Today my husband and I had a long drive in a state that has a far reaching christian radio station. For about an hour and 15 minutes we listened to song after song after song and I quickly started noticing a pattern. There are VERY few female voices on christian radio. I heard 15 songs straight and only heard 2 sung by women (one was Christy Nockels and the other a female led band called Addison Road). I started trying to figure out why that was.
Just a week and a half ago I had a sobering conversation with the leading radio promoter in Christian radio and discovered the nearly impossibly statistics for gaining Christian radio airplay. There are only 2 or 3 available spaces per MONTH for new music. There are 25 radio promoters pitching about 3 songs each per week. That means every week there are about 75 songs trying to squeeze into the 1 possible slot radio stations have available. This also means that while thousands of songs are being released each year, if you are listening to christian radio, you are only hearing 36 of them, many of them being multiple songs by the same artists. For instance, last year TobyMac had two different songs hit #1 at two different times in the year.
Since 2004 there have been 74 #1 singles (songs that stayed at the #1 slot for at least 1 week and some more than 1 week). Of those 74 singles only 6 were from females, Joy Williams (once), Nichole Nordeman (once), Francesca Battistelli (twice), Mandisa (once), and Laura Story (once). Meanwhile Mercy Me, Casting Crowns, Jeremy Camp, Third Day, Matthew West, Toby Mac and Chris Tomlin each had anywhere between 4-10 #1 singles each; comprising over 40 of those top 74 singles.
I know, I know, this is a lot of numbers. Here is what I am getting at…there are NOT enough female singers/musicians being represented on Christian radio. I don’t believe this is because there isn’t enough talent but for some reason their songs are just not making it on the radio. Two female led songs in an hour and a half of radio airplay is just not enough. So what can be done?
First, to the lady musician/singer/songwriters:
#1 Be great at your craft. Stop leaning so heavily on your beautiful vocals and start writing equally beautiful songs. Get out and sing your songs in front of people who will give you honest feedback (most of the time the most honest feedback comes from strangers, you know the ones who sit at a table right in front of you talking louder than you are singing, or the ones who sit in rapt attention because you have brought something to them that they need; great music).
#2 Record your music well. Whether you are signed to a record label or you are independent and find yourself funding your cd recording yourself in your friends basement, make a cd that draws the listener in and makes them want to listen over and over, hearing new creative things with each listen.
#3 Get your music out there. This happens through shows, social media(youtube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), marketing, a webpage or blog, radio, ITunes, and just old fashioned word of mouth. Perhaps you don’t have any idea how to make a webpage where people can stream your music or see where you are playing, then make a Facebook page (I know you are on Facebook anyway). You can also hit up WordPress.com or one of the many other blogsites and build one (they have pre-made sites that you can stick your info/songs/pictures into that is so easy you have no excuse…if it is still too hard then find just about any 13 year old kid with a computer and have them do it for you). Submit your music to ITunes. Use Noisetrade.com to give away your music in trade for email addresses to keep in contact with your fans.
Next, to the non-female musicians/listeners:
Your job is even easier, you are in charge of finding those great female musicians out there and spreading the word to your friends, rallying them to buy the females music and further promote to their friends. Call your Christian radio stations and request their music (I admit that this probably won’t do anything but I would love for the stations to be hearing that there are lots of people wanting what they are not providing).
So, I realize that I am a female musician and I am writing this blog. I am not using this blog to get you to go buy my cd and get it on Christian radio. I am also not using this blog to act like I know it all. These are just my observations and heck, who am I? I’m a girl who makes Christian music that doesn’t get played on Christian radio, so this blog conversation is pointed at myself as well as any other lady musician out there.
I want to leave you with some female singer, songwriter, musicians who you can rally behind. Women who are extremely talented and are working extremely hard despite not having a radio presence. Some of my current favorites are:
Kim Walker Smith- You can find her singing with the band/worship team Jesus Culture. Her version of the song “How He Loves” has gotten almost 6 million views on youtube. Did you catch that? 6 Million views! That is huge and shows what a powerful worship leader/singer/musician she is and yet I don’t believe there is any major Christian radio station playing her music. You can get a hold of her music by buying a Jesus Culture CD on ITunes. There are 3 that I know of and personally own, each with standout Kim Walker Smith tracks.
Vicky Beeching- I admit I am a little close to the latest CD by Vicky (It was recorded by my husband at our studio in San Diego and I co-wrote a few of the songs on the album with her) BUT I am close to this CD because I wanted to be close. Vicky has a unique calling and gifting by intertwining singing and songwriting with teaching. She challenges the music community to write through a theological lens and to speak of a Savior who is real and not full of fluff. Go buy her latest CD called Eternity Invades and support this great British female artist.
Kye Kye- now here is a band who is female led and has all the wrappings of art and cool and depth and spirituality and theology. The band is led by Olga, the ethereal voiced sister to two of the other band members and wife to the drummer. This band is not for the fainthearted. They do not make music for the complacent. Theirs is for someone who wants to be invested and drawn in to a real, pumping relationship with a Creative Creator. Grab their CD titled Young Love, find where they are playing nearby and grab all your friends and go see them. You can thank me later.
Brooke Fraser- Brooke is a no brainer. After having lent her astonishingly beautiful lyrics and vocals to Hillsong United for years she has finally just released her own solo CD in the US last year titled Flags. She has written songs you sing probably ever month in your church service, her most popular being, Hosanna. I have seen her perform live once and I have to say that out of all the male or female singers I have seen in my entire life, she is by far one of the top most flawless live singers I have ever seen. Support this Lady.
Audrey Assad- I am new to the Audrey bandwagon but friends, including Brenton Brown and his band, have continued whispering praise over her talent and honesty, and it finally rubbed off. I have listened and joined the fan club. Now I just have to make it a point to see her live, you should join me.
Lisa Gungor- One half of the duo led band Gungor (the other half is her husband). This band has been making waves for the past couple of years with only two CDs under their belt, the first being 2010’s Beautiful Things (the title track was nominated for a Grammy) and then this months Ghosts Upon The Earth with their super creative worship driven music. The tracks on the record that she leads tend to be my favorites of the bands and I look forward to hearing her more and more. She sings with passion and belief in what she is saying.
Please leave a comment here on the blog, below with any other female singers that people should know about so that we can group together and support them. Perhaps you are that female musician, leave us a link to your website or blog or a place where we can sample your music. Then after you’ve left a comment with your favorites, go and check out the other music that is being posted. (Side Note: It will do no good for anyone but me if you comment on my Facebook page or Twitter because the readers of this blog will be only reading the comments on this blog…so comment here…please :))
I look forward to hearing of some great female led music from you!