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Published: Saturday, 1/28/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

COMMENTARY

Male singers trending higher

BY BRIAN DUGGER
BLADE COLUMNIST

I was thinking about the music industry the other day, mostly about how it's transforming so rapidly.

There's still the standard measures of success -- album sales and touring revenue. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Adele was the runaway winner in 2011 album sales with 5.82 million copies sold of "21." Jason Aldean was the top country seller with 1.58 million copies of "My Kinda Party." As far as tours, nobody was going to touch U2 last year. Their tour grossed $156 million, according to Pollstar. Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney were in second and third with $97.7 million and $84.6 million, respectively.

But success is no longer measured by hard record sales. Nowadays they not only honor platinum records, they also hand out awards for platinum certifications for singles that are downloaded more than 1 million times. This week, Luke Bryan was just recognized for his platinum single, "I Don't Want This Night to End."

So, how the labels are bringing us music is definitely changing, and the digital trend is only going to grow.

But I also started looking into numbers on who is singing our music these days, and I noticed a startling trend in country music. It is becoming more and more male dominated. Yes, Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Miranda Lambert are superstars -- and they will be for a while. But take a look at this week's Billboard poll. Sixteen of the top 20 singles are by male singers. I could even make an argument that's it's 17 because at No. 20 is Lady Antebellum, and two of its three members are male, with Charles Kelley taking the lead on most of the vocals.

Of course, country music has always been male dominated because the target market for a country music radio programmer is a woman in her early 30s with a couple of kids, and research has shown that target audience usually prefers listening to male singers. However, in the 11 to 12 years I've been writing about country music, I don't ever remember the numbers being this skewed, and the numerical divide seems to be growing.

I listen to a lot of albums from new artists, and other than Lauren Alaina, and I'll even give you the Band Perry, I'm having a hard time thinking of one by a new female act. However, I can name 10 new or relatively new male artists: Chris Young, Eric Church, Brantley Gilbert, Casey James, Lee Brice, Scotty McCreery, Justin Moore, Jerrod Niemann, Hunter Hayes, and JT Hodges.

The obvious answer might be that the music industry has been struggling to turn a profit in recent years, and country music labels are sticking to new male acts because the odds of success are better. I don't know if that's actually the reason. Maybe it's just a statistical anomaly. But I know that country music needs to do something about it.

Brian Dugger's column on country music appears in The Blade the final Saturday of each month. Contact him at bdugger@theblade.com or on Twitter, @DuggerCountry.



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