Irish radio failing to support Irish female musicians – report

Four stations did not feature one female voice in top 20 played songs over past year

Most Irish radio stations rarely give airtime to Irish women musicians while some stations never feature home-grown female voices in their top 20 most played songs, new research shows.

The Gender Disparity Report, which investigates the airtime given to Irish female musicians, found more than half of the State’s 28 music playing radio stations feature women in their top played songs only 5 per cent of the time.

The study, conducted by music publicist and consultant Linda Coogan Byrne, shows no female musicians featured in the top 20 artists played by four stations – FM104, LM FM, WLR FM and South East Radio – over the past 12 months.

Just 5 per cent of the top 20 played artists on Today FM, Spin 103.8, Beat 102-103FM, Red FM, Cork C103, Clare FM, Cork 96FM, KCLR FM, KFM, East Coast FM, Radio Kerry, Live 95FM, Midlands radio, Shannonside FM, Spin southwest FM were female, according to the research.


RTÉ Radio 1 was the only radio station which had a 50/50 divide of male and female artists among its top 20 most played songs. Some 30 per cent of the voices among Carlow FM's top 20 songs were female, the study notes.

Airplay monitoring service

Ms Coogan Byrne, who worked on the report with musician Áine Tyrrell, conducted the research by downloading data logged by Irish music stations between June 2019 and June 2020 into the Radiomonitor airplay monitoring service. The international radio system can be used to evaluate airtime allocated to artists who have commercial releases and whose music is submitted to radio for airplay.

Focusing on Irish artists, the study found that only one act across all Irish radio stations’ top 20 was from Ireland’s black community.

In most cases, Dermot Kennedy's Outnumbered was the most played song on the majority of Irish radio stations followed by music from Niall Horan and the Academic. Irish female artists Soulé and Aimée feature a few times in top 20 lists.

Ms Coogan Byrne described the findings as a “staggering and shocking display of an industry model that needs drastic change” and said the last time Irish radio supported female acts was during the era of Sinéad O’Connor, the Corrs and the Cranberries.

“Where are our country’s breakthrough female acts of the last decade? Stations tell me they don’t get as many submissions from women. But there’s loads of amazing female singers out there so why don’t get they get the platforms men get?”

Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) chairwoman Eleanor McEvoy said the report was "thoroughly depressing" and the situation appeared to be getting worse rather than better.

“I grew up hearing very few female artists on the radio and it seems incomprehensible to me that we are still in that place today,” said Ms McEvoy. “The unconscious bias towards male musicians, songwriters and performers is staggering. Looking at these figures I’m frustrated at the talent that we’re losing, the songs that will be missed and the voices that we’re never going to hear.”

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast