The two musicians used their platforms Thursday to slam discriminative practices that some radio stations employ when it comes to playing female artists.
The conversation started on Tuesday when Chris Willman, a features editor at Variety, tweeted: “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?”
In response, Michigan radio station 98 KCQ wrote, “We cannot play two females back to back. Not even Lady Antebellum or Little Big Town against another female. I applaud their courage.” (The station has since deleted its tweet.)
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Response to the (possibly sarcastic?) tweet from the station racked up tons of response on social media. And it drew the attention of some of the females in question.
Musgraves, whose “Golden Hour” album won top honors at the 2019 Grammys and CMAs, quite literally called bull on the practice.
“Smells like white male (expletive) and why LONG ago I decided they cannot stop me,” she wrote on Twitter Thursday. In another tweet, she added: “And yet, they can play 18 dudes who sound exactly the same back to back. Makes total sense.”
Ballerini called the idea “unfair” and “incredibly disappointing.”
“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,” she tweeted.
The Grammy-nominated singer, who describes herself as “one of the few women who have been really embraced by country radio,” took to Instagram to expand on her thoughts.
“There is still inequality in airplay for women. And tweets like this prove it,” Ballerini said. “And it’s my job to say it out loud and post about it, because of the girls moving to Nashville ( or wherever) that are ready to outrun and outwork and outplay everyone. They deserve to know that they have the same shot as the guys moving here to do the same.”
By Thursday afternoon, KCQ had deleted its tweet.
“There has never been a rule against playing females back to back….ever!” said Brian Hatfield, spokesman for MacDonald Broadcasting, which owns KCQ. “We will continue to play the music that reflects our listeners.”
The unequal treatment of women in country is a long-standing, much discussed issue, with female artists underrepresented in country airplay.
“Country music- We have to fix this. For us and for them,” Ballerini added.
Musgraves and Ballerini aren’t the only musicians taking a stand for equality.
At the 2019 CMAs in November, Sugarland singer Jennifer Nettles wore a white suit with a pink cape emblazoned with a feminist message: “Play our f*@#!n records, please & thank you.”
Contributing: Nashville Tennessean