by Alison Bonaguro
On Wednesday night (Oct. 21) at the 2020 CMT Music Awards, Jennifer Nettles will be honored with the very first CMT Equal Play Award.
The award will recognize Nettles’ ongoing advocacy for women and for all diverse voices in the music industry, as she works to have more female voices heard on country music radio stations, to reach a point where men and women are represented equally.
Who could forget the literal fashion statement Nettles made at the 2019 CMA Awards?
Nettles’ outspokenness has exposed the gender disparity on country radio and on music streaming services, which has made her one of the genre’s best champions. What she is striving for — major changes in female representation in country music — is what country artists and fans all want.
“Jennifer Nettles is that rare artist who speaks her truth, calling out injustice wherever she sees it,” said Leslie Fram, Senior Vice President of Music and Talent at CMT. “Her commitment to equal female representation across the board in the music industry embodies the spirit of our Equal Play Initiative and makes her the perfect recipient of the inaugural CMT Equal Play Award.”
CMT has partnered with Pluto TV to launch a pop-up channel called CMT Equal Play. It will offer country music videos 24/7, with an equal male/female playlist. It’s a move that Fram says will allow CMT to further the commitment to equal play.
“As a proud part of the beautiful legacy of women in country music, I am honored to be the first recipient of the CMT Equal Play Award,” Nettles said. “I look forward to celebrating the contributions of women, and all marginalized communities, within the country music format, and I am motivated in encouraging the non-artists, executives and investors in the industry, to do the same.
“There is much work still to be done.”
In addition to her massive success as one half of the country duo Sugarland, a band that jumped to the front of the line with their 2004 debut single “Baby Girl,” Nettles started to release music as a solo female artist ten years after that. In other words, she’s been there, and she knows what kind of sexism female solo artists are up against.
Some facts about CMT Equal Play:
The initiative was started in 2019 to encourage measurable action in country music.
The first step came in January 2020, when CMT announced that they would be balancing the music videos they play with equal parts female and male artists.
CMT Radio Live also made the equal-play promise, which meant doubling airplay for female artists.
CMT After MidNite debuted CMT Next Women of Country: Artist of the Month, an on-air feature that positively impacts how songs from country’s female artists climb up the charts.
Even before the Equal Play initiative was launched, CMT started its Next Women of Country program to support female artists — signed and unsigned — in 2013. And in the seven years since, female voices have been heard more often in what has typically been a male-dominated genre.
The 2020 CMT Music Awards — country music’s only entirely fan-voted award show — will air on Wednesday (Oct. 21) at 8:00PM ET/7:00PM CT on CMT, MTV, MTV2, Logo, Paramount Network, Pop and TV Land.
Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.