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Billboard's Country Airplay chart has no women in Top 20 for 1st time since its launch

Holly Gordon

For the first time in its 28 years of existence, Billboard's Country Airplay chart has exactly zero women in its Top 20.

Instead, Dec. 8's Top 20 is populated with names like Blake Shelton, Thomas Rhett and Chris Stapleton, while the first woman to appear is Carrie Underwood — at No. 22. As it stands, Billboard pointed out that there are only seven women on the list at all (including Mindy Smith, who is featured on Kenny Chesney's song "Better Boat"), which accounts for just under 12 per cent of the 60 slots.

Billboard also breaks down the list historically over five-year samples, which actually makes seven women on the list seem high: this week in 1990 had five women on the chart; this week in 1995 had three; this week in 2005 had six. And this week in 2015, for example, saw Underwood at No. 2 with "Smoke Break," but only three other women charted at all.

These numbers come three years after "tomato-gate," when radio consultant Keith Hill told industry journal Country Aircheck that "if you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out."

“Trust me, I play great female records and we’ve got some right now; they’re just not the lettuce in our salad,” Hill said. “The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists like that. The tomatoes of our salad are the females.”

In 2013, we reported the dismal numbers of women on the Country Airplay chart — and the unwritten rule that two women's songs can't be played back-to-back on the radio.

But as recently as June of this year, the Tennessean reported something that would back up this week's news: "the percentage of purely female country songs charted by Country Aircheck dropped to 10.4 per cent last year, down from 13 per cent in 2016."


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