Fresh Female Voices
Equality on the airwaves prompted by bro-country?
By Abby Johnston,
3:30PM, Thu. Aug. 14, 2014
The success of Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, and Luke Bryan puts into stark relief country music’s dearth of parallel breakouts for women. Executives defended themselves, think pieces were written, and now the man responsible for ushering these “bro-country” acts onto the airwaves is making amends with SiriusXM’s Fresh Female Voices.
John Marks, senior director of programming at the satellite radio frequency, announced implementation of the segment as part of a research initiative for the subscription-based service. Three times an hour, the Highway channel will play both major-label and unsigned female artists. It will add almost 200 plays for gals not named Taylor Swift.
As Billboard pointed out, the lack of female country artists doesn’t correspond to the industry’s boardroom. Some of the biggest names in the genre are championed by powerful women, so what’s the hangup? Marc Patric, the music director at a country station in Vancouver, told the magazine audience aren’t interested.
In steps Marks.
He has sharp enough ears to have identified and pushed bro-country from its fledgling stages. Now the formula dominates country stations, a craze engineered almost singlehandedly by Marks. Given his pull in the industry, Fresh Female Voices could be a breakthrough for a new generation of country artists.
Here on our own airwaves, local stations like KGSR and KUT have always championed the wealth of talented women Austin fosters. That begins with the on-air staff picking the tunes. Susan Castle, Trina Quinn, and Laurie Gallardo hold it down at KUTX, with the latter’s Austin Music Minute in particularly representing a perfect balance of male-female locals.
Obviously, just because you’re a woman doesn’t obligate you to like or promote women’s music. Quinn’s best discs of 2013 teemed with male artists. That’s normal.
Yet Marks has begun an important dialog. Are corrective measures necessary to insure a balance between the sexes on the airwaves? Let’s monitor this case study in action and see what it yields.