Musgraves, Ballerini sound off on airplay inequality at Saginaw country station

After WKCQ-FM tweeted it could not play two female artists in succession, country stars cried foul on social media

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Kacey Musgraves and other female country stars are blasting a Saginaw country music station over its sexist airplay practices, which are reflective of country radio as a whole. 

After WKCQ-FM (98.1) tweeted this week that "we cannot play two females back to back" in a since-deleted tweet, Musgraves fired off on Twitter. "Smells like white male bulls--t and why LONG ago I decided they cannot stop me," she wrote.

Kacey Musgraves performs before Harry Styles at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

The six-time Grammy winner followed up, "And yet, they can play 18 dudes who sound exactly the same back to back. Makes total sense." 

Country star Kelsea Ballerini also shared the WKCQ tweet and wrote on Twitter, "To all the ladies that bust their asses to have half the opportunities that men do, I’m really sorry that in 2020, after YEARS of conversation of equal play, there are still some companies that make their stations play by these rules. It’s unfair and it’s incredibly disappointing." 

Ballerini further followed up on Instagram, writing, "there is still inequality in airplay for women. And tweets like this prove it. And it’s my job to say it out loud and post about it, because of the girls moving to Nashville ( or wherever) that are ready to outrun and outwork and outplay everyone. They deserve to know that they have the same shot as the guys moving here to do the same. Country music- We have to fix this. For us and for them. How do we do it? Let’s talk."

She followed up by saying not to lash out at the station, that they were following the orders set for them. KCQ is owned by Saginaw's MacDonald Broadcasting, a family-owned broadcasting group that operates eight radio stations in mid-Michigan.  

Country veteran Lee Ann Womack was among those who weighed in via the comments section of Ballerini's post. "Tired of all the talk," she said. "Just burn it down." 

OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder also sounded off in the comments. "This is insane !!!!!! This has to change immediately," he wrote. 

Julianne Hough, Maddie & Tae, Jamie Lynn Spears and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles also joined in the conversation via Ballerini's comments. 

The flap is bringing to light a systematic issue in country music radio. An industry study showed that in 2018, just 11.3% of the top 150 year-end songs on country music radio were by women, down from 33.3% in 2000. “The trend shows significant decline for women, strongly pointing to the self-fulfilling nature of gender-based programming,” the report said

WKCQ's original tweet was a reply to Chris Willman, a features editor at Variety, who sarcastically noted a country station he was listening to played songs by two female artist back-to-back. "Can’t they get fined for that?" he joked

For its part, WKCQ is making it known that it — or at least the person running its Twitter account — a fan of Musgraves and her work.

"You are my favorite artist Kacey. I always pull for you when a new single comes out. Your music has meaning," the station wrote in a follow-up tweet to the "Butterflies" singer. "I am not kissing up. Just speaking truth."