Ingrid Andress’ debut single, “More Hearts Than Mine”, is sitting pretty at number one this week while Gabby Barrett’s debut, “I Hope” hit the top spot last week. Carly Pearce’s duet with Lee Brice is at #8 and recently went gold; Maren Morris’ “The Bones” is still at #10, despite going #1 over two months ago. That’s a lot of well-deserved good news for women in country music, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any problems remaining, and that more change isn’t needed. On Friday, April 24th, BlogHer hosted CMT’s Leslie Fram and award-winning singer/songwriter/actress/activist Jennifer Nettles to discuss the #EqualPlay movement and what it’s like to be a woman in the music industry. The two are longtime friends and champions of each other and have done so much to make the conversation as loud as it is now.
Fram started off by discussing Nettles’ iconic 2019 CMA Awards outfit. “You made a bold statement on the CMA red carpet. I think your statement really created a conversation and a movement,” Fram said to a nodding Nettles. “It was a moment that turned into a movement,” Nettles replied. “I was really moved by the idea that [the CMAs were honoring women], but at the same time, I wanted to make sure the truth was shown. I didn’t want [the CMAs] to pat themselves on the back, think ‘look at how we support women’ when the numbers and data do not reflect said support. I wanted to take action beyond the stage.”
Both Fram and Nettles have taken action beyond the stage. From CMT’s pledge to play men and women equally to the op-eds Nettles has had the opportunity to write, the two of them have been paving the way for female artists everywhere. According to both women, 16% of terrestrial airplay is taken up by female artists, and on streaming services like Spotify, the number is even lower: 9%. “When I hear those numbers… it feels like we’re 9% away from being erased,” Nettles said.
Country radio’s problems may not be totally solved, but they are moving in the right direction. New York’s local station, NY Country 94.7, has been noticeably playing more women per hour, and every Tuesday they play back-to-back women. While this is all positive, why is it that four women can’t be played back-to-back every day? Nettles thinks part of it comes down to technology. “In the way streaming makes a certain song explode, computers take bias and prejudice and take it to this larger scale.” This, she thinks, is part of the reason radio is the way it is.
“Is there a way out of this? How can artists take back ownership? What more can we do?” Fram asked, dumbfounded. “We need to support each other. People are taking pledges. We are not going to be a part of any festival or writes without [higher percentages of] women entertainers. There has been a lot of appetite for this right now,” Nettles responded confidently.
It’s hopeful to see so much mainstream conversation extending beyond Nashville surrounding the Equal Play movement. Fram and Nettles are two people who are absolutely committed to changing the conversation and continuing to make waves wherever they go. But as both women mentioned, numbers have to change. What we can do is keep supporting art and engaging in conversation that may sometimes feel uncomfortable or repetitive, but in the long run, it will be the thing that makes radio change.
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