Slacker radio channel spearheads new initiatives to air the country for women

Slacker digital radio has found a unique way to expose its listeners to more female country artists, joining a handful of new initiatives aimed at changing the country format’s longstanding and widely documented gender imbalance.

The new Slacker #WCE Country channel not only exclusively features female artists, but company executives have also asked these artists – as well as other women working in the country music industry – to organize the music and host DJ breaks that feature songs. Slacker has extended the invitation to participate to many Nashville singers, songwriters, industry executives and journalists through a proprietary app called Slacker Studio, which allows participants to easily record and upload intros and trivia. from their cell phones.

“We want the people most passionate about these artists to tell their stories in a unique and fun way,” says country format captain Slacker. Jess Wright. “Women in this industry have stories that our listeners will never hear elsewhere.” Country artist Cam kicked off the initiative by recording over a dozen intros for #WCE Country.

The new channel’s name is an acronym for the social media hashtag “woman crush everyday,” itself an outgrowth of the frequent “woman crush Wednesday” trend. (Slacker also launched an all-female pop channel with the same name.)

Slacker teamed up with industry group Change the Conversation to launch the channel at a crowded party at the WME office in Nashville on August 7. The voice alumni Lauren Duski and Natalie Stovall, along with female duo Post Monroe, each performed two songs at the event.

The channel has been in development for several months, Wright says, with the dual goals of growing female viewership among Slacker’s more than 9 million log users and putting more spotlight on female country artists, many of whom are struggling. for broadcast on male-dominated terrestrial radio. stations. When a colleague suggested that Slacker might try to appeal to more women with a “Man Crush Monday” initiative, Wright laughingly pointed out that in country radio right now, “every day is Man Crush Monday.”

The idea of ​​#WCE participatory programming was born from there. “Anyone can create a playlist of female artists and park it somewhere and say, ‘We’re good,'” says Wright. “We wanted to be able to do more than that. One of the things we’re proud of as a way of being different is that we combine music with great storytelling. So we thought we could use this station to tell the stories of the artists who play here, because no one else is telling them.

Stovall says she plans to record intros for the channel and calls #WCE Country “a cool, different way to uplift artists and incorporate a lot more people.” She also sees the channel as a way to help combat what she calls “this injustice, this inequality” seen in the strong favor of terrestrial radios for male artists.

New initiatives are also being developed in broadcast radio as well as to address gender disparity. As previously reported, national media personality Bobby Bones will produce and co-host the weekly one-hour show, “Women of iHeart Country,” beginning in late summer. The program will feature music from new and established female artists and will air on all mainstream iHeart stations nationwide, according to a spokesperson for iHeart, which has more than 125 outlets nationwide. .

For several months, Cox Media’s influential country outlet KKBQ Houston has featured exclusively female artists on the Wednesday edition of its hour-long lunchtime show.

Another recent action to boost the airing of female acts was organized by the fan clubs of seven current stars: Lauren Alaina, Kelsea Ballerini, Lindsay Ell, Maddie & Tae, Maren Morris, Carly Pearce and Carrie Underwood. Promoted through artists’ Twitter fan pages, the August 1 “Women Request Wednesday” initiative provided fans with detailed information on how to make requests, including links to Twitter pages and phone numbers. demand for more than 150 national reporting stations.

The effort does not appear to have had a measurable impact, however, and station program directors in four markets were checked on the spot by Billboard — Chicago, Houston, Detroit and San Diego — reported no notable increases in requests other than some for Underwood at KKBQ.

Ballerini fan page KelseaCentral.com explained to fans several ways to disguise the source of their requests, including removing the location from the fan’s Twitter bio, and noted that stations are “more likely to play the song if you don’t put your location if you ask somewhere out of your radio range”.

Such moves generally do not sit well with radio programmers, who are both suspicious and weary of organized campaigns. Says WEBG Chicago PD Lance Houston, “When we know there’s a coordinated effort for things like this, the demands seem less genuine.”

Adds KKBQ COO Johnny Chang“Often these fan club requests do artists more harm than good.”

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