New study reveals that country music discriminates against women over 40

Houston, we have a problem.

April 8, 2019

Last night’s Academy of Country Music Awards, taking place in Las Vegas, saw Kacey Musgraves take home the honours for Album of the Year on the back of her Grammy-winning release Golden Hour. Though it’s refreshing to see diverse examples of success disrupting what host Reba McIntire admitted to the be the “bro culture” of country, a study of representation among the top country charts over the past four years, conducted by USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and released this past Friday, shows that there’s still plenty of work to be done.

The study found that among the 500 top-charting country songs between 2014 and 2018, only 16%  came from female artists – translating into the depressing ratio of 5:2 male country hitmakers for every women represented:

Though the clear presence of sexism highlighted by these statistics is a cause for concern, even more alarming is the gendered ageism embedded within the data. Examining the top-performing country artists of each gender, the report noted the average age of top female country stars to be 29, with “not one of the top-performing women [being] over the age of 40.” Conversely, “all but one of country’s top-performing men had reached or exceeded that age,” with the average age of male country stars resting at 42.

These findings were reflected at last night’s ACM Awards, with the shortlist of nominees for major categories such as the Entertainer of the Year award being populated exclusively by male artists. Unsurprisingly, when the study looked at the gender divide amongst nominees across the ACM’s four major categories—Entertainer of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Duo of the Year, and Group of the Year – the data showed that from 2015-2019, the average ratio of female nominees was only 15%.

Universal Music Group Nashville’s President, Cindy Mabe, responded to the distressing conclusions revealed by the study, admitting, “we clearly have a problem. Our job is to amplify our artists’ voices and help them introduce their stories and connect to their audience. This has gotten increasingly harder and limiting over the last few years, especially for women and it has dramatically affected the perspective, reach and depth of our country music genre.”

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