‘Staggering’ disparity between genders in radio airplay

‘Staggering’ disparity between genders in radio airplay

The late Dolores O'Riordan, lead singer with The Cranberries. Picture: AP Photo/Bruno Bebert, File

A number of stations have made "considerable strides" to address gender disparity among airplay for Irish artists, but there remains a "staggering and shocking" disparity overall, especially at regional radio stations.

That is according to the findings of the latest Gender Disparity Data Report from the WhyNotHer? campaign, which said Cork stations were among the worst when it came to the top 20 most played songs by Irish artists on each individual radio station from June 2020 to June of this year.

WhyNotHer? has previously found wide gaps in airplay between genders, and repeatedly called on radio stations to implement change. 

National radio and some individual stations have made considerable strides towards a game-changing moment in Irish music history, WhyNotHer? said, with some stations going from 0% to 20% airplay and more. 

RTÉ 2FM, Spin 103.8 in Dublin, Spin Southwest in Limerick and Waterford-headquartered Beat FM were praised for their efforts in addressing the disparity.

However, Cork stations were criticised for lack of action by the data-driven campaign.

"Despite considerable efforts from WhyNotHer? to get Cork Radio stations to play women on-air and be more diverse and inclusive, they continue to playlist predominantly white male artists on their Top 20 heavy rotation airplay charts," the report said.

Tipp FM went from 100% all male artists on their heavy rotation playlists to 25% female, Beat FM towards 40% gender parity, and Waterford-based WLRFM, who were 100% male, are now at 35% female, earning praise from the WhyNotHer? campaign for taking decisive action.

Recurrent singles from Irish band The Cranberries, fronted by the late Dolores O'Riordan, was the most played female-fronted/voiced Irish act with 13,567 plays. 

Irish Women in Harmony is the most played female act of modern times in the last 12 months with 7,831 plays, the report found.

"Interestingly enough, Irish Women In Harmony's cover of The Cranberries classic 'Dreams' in which 45 female musicians, artists, singers appeared, is the most played female-fronted/voiced Irish act of modern musical releases in the last 12 months. 

"It took almost 50 women on one track for Irish radio to back it. Just let that sink in," WhyNotHer? said.

There has been improvements in the representation of Black and People of Colour, the report found.

"In the 2019-2020 Irish radio report, only one artist of Colour in an entire year (Soulé) was played and featured on Irish radio's Top 20 Heavy Rotation Airplay Charts. In just one year, that has risen to between 5%-30% increase across some of the biggest national and commercial stations. 

"This has never before happened. This significant increase in a diverse selection of artists is something we wish to acknowledge as considerable progress and the beginning of more change to come," it said.

The report was compiled by founder of WhyNotHer? and music consultant Linda Coogan Byrne, singer-songwriter and data analyst Winnie Ama, and singer-songwriter Áine Tyrrell.

"As with the last report, we still see the same male names topping the list...There is a diverse multicultural vibrancy that is at an all-time high, this needs to be reflected in the radio stations in Ireland," Linda Coogan Byrne said.

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