I’ll tell you one thing about this discussion. It made me listen to Lightning 100 differently on the way home from work. Do they ever play two women back to back? Does any radio station I listen to? I think that dude is a jerk, but I think he may have said out-loud something true a lot of radio programmers believe, across genre.

I’ve been long giving Lightning 100, a radio station I really love, a kind of side-eye because they play very few black artists, which means that both Adia Victoria and Valerie June don’t get played, even though their music–though very different from each other–is exactly the kind of music Lightning 100 plays.

But I keep thinking how studies show that people perceive that crowds look “right” or that women are participating half the time, when women are only a quarter of participants. That feels equal to people–men and women (unless you happen to be one of the women directly shut out because there’s only room for one woman in every four people). How can that kind of conditioned bias no affect what we hear?

I’m sure country music fans perceive that they hear from a lot of women artists. That doesn’t make it okay. It just further shows that, in 150 years, the progress we’ve made in popular culture is to go from almost no presence to 25% presence. Obviously, that’s a pretty big change, but we don’t have the same space in public imagination that we have in real life. Still. Yet.


7 thoughts on “Tomatos

  1. I’ve also been thinking about the rotations on stations to which I regularly listen, after these goofballs so rudely brought up a discussion that really needs attention.

    I can’t listen to Lightning at work because it sometimes gets a bit screechy for me within the confines of headphones, so I listen to MVY Radio online. It’s also an indie station and its playlist is very similar, but it also lacks a good regular-playlist rotation of people of color. The “tomato” representation, however, is good: Between 5 this morning and right now, MVY has played 21 songs by women out of 72 songs, including a few back-to-back plays. Only four artists of color, though. ( MVY has given a lot of attention to Brandi Carlile, Alabama Shakes, Rhiannon Giddens and Valerie June recently, too.

    I will strongly dispute those goofballs’ argument that women chiefly want to listen to male artists. I counted the albums on my iTunes archive at work alone and it’s 50:50 by gender. I don’t listen to country radio at all because of the poorly composed and presented “bro country” trash that predominates, but it’s clear that the women who DO get airplay on country today are much better songwriters or choosing better-written songs than a great number of the male artists. Tell me a male artist who’s turned out something recently like “Follow Your Arrow,” which is as hooky as all get-out but still relates a wonderful message. AND it still includes the word “drunk.”

    I’d love to see the numbers on country radio back in the ’60s, especially during Loretta Lynn’s songwriting heyday.

  2. Grandefille, Loretta Lynn never sold all that many records, given the context of the times. Her duet albums with Conway Twitty tended to sell better than her solo albums. Of course, her singles were often kept off the air because they were perceived as being too controversial. And that was back in the days when individual DJs at individual stations had creative control; it wasn’t even some centralized owner like Cumulus or ClearChannel making the call.

    BTW, while I have no access to any data on this question, I have from time to time in the past seen some of the data based on which country radio DJs claim to be making their assessments of their audience and its preferences. And I will not say that they are liars, because they may just not know how to read the data, but it sure told a different story than what they were saying, and acting on. Like when they said that their audiences skewed conservative, so they couldn’t play the Dixie Chicks, the data said that 30% of the audience identified as conservative. Little things like that, which sort of makes me lack confidence in what Keith Hill claims about his audience.

  3. Ugh. Radio.

    Just so happens the music director at Lightning is my best pal. He’s black and a feminist.

    But radio is a gruesome business, and country radio is the woooorrrrst. Their playlists are tighter than Jim Bob Duggar’s sphincter.

  4. nm and beth, y’all are so wise. And I said that in person several times, didn’t I? Thank you, always.

    It behooves us all to mention that media who’ve covered this flap legitimately, rather than approaching it as the “oooh, dude says stupid stuff, makes chicks mad, maybe a catfight ensues with chicks, let’s watch” news byte of the moment, have all made a point to note that Mr. Hill “brands himself as ‘the world’s leading authority on music scheduling.” The WaPo, for example:


    John Prine once said “You go out into the desert, you put your hand on a rock, and you say, ‘I am a record company.'” I think that’s what Mr. Hill has done. With distinctly fewer qualifications than John Prine, of course.

  5. Sorry, hamletta; you posted while I was holding forth. You also are wise, and I shall say so in person one day. ;)

  6. Just catching up on this and read the “radio consultant clarifies ‘tomato’ remark” at The Tennessean. Where Hill is quoted on the social media backlash to his earlier remarks: “this social media thing is driven by emotion, not logic, and I understand that…” As if women wouldn’t recognize the tired old stereotype in those words.

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