Country Music Dials Down on Girl Power as Nashville’s Women Find Even Fewer Slots

Loretta. Dolly. Tammy. Reba. Faith. Shania. The Chicks. When we think of the all-time greats of country music, or the genre’s biggest sellers, gender parity isn’t a question; if anything, history has been on more of a first-name basis with the women than the men. But female performers are an even rarer commodity than fiddles on the charts in 2018. What would Patsy say? You’d be crazy to pursue a career in country if you fall on the wrong side of the gender divide.

The stats are alarming. In radio’s top 50 for the week of Oct. 1, as compiled by industry newsletter Country Aircheck, only six songs are from women. Were it not for Maren Morris’ slow-rising “Rich” finally edging up to No. 9, the top 10 would be devoid of female artists entirely. Elsewhere Carly Pearce comes in at No. 13, followed by Sugarland (17), Kelsea Ballerini (28), Danielle Bradbery (a duet with Thomas Rhett at No. 46) and a just-released Carrie Underwood single (47).

So radio must be the culprit, suppressing female-driven tunes that are doing great in streaming and sales, right? Not necessarily. Variety had media analytics firm BuzzAngle Music run the overall numbers for country songs over the period of September 2017 through August 2018 — accounting for all methods of music consumption, including streaming — and those metrics are even worse, with exactly three female artists in the top 60 for that 12-month period. Adding possible insult to injury, the top performer isn’t even a country artist: Pop singer Bebe Rexha’s “Meant to Be,” a collaboration with Florida Georgia Line, is at No. 1; then you have to drop to No. 38 to find Maren Morris, with Miranda Lambert barely sneaking in at No. 47.

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