Three years have passed since "Tomato-gate" — an uproar sparked by radio consultant Keith Hill, who compared female country artists to tomatoes in a salad.
"If you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out," he said in 2015. "I play great female records ... 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."
The remarks sparked a proverbial food fight between music makers and country radio. For some, the flap sparked hope that bringing the issue to the surface would yield progress.
It hasn't, according to The Tennessean. In fact, by some metrics, women have lost ground in country music.
The percentage of purely female country songs charted by Country Aircheck dropped to 10.4 percent last year, down from 13 percent in 2016.
The issue isn’t limited to country music. A report from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative titled “Inclusion in the Recording Studio?” revealed that only 22.4 percent of all performers across the 600 most popular all-genre songs from 2012 to 2017 were female. In addition, 2017 represented a six-year low, with females comprising only 16.8 percent of popular artists on the top charts.
The report also showed that female songwriters and producers are even more in the minority. Only 12.3 percent of songwriters of the 600 most popular songs of the last six years were women and 2 percent of producers across 300 songs were female. The statistic translates into 1 female for every 49 males.
“The voices of women are missing from popular music,” USC professor Stacy L. Smith said in a statement. “This is another example of what we see across the ecosystem of entertainment: Women are pushed to the margins or excluded from the creative process.”