Jennifer Nettles is using her voice both in the studio and off the stage to empower women around the globe. Through her music and her activism, the Sugarland frontwoman is shining a light on the inequalities in country music — demanding equal rights for women in the male-dominated industry and beyond.
Sitting down with CMT’s Senior VP of Music Strategy, Leslie Fram, during SHE Media’s first-ever #BlogHer20 Parenting digital summit, the Grammy award-winning singer powerfully spoke about underlying prejudices in country music that make it near impossible for female artists to be heard, and discussed about one of the powerful moments that started it all.
At the 53rd annual CMA Awards, the Nettles took to the red carpet in a gorgeous pantsuit featuring a long pink cape with the female gender symbol and the words “equal pay,” as well as the statement “Play our f*@#!g records please & thank you.”
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When I found out that the CMA’s were celebrating women artists this year, I saw a wonderful opportunity to invite and inspire conversation about country music’s need to play more women artists on radio and playlistings. (Some of you big country fans may have heard of this problem over the past few years. 16% of the top 500 songs over the last 4 years (2014-2018) were women. 16% of the top 500!!!!! 16%!!!!) This is unacceptable.) What better and more womanly way to invite such conversation than with fashion that sends a message?! I knew I had to collaborate with artists who were strong supporters of equality across all platforms. @csiriano is an advocate and activist for equality across all lines and his work is always inclusive. He is an absolute ally. @am_nyc is an amazing NY Artist whose work celebrates women and who knows first hand the challenges of equality within the art space. The piece that they created for me is a beautiful celebration of women in country music as well as a call to action within the industry at large. I am honored to get to be here at the @cma celebrating other women in country music. We need the celebration and support of women to move into country radio and country play listing. We want our songs to be played and our stories to be heard.The more our songs are played, the more women get to hear their own stories, challenges and triumphs reflected. GlamFam: H&M @ashleydonovan Styling @hayley_atkin_ Jewels @davidyurman Special thanks @lauracitron for guiding my train
Nettles used this fashion moment as an opportunity to make a statement and start a movement, posting on Instagram: “When I found out that the CMAs were celebrating women artists this year, I saw a wonderful opportunity to invite and inspire conversation about country music’s need to play more women artists on radio and playlistings. (Some of you big country fans may have heard of this problem over the past few years. 16% of the top 500 songs over the last 4 years (2014-2018) were women. 16% of the top 500!!!!! 16%!!!!) This is unacceptable.) What better and more womanly way to invite such conversation than with fashion that sends a message?!”
“It was a moment that turned into a movement,” Nettles told Fram during her #BlogHer20 panel, In the Country of Women. “I was inspired when I first learned CMAs were going to be honoring women but I wasn’t going to sit there and allow the entire [country] music industry to pat each other on the back.”
Nettles thought back to how she felt at the CMAs and called out men in country music, saying, “We are not supported in the same way and don’t have the same amount of support within the industry. Lets put your words into action beyond your applause.”
With her help, alongside Country Music Television, the movement #CMTEqualPlay was born to make sure female artists were heard equally.
Effective immediately all music video hours on CMT and CMT Music channels will have complete parity between male and female artists. That means 50/50. #CMTEqualPlay
— cmt (@CMT) January 21, 2020
Fram noted that just 16% of airplay on the radio right now are female artists and only 9% of airplay on streaming services are women vocalists — statistics that clearly need to change. But how?
“As we continue to raise our voices and come together” the gap will start to close, Nettles says. “We need to educate and incentivize [men] to make the changes, see they can do well by doing good.”
And before you go, click here to see more famous women fighting for equal rights.