Leslie Fram from an AJC file photo circa 2002.

CMT’s Leslie Fram (formerly of 99X) commits to 50% female artists during its video blocks

Originally posted Tuesday, January 21, 2020 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

CMT, led by former 99X program director Leslie Fram, said Tuesday that its music video programming blocks will now feature 50 percent women.

“Effective immediately all music video hours on CMT and CMT Music channels will have complete parity between male and female artists,” the network tweeted. “That means 50/50. #CMTEqualPlay”

CMT airs videos from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. daily and 24/7 on secondary channel CMT Music. 

Female artists last year were heard on just five of the 40 most played songs on country radio, according to Mediabase 24/7, a tepid 12.5 percent representation that has caused widespread consternation, criticism and defensiveness in the business.

There are signs of improvement.

Currently, 12 of the top 40 songs (30%) on Mediabase’s country airplay chart feature female singers which is far higher than normal. They include Carrie Underwood, Maddie + Tae, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini and Lady Antebellum. 

Fram, as CMT’s senior vice president for music strategy since 2011, has been championing women for several years and created the “Next Generation of Women” franchise to help nurture newcomers. She even showed up last week for a segment about women in country for “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee.” Others featured in the story: Brandi Carlile, Tanya Tucker, Mickey Guyton and Margo Price.

Maren Morris performs at the 53RD ACADEMY OF COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS, live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas Sunday, April 15, 2018 at 8:00 PM ET/PT on CBS. Photo: Michele Crowe/CBS ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Maren Morris at CMA Awards in 2018. CR; CBS

“We want to build on the great work we have already been doing we with our Next Women franchise and start to take action,” Fram told Variety. “We don’t want to look at the same results in a year from now. We hope other partners will join in this effort. It’s important for the future of our format.”

CMT has had a tour featuring veteran and newer country artists. Tucker will headline this year’s tour.

Alternative rock has had its fair share of problems with gender but for a time in the 1990s, Fram at 99X was able to push many artists and bands led by female singers such as Garbage, No Doubt, Juliana Hatfield, Hole, the Cranberries, the Breeders, Sarah McLachlan and Atlanta’s own the Indigo Girls

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.