Women in Country Music
Updated: Oct 28, 2022
To celebrate Women’s History Month we are talking to two of the women within the UK country scene.
Nashville has made a big splash in the media in 2021 with controversy after controversy however, none have been as big and as ongoing as the difference between male and female artists. Female country artists tend not to get as much radio play, as much exposure or as much industry support as their male counterparts. Speaking purely as a fan I can see this in regards to the radio play however, I decided to do a little experiment at 7am this morning (I won’t name names but it is a UK country music station). This was the playlist between 7am and 8am:
Hunter Hayes, Shania Twain, Thomas Rhett, Brantley Gilbert, Jake Owen, Old Dominion, Florida Georgia Line, Jo Dee Messina, Joe Diffie, Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris, Toby Keith + Willie Nelson, Brett Young.
A little over 30% of the playlist that hour were singles from a Female Nashville major label recording artist, 50% of which were actually from the 90’s!
Over in the UK we have very few Female country artists on major labels - all our breakout female artists are independent. Due to this, it is very hard to compare the US with the UK. In the US the artists making headlines are major labelled artists with lots of money and a large team behind them, this alone shows a huge flaw in the system within the genre but it does not directly correlate with the UK. I have personally seen a number of posts on social media from UK artists which state female artists have a disadvantage regarding airplay at some (if not all) stations with reports of people being told not to make too much noise about it (unable to remember exact source).
I sat down with Charlotte Young and Emma Moore to discuss if they believe the same disparity reflects within the UK country scene.
While discussing releases, Charlotte and I spoke about the difficulties faced with releasing an EP and/or single in the UK currently. With the obvious issues of not being able to tour and create that same buzz you get when performing for your fans, the other difficulty is that it's harder to plan releases as you are unaware of when fellow artists plan on releasing new material. With so many independent female artists in the UK there is a sense of comradery, everyone supports everyone and wants to see them succeed, nobody wants to go up against each other.
In both Charlotte and Emma's opinion, independent artists in the US have far more support available to them than artists here in the UK due to it being a bigger industry. An independent artist over here is very lucky if they have a manager, PR agency and even a band. Most artists work solo, they do their own writing, composing, PR and merchandise. This being said, there is a lot happening for female artists in the UK and more support is now available. The UK country music scene is predominantly made up of female artists, they are starting to open people's eyes to the genre as well as the subjects they sing about - women can sing about more than break-up songs!! Charlotte cites Kezia Gill, Jade Helliwell, Katie Hurt and Laura Oakes as some of the top female artists in the UK right now with many more hot on their heels.
In the world of lockdowns and live-streams, Emma points out these have been predominantly led by women, with female artists at the forefront of one of the best musical events of the year - Emilia Quinn and Girl talk! How Emilia managed to organise and execute it all was a ‘champion success’. With an additional 22 female-identifying artists on the track and being released on International Women’s day, the song celebrates unity and diversity while lyrically poking fun at the stereotypes which still surround women today. This opportunity may not be something available to artists in the US as most people wouldn’t respond to a tongue in cheek female response quite like us Brits!
Other support for female artists comes from areas of the music industry specifically for women in country, such as Belles and Gals. They are the home of female country music, comprising of interviews and reviews with up-and-coming female artists.
One area in which Charlotte agrees independent artists may be disadvantaged is on mainstream radio stations. While the internet stations are extremely supportive of all independent artists and have a good mix, mainstream stations tend to still favour labelled artists and it can be very difficult for independent artists to break through, but this includes all artists not just women.
Throughout my discussions with both Charlotte and Emma one thing was clear, independent artists in the UK need more support. Mainstream radio needs to get behind our homegrown talent without the major labels behind them. Not everybody, male or female, has the same amount of support and those who do are extremely lucky.