The Dixie Chicks Didn't Cause The Decline
Repeat after us: The Dixie Chicks didn’t cause the decline of women on country radio.
You can read here about why we don’t place the blame on any one person/entity or here about which system changes were much more likely to be primary contributors. Beyond those, data simply shows the decline in women was already underway by the beginning of the early 2000s.
The Chicks made their controversial comments in 2003. Acknowledging that the initial changes in radio’s approach began in the late 1990s means recognizing a roughly 5-7 year period when the other possible, and arguably more plausible, causes were taking root and gaining strongholds across more stations.
Considering it from another angle, the Dixie Chicks always had a standout sound. There really wasn’t another act like them at the time. Unlike current “Bro-Country”, where one artist could be mistaken for any other ten artists on the radio, The Chicks were wholly unique.
“Cancelling” (in today’s terms) The Chicks because of their specific beliefs should have had absolutely no bearing on the other women of the day who were far less politically outspoken and delivering the more prominent mainstream sound. It makes no sense to “punish” a Shania with her “Forever and For Always” or a Martina with her “This One’s For the Girls” if the goal was to limit listener access to more “polarizing” viewpoints.
In hindsight, it appears the Dixie Chicks got “Dixie Chicked” in large part because some prominent decision makers decided to make it so. Radio didn’t use them to make some grand gesture about an entire gender. Rather, it’s more likely that radio used them simply to sweep a certain mindset under the rug.
Not to mention, if dropping the Dixie Chicks meant radio had no other women left to play, that would have been a real issue of concern at the time. Yet, we know that wasn’t the case. In 2003, the year the Dixie Chicks made their comments and their single “Travelin’ Soldier” was dropped from the chart (along with their presence altogether), 24% of the year-end Top 100 Country Songs were by solo women. The following year, in 2004, 26% of the year-end Top 100 Country Songs were by women. Clearly, The Chicks didn’t instigate an immediate expulsion of women from radio airwaves.
The problem didn’t start with the Dixie Chicks, it hasn’t improved in their absence, and passing around this myth takes much needed attention off the more systemic causes that should be focused on and fixed.