As artists, advocates and some gatekeepers continue to push for racial equality in country music, a new study shows a mountain of work needed to reach parity in the format. 

“Redlining in Country Music: Representation in the Country Music Industry (2000-2020),” a SongData study published by Jada Watson, musicologist at the University of Ottawa, outlines two decades of radio play, award nominations and label representation for Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) in the format. 

The data shows deep, longstanding disparity between radio play and awards recognition for white artists in 21st century commercial country music when compared to their BIPOC counterparts. 

Takeaways include: 

  • BIPOC artist representation — including airplay, CMA and ACM Awards nominations, record deals and charting singles — makes up less than 4% of the commercial country music industry, according to the study. 
  • BIPOC artists received a 2.3% share of country radio airplay in the last 19 years. Nearly 96% of that share went to BIPOC men, with women receiving less than 3%. 
  • Only 19% of songs released by BIPOC artists received enough spins to peak in the top 50 of airplay charts. Zero songs by Black women reached the top 20 on country radio charts. 
  • Country radio played 11,484 songs from 2002-2020. Roughly 1% of those songs — or a total of 133 — were by Black artists. 
  • 2.3% of ACM Awards and 1.6% of CMA Awards nominees between 2000 and 2019 were people of color.