In Which I Admit I Don’t Understand this Chet Flippo Column

Here’s the column. Now, I think the point is that there aren’t any women (single female artists) on the Billboard country chart for systemic reasons. It’s not just that there aren’t any women with songs out right now, but that women have a harder time breaking into being the kind of radio-friendly industry-backed star that gets on the country charts than men do.

But then he ends it like this: “Tammy Wynette was once asked by a young artist why she — Tammy — didn’t move aside to give younger artists a chance to take her place. Tammy just looked at her and said, ‘Move me!'”

So… what? Is it an industry problem or are women just not trying hard enough?

8 thoughts on “In Which I Admit I Don’t Understand this Chet Flippo Column

  1. Eh. There’s a systemic problem, all right, but it’s not just labels failing to get behind women. Gretchen Wilson got a huuuuuuge push from her label, but radio wouldn’t play her anyway, except for her novelty songs. And once they stopped being novelties, she was gone, despite all that label support. Yet she’s maybe the best ballad singer out there right now. It’s a lot more complicated than Chet wants to suggest here, and he doesn’t even get to the point that radio and the labels don’t have the same goals, let alone the same strategies to get where they’re going.

  2. I don’t make a practice of listening to country radio, but I actually heard a bit of it a couple of weekends ago when driving to Mississippi.
    Overall, it was pretty dreadful. The one that sticks out was a Martina song lamenting that her teen daughter didn’t think she was cool anymore or something like that. It was just absolutely dumb. Of course, this is a break from the usual song theme of hers that I refer to as “the Lifetime Channel of Country Music” – some woman is always getting beat up, it seems.

  3. Or child dying! Martina McBride is queen of the “someone is dying in a way that will make you want to cry” song. I miss “My Baby Loves Me Just the Way that I am.”

    NM, I am right with you that it’s more complicated than Flippo is making it. But honestly, what is with the end there? How can women just demand to be heard–to take their spot, as it were–if they can’t make it onto the radio?

    I wish that Flippo, even if he were going to write a simplistic column, would have teased that out a little.

  4. I think he had an anecdote he wanted to use. So I don’t think he thought much about whether it fit with his larger point.

    Unless … maybe he wanted to get into a distinction between how country radio (not labels, especially) used to work and how it does today, which affects both male and female performers but hits women harder. Country radio used to be aimed at an audience of all ages, but with a certain geographical background. The realities of radio ownership today mean that older audiences are considered disposable (because country radio courts advertisers who target a younger demographic, and the corporations who own the country stations also own other stations aimed at older listeners, so they figure they aren’t losing anything), and so are the acts they may like or the song topics that resonate with them. I actually admire McBride (even though I hate her oversinging) for trying to stay current by dealing with a theme that older women can relate to and younger ones might find they can recognize. Oooh, digression. Sorry.

    Anyway, back then a Tammy Wynette could say that she was going to make records as long as her voice held out and be sure that people would listen to them. Today, the minute an act gets to be too old it’s out the door. The audience that the big chains of country stations want doesn’t want to look at them on the videos any longer. And maybe Chet wanted to go into that and ran out of space.

  5. I respect Chet for bringing up this issue, but quite often in the last few years I’ve read Chet’s articles that start promisingly with strong observations and then dissolve into a muddled mess. It seems like he shies away from really digging into the issue because his opinions might offend.

  6. Well, what bothered me about the column is that he seemed to be suggesting that this is all just how it is. And, ya know, I already know that’s how it is. If you just repeat it with no analysis or suggestions or reflections, you are (IMO) helping to perpetuate the problem. So you might as well shut up about it, unless that’s what you want to do.

  7. What about Miranda Lambert? She’s a solo female artist and she has a new album coming out in November. And Carrie Underwood? Taylor Swift?

    I haven’t read Chet’s column so I can’t speak to what his point may or may not be, but in terms of there being systemic reasons single female artists aren’t on the charts, that’s just silly. This stuff goes in cycles. Back in the ’90s female artists dominated the genre, you had Shania, Deana, LeAnn, Faith, Martina, Trisha Yearwood and Sara Evans and the Dixie Chicks and of course Reba, and every single music journalist had to do a story on What It Meant and How Important This Significant Trend Is and Girl Power whatever happened to the men? Are they over? Hell, I had to write a dozen of those stupid stories myself.

    It’s all just manufactured crap so music writers can write about something besides the gossipy crap.

  8. Let me add, the more I think about this the more it pisses me off. Because as long as I’ve been in Nashville working in the music industry, since 1986 let me say, I’ve heard this ridiculous piece of conventional wisdom that “women don’t sell records.” There’s also the second piece of convention wisdom, which is that women consumers don’t listen to female artists. I’ve heard these two pieces of conventional wisdom so much I can puke.

    It’s not true. It’s simply not true, no way, no how, never was, never will be. And in the 90s when female artists started dominating the sales and airplay charts with a really strong brand of female country music everyone was suddenly “oh! New trend! And poor men, they’ve been neutered by the women!”

    All of this nonsense is peddled in the trades by people who should know better, people I respect a lot like Chet and Wade Jessen, folks who have been around as long as I have and KNOW this shit goes in cycles.

    Gah I’m so sick of it. The self-importance we music writers need to conjure up to live with ourselves! Because cripes, how many times can you interview Taylor Swift and try to come up with something original?

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