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Tomato-gate (also SaladGate) was a 2015 controversy in country music, stemming from comments made by radio consultant Kieth Hill to the country radio trade publication Country Radio Aircheck, regarding the under-representation of women in the play lists of country music radio stations. Hill advocated that stations ought not play songs by women artists back to back, and drew an analogy with the composition of a salad, with male artists as the lettuce, and female artists as the tomato garnish. The comments sparked broad outcry on social media and and from a number of high profile women artists and others in the industry. It resulted in various measures aimed at addressing the gender gap in country music; however, despite the attention it garnered, subsequent investigation indicated that the gap has worsened in the years following the incident.


  • If you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out. The reason is mainstream country radio generates more quarter hours from female listeners at the rate of 70 to 75 percent, and women like male artists. The expectation is we're principally a male format with a smaller female component. I've got about 40 music databases in front of me, and the percentage of females in the one with the most is 19 percent. Trust me, I play great female records, and we've got some right now; they're just not the lettuce in our salad. The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists like that. The tomatoes of our salad are the females.
  • Don't worry babe. I see an opportunity here. (A) big ole vagina-shaped opportunity.
  • Whether or not a song gets airplay should be based on how good the SONG is…not whether it’s sung by a male or female. It’s kind of like comparing tall artists to short artists, blondes to brunettes, bald guys to guys with hair….what does it matter?
  • It’s the first time [the show’s] been hosted by a couple of tomatoes!
  • This is the biggest bunch of BULLSHIT I have ever heard. I am gonna do everything in my power to support and promote female singer/songwriters in country music. Always.
  • I think it got a lot of attention focused on something that frankly the audience probably knows nothing about, which is the fact that there are gatekeepers at radio and people that consult and decide what gets played,” McBride said. “I don’t think people were really aware of that. … I don’t know if it’s helped or not helped, but we do have some more females getting some airplay on the radio than there was a year ago.
  • I wrote the song “Fight Like a Girl” about Tomatogate. (Radio consultant) Keith Hill said, men are the lettuce of the country salad, women are the tomatoes. You put a couple on top, but any more than (19) percent is too much. That’s literally almost a direct quote. Me and my two really good friends got pissed off and wrote a song, which I think is the best way to handle being pissed off.
  • Labels felt it was too hard to break a woman at radio so they weren’t signing them, and radio says the labels aren’t giving them the artists. When I signed Miranda [Lambert to Sony in the early 2000s], it was never ‘Uh-oh, she’s a female.’ That only started in the last 10 years. I [recall] taking an artist around, and a record label exec said, ‘I’m not signing any females’ — not even ‘I’m not signing your female.’ I mean, that was spoken.

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