Given that Governor Kristi Noem has latched onto big-town-raised, big-city-resident Jason Aldean’s committee-written, pretend-country paean to small-town violence and xenophobic small-mindedness for her latest desperate gasp for attention, we probably can’t expect her to speak up about the sexism inherent in contemporary corporate “country” music (hat tip to author Eve Fisher!):
Most maddeningly, if women in country wanted to get airplay, they needed to be sweet and bat their eyes at the male gatekeepers at local radio affiliates. According to “Her Country,” a book by Marissa R. Moss, Musgraves—who had made a spectacular major-label début in 2013, with her album “Same Trailer Different Park”—saw her country career derailed when she objected to a creepy d.j. named Broadway ogling her thighs during an interview. Then the nation’s biggest country d.j., Bobby Bones, called her “rude” and a “shit head.” After that, her path forked elsewhere.
In 2015, a radio consultant named Keith Hill gave an interview to a trade publication, Country Aircheck Weekly, in which he made the implicit explicit: “If you want to make ratings in Country radio, take females out.” For a station to succeed, no more than fifteen per cent of its set list could feature women, he warned—and never two songs in a row. He described women as “the tomatoes of the salad,” to be used sparingly.
…Never playing women back to back was an official recommendation dating to the eighties, formalized in a training document called the “Programming Operations Manual.” The situation worsened after 1996, when the Telecommunications Act permitted companies to buy up an unlimited number of radio stations; the dial is now ruled by the behemoth iHeartRadio, which has codified old biases into algorithms.
Since 2000, the proportion of women on country radio has sunk from thirty-three to eleven per cent. Black women currently represent just 0.03 per cent [Emily Nussbaum, “Country Music’s Culture Wars and the Remaking of Nashville,” The New Yorker, 2023.07.17].