Men Are Lettuce, Women Are Tomatoes?

Martina McBride, Jennifer Nettles Question Radio Consultant’s Salad Analogy

By now, you’ve probably heard all about radio consultant Keith Hill’s interview in Country Aircheck, the Nashville-based industry journal. The one where he says you need to take female singers off of country radio. His exact words were, “If you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out.”

Ouch.

He also talked about country radio is if it was a big tossed salad.

“Trust me, I play great female records and we’ve got some right now; they’re just not the lettuce in our salad,” Hill said. “The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists like that. The tomatoes of our salad are the females.”

He never addressed who would be the dressing, the croutons or the hard-boiled egg in this country music salad, but you can imagine how well that analogy went over with female artists.

I think Jennifer Nettles spoke for a lot of them when she tweeted, “I see an opportunity here. I big ole vagina shaped opportunity.”

Then Martina McBride weighed in, saying, “Wow …. just wow. Just read this from a major country radio publication. How do you feel about this statement? I especially want to hear from the females. Do you not like to hear other women singing about what you are going through as women? I’m really curious. Because to me, country music is about relating. Someone relating to what you are really going through on a day to day basis in your life. Did you girls (core female listeners) know you were being ‘assessed’ in this way? Is this how you really feel? Hmmm.”

So I had to ask Hill what he thought about those responses, and if he really thinks female artists are just salad toppings.

Here are some highlights from our conversation:

“My job is to trick people to listen longer. You know how I do that? I never give them onion, onion, onion. I never give them carrot, carrot, carrot. I never give them a half hour of lettuce, lettuce, lettuce. And guess what? I never give them tomato, tomato, either. It’s just a strategically measured mixing.”

“The producers of country music all want to sell a lot of records. They don’t want to sell just a few. And they aren’t personally motivated by wanting to get women back on the air or wanting to get the banjo back on the radio. They’d would make Balinese gong records backwards if they sold the most.”

“I don’t know why people want to gargle glass and eat razor blades when there’s donuts and salad.”

“I guarantee, if you play a country station at parity, females to males, I’ll want to be across the street programming the other radio station.”

“What you need to do, Alison, is start a crowdfund and raise money to purchase a little pipsqueak radio station in Nebraska or Iowa, and you program it with mostly women. I guarantee it would not be successful.”

“If all the sudden the whole world woke up and wanted syrupy ballads, we’d take all the tempo off the air. If they wanted jug bands and folk (music) by new artists, that’s what radio stations would play.”

“People may think I’m a misogynistic sexist asshole. I’ve got the tweets to prove that. But the fact of the matter is: I stand on a hot day selling cold bottles of water. And the salty snacks people are saying, ‘What do you have against me?'”

“Florida Georgia Line stretched the rubber band in one very particular way. Aren’t they the most downloaded band now? I think somebody likes them.”

“I haven’t used Twitter in years, and the first tweet I got in four years was, ‘Douchebag.’”

“I’ve been in radio for 42 years, and I’ve made money out of figuring out what makes radio ratings go up. I make a very good living. I’m just sharing what I’ve uncovered.”

And what did he have to say about Nettles’ comment?

“I understand where she’s at. She’s one of the best female vocalists there is,” Hill tod me. “If she sees it as an opportunity, that’s fine.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.