Kelsea Ballerini, Kacey Musgraves Respond to Viral Tweet About Country Radio’s Gender Inequality
Kelsea Ballerini and Kacey Musgraves are speaking out about the gender imbalance at country radio following a viral tweet about the situation. The two female stars shared their thoughts on social media on Thursday (Jan. 16).
A Tuesday (Jan. 14) tweet from Variety editor Chris Willman kicked off the latest thread about country radio gender inequality. "I turned on the 105.1 country station in L.A. just now, and they were playing the new song by Gabby Barrett, and then, without any pause or interruption at all, they went into a Kelsea Ballerini song. Can’t they get fined for that?" Willman joked, nodding to country radio's male-heavy playlists.
On Wednesday (Jan. 15), Willman's tweet received a reply from Saginaw, Mich., country station 98 KCQ: "We cannot play two females back to back. Not even [the mixed-gender groups] Lady Antebellum or Little Big Town against another female. I applaud their courage." The station's tweet was deleted around 11AM ET on Thursday morning (Jan. 16), but it stayed up long enough to earn a number of shocked, dismayed and snark-filled replies from fans, country music industry members and a few artists, including Ballerini and Musgraves.
"Smells like white male bulls--t and why LONG ago I decided they cannot stop me," Musgraves tweeted, adding, "And yet, they can play 18 dudes who sound exactly the same back to back. Makes total sense."
Despite her numerous awards wins and lauded albums -- including her Grammy Album of the Year-winning 2018 release Golden Hour -- Musgraves has been largely ignored by country radio (though the person tweeting for 98 KCQ admitted to "always pull[ing] for [her]" in a reply to Musgraves' tweets). Ballerini, however, has notched numerous No. 1 songs thanks to radio airplay. She knows, though, that despite her own good fortune, the situation remains dire for many of her peers.
"I am grateful. BUT. There is still inequality in airplay for women. And tweets like this prove it. And it’s my job to say it out loud and post about it, because of the girls moving to Nashville (or wherever) that are ready to outrun and outwork and outplay everyone," Ballerini writes on Instagram. "They deserve to know that they have the same shot as the guys moving here to do the same.
"Country music -- We have to fix this. For us and for them," she adds. "How do we do it? Let’s talk."
WKCQ operations manager Brian Hatfield tells Taste of Country that its parent company, MacDonald Broadcasting, does not and has not ever had a rule about playing songs by or featuring women back to back. "We will continue to play the music that reflects our listeners which includes the artists you mention in your email," he says. "There is also no rule or policy that prohibits us from adding females to our playlist. There never has been and never will be."
Hatfield, who has been in his role since July, adds that the source of the tweet is being investigated, and any further response will be handled internally.
The conversation about country music's gender imbalance has picked up in recent years, following both the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements and, in 2015, "Tomatogate," when a country radio consultant suggested that, if country radio is a salad, male artists are the lettuce -- the majority of the meal -- while women are the tomatoes, to be sprinkled in as a garnish. While some have tried to dismiss the issue, the problem is a real one, and it remains: For example, on Billboard's year-end Country Airplay chart for 2019, which measures country radio airplay for the full year, there were no solo female artists in the Top 10.
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