Last week Lon Helton in Country Aircheck posed the question, “Where are the women?”, in referring to the lack of female Country music artists that are finding chart success. Besides Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood, the ladies of the Country format have found it difficult to deliver a hit song on the radio in 2008.
Lon raised the questions, “Why are fewer women having hits these days? Is it just cyclical? Is it that women simply aren’t cutting songs that are resonating with Country radio’s audience that skews 55% female? Or is there something more sinister at work?”
Having worked with Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, Wynonna Judd, and Lee Ann Womack all at the time they were delivering big chart topping hits, it has caused me think of what the difference is between then and what is happening now. So I sent a reply to Lon:
“My estimation as to why females are struggling lately is because they aren’t releasing songs that strongly connect with adult woman 25+. That is our core isn’t it? Yet we have Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler, Jessica Simpson, Kristy Lee Cook, Whitney Duncan, Carter’s Chord, Juliana Hough, Crystal Shawanda, Katie Armiger, Miranda Lambert, and others you mentioned who appeal to a younger skewing audience and who are relatively young artists themselves. I think it’s great we are gaining appeal with the younger demos – we must have them for our future success, but perhaps we have ignored the more adult and mature women who drive the country format. We can’t always get them via their children.
I think back not too long ago when the females were ruling and it was exactly when more mature artists were releasing relevant songs to a grown-up audience – Trisha, Wynonna, Patty, Reba, Martina, Faith, Shania, and others who spoke to the heart of a woman. Maybe that is what’s not happening now?”
Or is it because those type of songs are out there being released, but radio is choosing not to play them?
Another part of the equation is that playing the celebrity game over pure artistry is getting our format in trouble. Just because an artist is recognizable and has had success in other media outlets - movies, reality shows, talent competitions, other formats, and variety programs - does not necessarily mean that artist is equally as good for the Country radio audience. We may see some encouraging first week product sales and general excitement, but once the novelty wears off we will be left with a format that has no sense of itself. There are exceptions (including Darius, Carrie, and Miranda), but we are overrun with artists that have no clue what the Country format is about and an audience that has difficulty relating to them at all.
The connections are not being made.