Whether you're in Sheboygan, Brattleboro or Kankakee, what you hear on your local radio is programmed days in advance by people far away, people such as a man named Keith Hill, who modestly calls himself “the world’s leading authority on music scheduling.”
Picture him in 7th grade as Ms O'Hoolahan asks him what he wants to be when he grows up.
"I want to tell disc jockeys what records to play."
Anyway, that's what he does, and he kicked up a tempest in a teapot the other day by dishing out this advice for country radio stations : Don’t play too many songs by female artists.
Hill says he has data to back his sexism up, and says (in that "Some of my best friends are _____ " voice) that he happens to like female singers, but recommends against playing them on the radio because other people don't like them enough to keep listening.
He says no more than 15 percent of the songs a station plays should be by females.
“If you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out,” he told industry publication Country Aircheck. He says it's because more of the listeners of country radio are women, and his statistics show they prefer hearing males over women. “Trust me, I play great female records and we’ve got some right now; 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.”
Now here is where he ran into trouble. He seems to have spent too much time with his research and his computers and his calculations and not enough time with real women, most of whom do not prefer to be called salad ingredients of any sort.
Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Jennifer Nettles and Terri Clark were among the females of Nashville music to fire back at his foolishness, and social media lit up with the outrage.
So...guess what Hill did? Did he say he was sorry for calling women tomatoes?
He did not. He dug his heels right into the pile of dogma he was burying himself in, and said he was misunderstood and he's not supposed to care about who gets played, because his job is to get the ratings.
“All I have done is read a dashboard of metrics and read a suggestion to an internal part of the industry," he said. And he also said he's like a radio doctor and he diagnoses what ails a station and how to fix it.
“Now, that may come off as arrogant. I share this information, and just because it doesn’t fall into the natural break of the gender that populates our country or the globe, seems like that’s an issue. To me, it’s not a gender issue at all. It’s a marketing issue.”
Still holding to his own supremacy, Hill goes on to say: “When I say ‘the sun rises in the east,’ that’s not controversial in any way.”
And what has he learned, besides all this about the sun and the moon and the stars above?
“There are a lot of uptight women” out there.
He just doesn't seem to understand that sometimes, it's better When You Say Nothing At All. Hey! That was a song by Allison Krauss.
I guess he didn't play it.