The singers spoke out after Variety journalist Chris Willman tweeted about Los Angeles country station 105.1 playing a song by Gabby Barrett, followed by a Ballerini tune. Willman, struck by hearing female performers played back to back in an industry frequently under fire for overlooking women, cracked, “Can’t they get fined for that?”
I turned on the 105.1 country station in L.A. just now, and they were playing the new song by Gabby Barrett, and then, without any pause or interruption at all, they went into a Kelsea Ballerini song. Can’t they get fined for that?— Chris Willman (@ChrisWillman) January 15, 2020
For two women back to back.— Chris Willman (@ChrisWillman) January 15, 2020
While Willman’s remark was sarcastic, there does appear to be a crackdown on playing female singers — and even co-ed country groups like Little Big Town — uninterrupted. The Twitter account for 98 KCQ in Saginaw, Mich. admitted that it won’t play “two females back to back.”
“We cannot play two females back to back,” the station’s since-deleted tweet read. “Not even Lady Antebellum or Little Big Town against another female. I applaud their courage.”
Though that tweet, posted on Wednesday, is no longer up, the locally owned radio station addressed critics in follow-up tweets, explaining that “pop audiences are more ... forgiving of their female singers” and adding that it currently plays “more females than we did, say, five years ago.” The station argued that the issue lies with country music as a whole, and agreed with critics who called it unfair.
Pop audiences are more welcoming and forgiving of their female singers. I kinda like that. The Country audience not so much. They accepted Taylor because their daughters loved her.— 98 KCQ (@98fmKCQ) January 16, 2020
The tweets caught the attention of Ballerini, who blasted the policy as “incredibly disappointing.” She also gave a shout-out to female country stars like Carrie Underwood and Maren Morris.
To all the ladies that bust their asses to have half the opportunities that men do, I’m really sorry that in 2020, after YEARS of conversation of equal play, there are still some companies that make their stations play by these rules. It’s unfair and it’s incredibly disappointing https://t.co/95CtnVLlHh— Kelsea Ballerini (@KelseaBallerini) January 16, 2020
AlEXA PLAY LBT LADY A CARRIE MIRANDA KACEY CARLY GABBY MAREN INGRID RUNAWAY JUNE M&T LAUREN. ALL IN A ROW. https://t.co/95CtnVLlHh— Kelsea Ballerini (@KelseaBallerini) January 16, 2020
“The conversation continues, Kelsea,” 98 KCQ responded. “I am not alone in this. And neither is the music industry (Oscars). Women deserve their share of the airwaves ... Does this mean I have to return my Kelsea Ballerini CDs”
Musgraves was also unimpressed, tweeting, “smells like white male bull**** and why LONG ago I decided they cannot stop me.”
And yet, they can play 18 dudes who sound exactly the same back to back. Makes total sense.— K A C E Y M U S G R A V E S (@KaceyMusgraves) January 16, 2020
“You are my favorite artist Kacey,” the station tweeted back. “I always pull for you when a new single comes out. Your music has meaning. I am not kissing up. Just speaking truth.”
In subsequent tweets, the station said its playlists are pre-scheduled but insisted it was manually adding more women.
It's really hard to pinpoint. A numbers game in the library of music. The number of songs by males outnumber females (that's the total library, new music and gold). But manually adding Taylor, Maren Morris, and Kelsea is happening. I did not say we are not ADDING female songs.— 98 KCQ (@98fmKCQ) January 16, 2020
Ballerini and Musgraves aren’t alone in calling out country radio. Shania Twain has slammed stations as “ageist” by overlooking performers like Reba McEntire, while Jennifer Nettles called for “equal play” at the CMAs in November. And in September, Martina McBride accused Spotify of discriminating against female singers by not promoting them as “recommended” artists as much as their male counterparts.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
Want daily pop culture news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Entertainment & Lifestyle’s newsletter.