Of course there was “tomato-gate” back in 2015, when radio executive Keith Hill said that men are the “lettuce” in a salad and that women are the “tomatoes” that should be sprinkled on top.
“If you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out.
The reason is mainstream country radio generates more quarter hours from female listeners at the rate of 70 to 75 percent, and women like male artists. The expectation is we’re principally a male format with a smaller female component. I’ve got about 40 music databases in front of me, and the percentage of females in the one with the most is 19 percent.
Trust me, I play great female records, and we’ve got some right now; they’re just not the lettuce in our salad. The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists like that. The tomatoes of our salad are the females.”
Besides being a bizarre analogy, the comments kicked off a heated debate about equal play for female artists on country radio, something that was severely lacking during the “bro-country” era when the comments were made.
In 2020, CMT announced that they would be committing to 50/50 airplay for male and female artists across all music video hours (so for the one hour a day they actually play country music I guess?).
But Garth Brooks has no plans to follow suit with his new radio station.
But while discussing plans for the radio station last week during a Q&A as part of Billboard’s Country Live in Conversation, Garth was asked whether the new station would follow CMT’s rule and commit to playing 50% female artists.
And Garth made clear that he’s not putting a number on it:
“No. The one thing that’s bad for me is if you don’t play somebody because of the color of their skin or their gender, it’s as equally wrong as if you DO play somebody for the color of their skin or their gender.
Let the music decide. Sometimes there’s going to be less women because women aren’t putting out new stuff yet. Sometimes there’s going to be more women because women are putting out stuff.
That’s what I want to see. I’m not looking for 50/50.
It may be 50/50 in the long run if it works out that way, but if we got 7 female artists with new stuff that people want to hear and 2 male artists, then get ready because it’s going to be 7 to 2.
It only makes sense to me to do that.”
Honestly, Garth’s right in that his way seems to make the most sense: You play what people want to hear, not based on some arbitrary standard.
Unfortunately sometimes in practice, the stuff people want to hear doesn’t actually get played – and that’s why people are streaming music instead of listening to the radio these days.
We’ll see if Garth can change that with his new station…or if he finally uses his platform to let us know where the bodies are.