NPR had a piece recently on social media's depiction in the romantic comedy genre. Not since "You've Got Mail" in 1998 has there been a movie that successfully tackled the subject. Yet, over 30% of marriages today are a result of an online meeting. Far higher for online dating.
The story went on to say that they can't get a screenplay on this subject produced, because most people approving concepts and scripts are 50 and older men. Most of these decision-makers were married around 1986 and by the time they were going into a second marriage in 1998 they were rich enough that they didn't need to use technology to meet a partner. If they don't get it, believe in it, haven't experienced it, or fall into the "negative stigma of online dating" camp, they won't approve it, this piece concluded.
I thought about the men my age, mid 50's and how that transcended to my business: radio and music. In the music business, mostly men run radio stations, and make programming and music decisions about what even female targeted stations want to hear on the radio. Most record labels also have men in the top decision-making positions as CEO's presidents, etc.
I work in country radio. For years the format has had an inordinate number of male acts worked to radio as compared to women, probably a 12-1 ratio at any given time over the past 8-10 years. When I talk with mainly female artists and record reps, they express frustration over the fact that male acts get signed at this ratio, and even once signed, they get worked more often and with more passion than the female artists. Most of the time, the decision on which single is shipped to radio is also made by men. One rep told me she and the other women reps who really believe in one of the female artists they were working begged their male bosses to release a different single. They felt that these guys were consistently picking the wrong ones...and sure enough, the song selected failed to make traction.
There's no doubt that the male-oriented version of the country format has been successful. No one can argue the appeal and success of Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Jason Aldean, Eric Church and tons of newbies. But there have also been plenty of failures. Because there are more men signed to labels, there has been more male acts that haven't made it. It's a matter of numbers. I just wish there would be more risk taken on female acts, similar to the pop world. The more women signed to labels, the more women you'd hear on the radio, the more hits there would be. It, too is a matter of numbers.
So why aren't more women getting signed to country labels and being worked to country radio? There seem to be no easy answers.
I've heard for years (from men) that "women don't like to listen to other women". To that logic, women wouldn't be dominating the charts or sales in pop music, which also targets women. These comments are disturbingly similar to the line of thinking in this article from 2015. It's a frustrating portrait of the inequity, sexism and the downright verbal assault women have endured in the entertainment business alone. Can you imagine male-based industries like banking, auto, or tech? And people are surprised at stories about Bill Cosby or Fox News Roger Ailes?
I know I will sound like a male-bashing feminist but I think it's time for many of the 55-70 year old men to step aside and move women into more decision-making roles about what women want to hear and watch on the radio and in movies. It may take awhile before a woman is the CEO of a label or film-making company, but perhaps if more women were in these roles, country radio may sound different; and maybe the line-up of movies would also look different. I don't know....
I recently asked a group of younger women in my circle their opinion on women in music, what they like listening to. These late 20 early 30-something women were in agreement that they wanted to be represented. While they love fun party-songs on the radio, they also want to hear their "voice" represented. They want to hear a woman singing about things they are living, thinking, feeling and experiencing, and there is very little of that in today's country music. They find those songs in pop radio and online, but think of country as the fun party-format.
Speaking as a 50 plusser myself I had Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, Bonnie Raitt and Carole King to name only a few, as my voice. I know there are plenty of talented women with a voice and something to say out there, and they are being discovered online rather than on the radio.
As for me, I know I've been luckier than many women in my business. I've worked for mostly private companies with forward thinking men at the helm, who have allowed me and others on my team to make decisions we felt best for our target audience. I'm now at the point in my life and career where I hope I can use my years of experience to mentor, advise, and encourage those coming behind, as we have the invaluable insight only living through these experiences can give.