Female musicians get a tiny fraction of radio airtime, report finds

Female musicians make up a tiny fraction of the most played music on Irish radio, with industry figures claiming the disparity between female and male acts is getting worse.
Female musicians get a tiny fraction of radio airtime, report finds
The late Dolores O’Riordan with the Cranberries at the Marquee,
The late Dolores O’Riordan with the Cranberries at the Marquee,

Female musicians make up a tiny fraction of the most played music on Irish radio, with industry figures claiming the disparity between female and male acts is getting worse.

A new report on gender disparity in Irish radio revealed just one Irish radio station - RTÉ Radio 1 - achieved a 50-50 split between Irish female and male artists. The majority of stations have two or fewer female acts in their top 20 most played Irish acts.

The report is based on data provided by RadioMonitor, a paid-for service used by record labels, management companies and PR agencies to evaluate the airtime allocated to musicians. It covers the period of June 1, 2019 to June 1, 2020.

Linda Coogan Byrne, author of the report, said the findings highlight a "staggering and shocking display of an industry model that needs drastic changes".

RTÉ Radio 1 is the only station in which there is a 50-50 split between male and female artists in the top 20 most played songs. The most played song was a duet between Jerry Fish and Wallis Bird, while another duet - Mick Flanney and Susan O - was the second most played.

Wallis Bird
Wallis Bird

On RTÉ 2FM, there were just two female artists in the top 20 most played: Roisin Murphy and Soulé. TodayFM had just one: Soulé.

The three Cork stations all had just one female act in the top 20: Soulé -RedFM-, Laura Izibor (C103) and the Cranberries, fronted by Dolores O'Riordan (96FM).

Of the 22 regional or digital radio stations assessed in the report, Carlow FM had the most female acts in the top 20, with five, including Kehli, who featured in their top five. Galway Bay FM had three female acts in the top 20 - Soulé, the Cranberries and B*Witched, and iRadio also had three female acts: Soulé, Aimee and Kehli.

No other station had more than two, and FM104, LM FM, WLR and South East Radio all had zero female artists in their top 20 most played Irish acts.

The most played male acts - Picture This, Dermot Kennedy and Niall Horan - all amassed more than 30,000 plays on radio, with Picture This surpassing 40,000. Soulé, the most played Irish female act, had just over 8,000, while Aimee, the second most played, had 5,867.

Niall Horan. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)
Niall Horan. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

Eleanor McEvoy, chairperson of IMRO, described the findings as "thoroughly depressing".

"The situation seems to be getting worse, not better. I grew up hearing very few female artists on the radio and it seems incomprehensible to me that we are still in that place. The unconscious bias towards male musicians, songwriters and performers is staggering," she said.

RuthAnne, a Grammy nominated singer-songwriter, has written songs for Niall Horan and Westlife, which have amassed billions of streams. She has notched up some 30 million streams for her own music, including 'The Vow', which featured on the finale of 'Love Island', but she still has not broken through on Irish radio.

"I have yet to have any of my singles playlisted on Irish radio," she said.

"I have had support from several radio DJs which I really appreciate with ‘spot plays’ and interviews and singles of the week but when it comes to playlisting my songs – the powers that be have added them on the graveyard shifts midnight - 5am and no real daytime playlisting.

"It’s disappointing to see the lack of real radio playlist support for Irish female artists and it’s something that needs to change."

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