge fan of female singers… I’ll admit that. Take Tammy Wynette for instance, as a 20 year old dude, no matter how much I like her voice, her songs have no relevance to my life or experience, and such is the vice of a lot of female singers. I consider myself not then, a fan of female singers in general, but a huge fan of CERTAIN female singers: Patsy, Dolly, Loretta, Rhonda Vincent, etc. I think, with the exception of the Soccer Mom era, Country radio has always been male dominated. The difference is the music neither objectified them nor sucked.
June 30, 2015 @ 5:44 am
Very well said.
When she was featured on Dean Brody’s song “Bounty” I thought that might be her way to break into Country radio (at least here in Canada), but alas, it hasn’t happened yet. Too bad.
June 30, 2015 @ 7:57 am
Canada , as most of us here know , is a very unusual market and very small comparitively . ” Canadian” country music radio by law must feature 30% Canadian artists . Interestingly , most of those artists are mimicking the successful sound of American mainstream country radio ( bro and the like ) . Many years ago it could be argued that Canada had a ‘ country’ identity in our music with the likes of Murry Mclaughlin , Gordon Lightfoot , even the smooth country pop of Anne Murray, not to mention the Gary Felgards ( sorry about the spelling Gary ) Valdy , and an endless list of East coast artists with yet another uniquely Canadian take on country music . Today with the CRTC 30% Canadian content ruling in place Canadian country has never sounded more like American country radio , in many respects …..song themes , tempos and rhythms , instrumentation and vocalists who , for the most-part , sound very American . Ironic …no ? And very very few Canadian artists are acknowledged , much less successful , in America as performing artists although several have successful writing careers. Its a bit of a head scratcher in that given the support ( by law ) of the CRTC in terms of ensuring radio plays 30% Canadian content, Canadian country singers want to ( have to ) sound American when they could create and reflect so many different styles of uniquely Canadian music and be guaranteed mainstream exposure . I think this tells us and illustrates the effect of conditioning by American radio and what is considered acceptable and trendy to advertisers .
June 30, 2015 @ 10:57 am
Most of the best music and promotion comes from the USA so that’s why Canada radio likes to play it. Now with bro-country most of the worst music does too. Canada is still doing what the USA does and I bet Canada radio, labels and producers asked Canadian artists to go bro to get played just like what apparently happened to USA artists. I wish we had a female artists get at least 30% of the airplay rule or law but it shouldn’t be needed and isn’t in pop radio where they play 30-35% female because women make great songs. That’s not equality but it’s far more airplay than women get on country radio.
June 30, 2015 @ 11:32 am
“I wish we had a female artists get at least 30% of the airplay rule or law but it shouldn”™t be needed and isn”™t in pop radio where they play 30-35% female because women make great songs. That”™s not equality but it”™s far more airplay than women get on country radio.”
I agree….pop music doesn’t have issues with playing female singers . However those female singers have NO issues with selling their tunes using VERY explicit sexual videos and lyrics ….a bit like the guys selling their bro brand on country radio USING trendy looks and shaking their backsides while they talk about sticking pink umbrellas in various places. Thankfully , most serious female performers in country music haven’t yet resorted to totally selling themselves sexually ( Shania not withstanding and has the $$$$ to prove it ) and are still somewhat focused on making good quality records based on quality songwriting .
June 30, 2015 @ 1:50 pm
Taylor Swift, Megan Trainor and all the women pop radio plays have very explicit sexual videos and lyrics? Also Megan and others have an old school sound country radio keeps saying won’t work (as one excuse to not play women).
June 30, 2015 @ 5:03 pm
Rhianna , Beyonce , J-Lo , Madonna and an awful lot of female pop singers who’s names escape me as it all sounds quite similar sell sex in image and lyric .. and yes… even Megan Trainor’s huge hit was about guys who like big butts , was it not ? Catchy song , very fresh sounding , great vocal performance ( IMO ). I’m just making the point that female pop ( and male ) artists rely much more heavily on sex to sell the product than female country singers …and that’s a GOOD thing . And yes …even Taylor has gottena noticeably sexier image makeover since leaving ” the country fold ” ……no ?
June 30, 2015 @ 7:42 pm
I read your comment as saying pop radio plays pop artists and they sell because they all have very explicit sexual videos and lyrics. Many do the sex sells thing but there’s a huge difference between very explicit sexual videos and lyrics and what Taylor and Megan do, and All About That Bass is also about positive body image.
Many female country artists look as hot, sexy or whatever as Taylor and Megan in their videos so it’s not just a male thing but some country males definitely rely more on looks than talent and/or great songs vs. female artists. If anything that’s another reason why country radio should play more women.
July 1, 2015 @ 7:30 am
Meghan Trainor (and Bruno Mars) rely on just enough throwback vibe to stand out from the pack, but they’re still making modern pop tunes.
Leon Bridges evokes a similar era of music, but his stuff straight-up sounds like it was recorded 50 years ago. We’ve yet to see indication that pop radio will embrace his music.
July 1, 2015 @ 10:18 am
“Meghan Trainor (and Bruno Mars) rely on just enough throwback vibe to stand out from the pack, but they”™re still making modern pop tunes.”
Yes and some great female songs country radio didn’t play do the same thing with just enough throwback vibe to stand out from the pack and they’re still making modern country/pop tunes. Radio didn’t give Cam’s very modern My Mistake the time of day and stalled it at #52 and about the same for Ashley Monroe’s On To Something Good.
June 30, 2015 @ 8:11 am
*Clap Clap Clap Clap Clap*
Bravo, Ms. Ortega. (And by the way, I can’t wait for your new album.)
LADY AND TOAD
June 30, 2015 @ 8:40 am
well said lindi we have your 2 cd,s awaiting next one
The worst part we feel about women in music is that they all sound like they are singing in their sweet daddy voice, (that voice all kids drop into when their parents are around no matter how old kidz are 🙂 )
look at the ones who made it Loretta lynn dixie chicks tammy wynette ,the ones who SANG IN A STRONG VOICE AND HAD A STORY AND LYRICS, exactly why we like you
July 1, 2015 @ 10:01 am
She actually has three CDs out already:
“Little Red Boots”
“Cigarettes and Truck Stops”
Just in case you’re looking for something else to tide you over until her new one comes out 🙂
June 30, 2015 @ 10:20 am
I agree with you Lindi.
I can’t wait for your new CD.
It’s rather rich that the music industry intelligencia who now want to remove women from country music are the same people who have previously succeeded at removing country from country music.
This is what happens when a bunch of B-school and MBA types try to treat art as widgets.
June 30, 2015 @ 5:13 pm
Great, great piece. I not only miss more women on the radio but the more mature themes as well. All it’ll really take is a few breakthrough hits for the tide to turn, I think. Jana Kramer’s new song would be a good candidate. I’m wondering if Hill’s comments might turn out to be a blessing in the long run. They’ve sure brought much-needed attention to the issue.
June 30, 2015 @ 5:35 pm
Melissa….your piece on ” Dear Future Husband” was terrific and right on the money , in my opinion . I have to say that I like Megan Trainor cuz what she’s doing musically is at least retro-fresh and her songs have MELODIES – what a concept …!! But yeah ….feeding those lyrics to impressionable young women in 2015 seems like a huge misstep . But tell that to all the kids buying and listening to those lyrics . Attitude for females is HIP . If you wanna be seen to be hip , you gotta be seen to have ATTITUDE . Megan has her finger on the pulse ….unfortunately .
June 30, 2015 @ 6:05 pm
Thanks for reading! I do wish her lyrics weren’t so grating, because the music itself is refreshing.
June 30, 2015 @ 8:59 pm
INCLUDE COUNTRY SINGERS.
I very rarely listen to female singers anyway, unless they’re part of a duet with a male singer.
July 1, 2015 @ 5:15 pm
Blame parents who let their kids listen to rap music. Combine Sesame Street lyrics with a mind-warping beat, with a banjo on the track, and you have this crap. The suits are pandering to the rap-raised generation. It’s not rocket science.
July 1, 2015 @ 5:23 pm
Rap is as legitimate a genre as anything else. Furthermore, even if parents had not “let” their kids listen to rap, the kids would have heard it anyway with their friends and gotten even more interested in it. Ultimately, most kids do not like listening to the same music as their parents.
The problem ultimately lies in the country industry trying to pander to the rap audience.
July 1, 2015 @ 5:30 pm
Truth hurts. The audience is the same as the rap audience. It’s obvious you like rap music. No reason to complain.
July 1, 2015 @ 5:40 pm
I hate rap music. The rap domination of pop is the key reason why I have not listened to pop radio for over a decade and also why I jumped to country radio in 2010.
However, I also realize that rap is a legitimate art form and I do not hold any grudge against those who like it. It just does not belong in country music.
July 1, 2015 @ 5:30 pm
Well said Ma’am! I hate bro country with a fierce passion- even if I can understand why it sells. It’s well produced and packaged. But dammit- Willie Nelson still goes to #1 everytime because people want substance- we don’t want well produced and packaged. Same for Taylor Swift. Same for Miranda Lambert.
We want quality. There are thousands of good songwriters/performers who happen to be female. Let’s hear them. Hear them because they’re quality, and quality will always sell if you give people a choice.
I’m gonna go check out your music now. 🙂
July 2, 2015 @ 2:51 pm
I love Lindi and wish they screamed this same sentiment at hip-hop and classic rock radio. They play MAYBE 1 woman every three hours on Classic Rock Stations and is it always Crazy On You or Barracuda. MAYBE PAT Benetar or Joan Jett. Maybe Fleetwood Mac. Hip-hop/rap is WORSE because when they play women is the same kind of women country plays (pandering to some cliched base). And Top 40 plays women but there you’re dealing with bland pop. The whole thing stinks, really. And frankly it’s hard for anyone who itsn’t part of the formula to make it. Taylor Swift made it in pop because she completely played the rules in terms of formula. You have to play their game to get paid these days.
I miss have DJs who were people with individual tastes and not programmed robots with a set list.
July 2, 2015 @ 3:48 pm
I am happy that you concede the tomatoes analogy wasn’t offensive. I also said don’t play females back to back. You picked on “take women out” the entire statement was “if you play more than 15% females then take women out”. It’s what radio stations do all the time to tune the metrics to optimum time spent listening. Keith Hill
July 2, 2015 @ 3:53 pm
Thanks for agreeing with the math I quote. Also thanks for realizing tomatoes was an industry analogy used to describe music mix on radio. You focus on “take women out” the entire quote was “check your music database and if you play more than 15% females, then take women out until you hit that 15% metric.” The reason I said that at CRS was and remains that I have tested it by playing more and less. 15% is where you get the highest time spent listening to country radio. This metric has solid empirical research and testing behind it. Keith Hill
July 2, 2015 @ 4:08 pm
Oh and if your radio station database is less than 15% … Like KVOO run by females Jules Riley, or crosstown iheart station run by Kristina Carlyse or WQDR in Raleigh run by Lisa McKay or WUSN Chicago current playlist by music director Marci Bruan you would want to add females til you get to 15%. See it’s a sweet spot or ratings generation. And these stations with female executives are even below my metric. By the gender of the programming executives doesn’t really matter. If your station plays less that 15% females … Then add more females to make ratings go up. Hope that clarifies things! Keith Hill
July 6, 2015 @ 8:48 am
Stop making women record chick songs. You have so many great voices singing so many soaring vocals–it actually gets annoying. Substitute more emotion for the sustain. Champagne glasses and listeners will thank you.
November 11, 2015 @ 8:00 pm
Put the dick back in dixie and the cunt back in country. Pop country really Sucks.
November 12, 2015 @ 7:03 am
All I can say for her and all this Taylor swift pop little girl music is turn that shit off and put on some WAYLON!!!