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Female Country Artists Advocate To ‘Book More Women’

24 August 2022 | 10:25 am | Staff Writer

Female country artists are advocating to book more women!

Melody Moko

Melody Moko (Image: Supplied)

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Female country artists are advocating to book more women.

The message comes with the birth of Rebel and Roar, a brand created by singer-songwriter Melody Moko and her manager, Kaz Waters, designed to support empowerment and change.

Moko says, “’Book More Women’ was inspired by obviously the fact that we as women, both Kaz and I work in an industry that is male dominated so it was really important for us to get a message out there for festivals and the industry in general that more women need to be booked.

It relates to many more industries than just music but it’s very prominent in the industry that my manager Kaz and I work in, so it felt incredibly important that we get this message out there. There is a discrepancy in the amount of women who get booked, played on the radio, or employed as opposed to men. Wear change and say it loud and wear it proud!"

Beccy Cole was seen sporting the initial ‘Book More Women’ t-shirt at this weekend’s NQs Rock N Country Festival. They have also released second design, ‘Save Me Rock & Roll’. Their facebook page also shares quotes from strong females like Oprah Winfrey, Fanny Lumsden, Madonna, Katherine Hepburn, Shania Twain and more.

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Having a grand ol’ time at NQ's Rock'n Country event in Mackay! Bloody love you Queensland x x

Posted by Beccy Cole on Sunday, August 21, 2022

Also joining the fight is Kirsty Lee Akers, whose recent collaboration with Amber Lawrence and Ashleigh Dallas is about women wanting to be heard and taken seriously in a male-dominated industry.

Let The Girls Sing was co-written by Akers, Phil Barton and Bruce Wallace on a writing trip to Nashville in 2015, during the height of the Tomato-gate controversy – which originated when radio consultant Keith Hill advocated that stations not play songs by women artists back-to-back and drew an analogy with the composition of a salad, with male artists as the lettuce, and female artists as the tomato garnish – sparking broad outcry on social media and from the industry.

Speaking about the song, Akers said, “Hearing a male in a position of power speaking like that about female artists, referred to as the “tomato” in a salad, was enough to make my blood boil. The few months prior I had heard A&R guys over and over saying they loved my music, loved my voice, but weren’t signing any female artists for the next 12 months.”

Akers added to social media, “’You're amazing, we love your music, but we aren't signing any females this year’ That's the response I got from most record labels I met with in Nashville when I was trying to get a record deal in 2015. Then there was #tomatogate where a radio consultant made a statement encouraging Country Radio to NOT play too many female artists as they weren't as important as the male artists, he compared us to the tomato in a salad, just the garnish, he said male artists were the lettuce of the salad. Of course, this pissed me off.”

“Unfortunately, country radio in the US hasn't improved a great deal since then, you will still struggle to find more than 2 or 3 female artists in the top 20 charts so there is still a long way to go!... Hopefully we can get the message out to Let the Girls Sing!!!!”

Lisa De Angelis replied, “I LOVE this new song from Kirsty Lee Akers, and her rationale for writing it. Australia IS better for women in music than this American anecdote, but I'd say just about every female artist who has been working in music for a while has at least *one* story of being treated badly, dismissively, or worse by a man/men in the industry - even if indirectly, by way of being called a tomato instead of a lettuce leaf.”

American country duo, Maddie & Tae also spoke about how hard it is to be a female in country music with their 2014 debut single, Girl In A Country Song. It also referenced many bro-country songs (which were popular at the time), particularly the roles of women within such songs.

Country music has been ever evolving, as all genres do, since its inception in the 1920s.

In Australia, Henry Lawson, Banjo Paterson, Tex Morton, Buddy Williams, Shirley Thomas, Smoky Dawson, and Slim Dusty were pioneers in popularising country music in Australia. 

The Golden Guitar Awards began in 1973 with ‘Female Artist of the Year’ and ‘Male Artist of the Year’ starting the year after. The major awards of ‘Album of the Year’, ‘Song of the Year’ and ‘Top Selling Album of the Year’ were mostly won by men. A female didn’t take out ‘Top Selling Album of the Year’ until a decade later, while ‘Album of the Year’ took almost twenty years and ‘Song of the Year’ not until 2002.

Artists like James Blundell, John Williamson, Lee Kernaghan, Keith Urban, Graeme Connors and Troy Cassar-Daley were also dominating the ARIA Awards at the time. Only Anne Kirkpatrick (1992) and Kasey Chambers (1999, 2002, 2004 and 2008 with Shane Nicholson) were awarded the ARIA for ‘Best Country Album’ between the years of 1987 and 2009.

The Country Music Associated of Australia was launched in Tamworth, New South Wales by four men and one female in 1992 to encourage, develop and promote Australian country music, but the genre was still male dominated until the early 2000s with the emergence of artists like Kasey Chambers, Sara Storer, Melinda Schneider, Beccy Cole, Catherine Britt and Felicity Urquhart

Between 2010 and 2021, the ‘Best Country Album’ ARIA Award has been predominately awarded to females, but males have received more nominations overall in those eleven years. At the 2022 Golden Guitar Awards, every category winner (excluding ‘Female Artist of the Year’) included at least one male artist. Only in years 2021 and 2004 did females hold the majority.  

Popular country music Spotify playlists also slew towards male artists. Hot Country has only 6 female artists in their top 20 songs, while Wild Country has 4/20, Fresh Country has 6/20, Next From Nashville has 3/20 and Breakout Country has 5/20. However, our Countrytown Hot Country Hits playlist performed better with an even mix of male and female artists and 4 mixed in our top 20 at the time of publication.

Here are some other interesting facts:

  • In 2017, just 28% of the most played songs on Triple J were by females or female identifying people. Even the current Countrytown Hot 50 Country Airplay Chart is predominately made up of men, with Taylor Moss being the only solo female in the top 10. Females also accounted for less than half in our mid-year airplay chart.

  • Festivals typically book triple the amount of male acts as they do females. This is highlighted in large country festivals slated for the rest of the year with Lee Kernaghan, Travis Collins, Troy Cassar-Daley, Brad Cox, Casey Barnes, McAlister Kemp, Adam Brand and James Blundell, among others, taking the Gympie Music Muster top slots across the weekend, while Brad Paisley is headliner at Savannah In The Round, Deni Ute Muster and CMC Rocks. Kane Brown and Morgan Evans are also heading CMC Rocks.

    In 2017, edited images of festival line-ups with just the female acts emerged across social media, with most posters ending up with only one or two acts. It all began with before and after versions of the bill at Reading and Leeds festival 2017. See here.

  • Also in 2017, a report by the University of Sydney's Women, Work and Leadership Group found that women were "chronically disadvantaged" in the music industry, highlighting that males predominately dominated key decision-making roles in the industry.

    In an article published by Marie Claire, Sarah Maynard, founder of Major PR, said, ‘It’s pretty commonplace for a woman to be doing publicity for a band, but there are other areas in music where it’s much less likely you’re going to be dealing with a woman. I know women who are doing phenomenally well as road crew, managers, and agents, but do become frustrated when they’re not taken as seriously as their male counterparts. It’s definitely not ok when people are making assumptions about your ability to do a job you work extremely hard at based on your gender.”

So, how can things change? Well, it’s been 100 years and males still dominate the genre, but small things can help make a big change, such as voting for female artists in fan voted awards, emailing festivals asking them to add more female performers to the bill, requesting songs by female artists on country radio, and adding female artists to your playlists.