Country radio consultant: 'If you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out'

Female artists are 'the tomatoes of our salad,' says country radio consultant in recent interview

A country radio consultant has ignited a war of words among musicians and fans for referring to female musicians as “the tomatoes of our salad,” and suggesting that stations play fewer records by female artists if they want to improve their ratings.

“If you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out,” said Keith Hill, a consultant to some 300 country stations, in an interview published earlier this week in Country Aircheck magazine. “Trust me, I play great female records and we’ve got some right now; they’re just not the lettuce in our salad. The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists like that. The tomatoes of our salad are the females.”

The online responses came fast and furious. Miranda Lambert quickly tweeted her unambiguous response: “This is [t]he biggest load of ... I have ever heard.” Martina McBride took to her Facebook page to write, “Wow…just wow,” and asked her Facebook followers to respond.

Kacey Musgraves retweeted her friend and songwriting collaborator Shane McNally’s Twitter response, “Is this a joke?”

Hill’s comments grew out a conversation about country radio’s female-driven audience, and Hill’s position that “women like male artists. I’m basing that not only on music tests from over the years, but more than 300 client radio stations.”

In fact, research has long shown that women make up the vast majority of country radio listeners and women also are the majority when it comes to country radio music buyers. But whether that means women are less interested in hearing women performers has been subject to considerable debate.

Billboard’s current Hot Country Songs chart has just two solo female artists in the Top 25 — Carrie Underwood and newcomer Kelsea Ballerini. Rock singer-songwriter Grace Potter is featured on Kenny Chesney’s latest hit “Wild Child,” Catherine Dunn joins Tim McGraw on “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools,” and Little Big Town, which consists of two women and two men, has the No. 1 single with “Girl Crush.” The remaining 20 top-charting songs are sung by men.

In the early 1990s, women dominated country music at a time when Shania Twain and Faith Hill scored breakout successes that often found them topping not only the country airplay and sales charts, but the overall pop charts as well.

“It’s just the boys’ turn right now,” Lambert told The Times last year, “but the pendulum will swing back like it always does, and it will be our turn again soon.”

“I’ve got no complaints,” she said at the time. “I get to make the music I want to make, but I do wish there were more songs by women on the radio.”

Similarly, singer and songwriter Kacey Musgraves, one of the genre's breakout stars of recent years, recently told The Times that she’s happy with the direction of her career and her support at country radio and in the marketplace.

"I feel like there's room for all of us — all of the kinds of styles. Country's kind of all over the place stylistically right now. ... I would so much rather it be this way,” she said during her recent visit to California to play the Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio.

“But with more girls — please, more females!"

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