The gender imbalance of country music has gotten so lopsided that three Music Row executives have been hosting monthly meetings to discuss the issue. The meetings, aptly labeled “Change the Conversation” draw an audience from high-level executives to up-and-coming songwriters.
Without diving into charts and percentages, the gender imbalance was on full-display during “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” TV special. (This is no knock on the CMA Music Festival. The festival is a well-oiled machine and the ultimate fan experience.) Filmed during the 4-day festival in June, the TV special delivered in on its promise to deliver backstage interviews and performances from country music’s biggest artists, minus the fact that the time devoted to female artists was seriously lacking in comparison to their male counterparts.
Let’s analyze: during a normal hour of television, with commercial breaks, you end up with about 42 minutes of actual programmed air-time. The CMA special was 3 hours long, leaving us with about 126 minutes of programming– a little over 2 hours. The majority of this programming was devoted to performance highlights with one block devoted to Luke Bryan in a golf cart with Little Big Town, HGTV’s “Property Brothers” touring tour buses and intermittent interviews.
Three females– Carrie Underwood and Maddie & Tae were given their own performance block. Underwood sang her latest No. 1 single, “Little Toy Guns,” which is about 3 minutes and 30 seconds long. Maddie & Tae played to their largest crowd ever and were cut short of air-time during their mega-hit, last summer’s “Girl in Country Song.”
Air-time time for female artists during “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” totaled out to around 7 minutes. Seven minutes out of over 2 hours of programming. That 7 minutes totals out to less than 1% of air-time being dedicated to female artists.
The argument could be made that there still are not enough female headliners in country music, but much of this year’s broadcast was dedicated to country music’s up-and-coming superstars. Thomas Rhett, Randy Houser, Kip Moore, Sam Hunt and Cole Swindell are all openers on headlining tours. Houser and Moore are the openers for the opener.
Not to mention, a number of those males had two songs aired during the telecast.
With the additional footage of the smaller venue performances from Moore and Kenny Chesney, CMA could have chosen female artists like Kelsea Ballerini or RaeLynn to fill those slots. Chesney didn’t even play during CMA Music Festival this year.
So, is it time to change the conversation?
Image Source: Jeremy Scott for CO