Last year, CMT took some flack for having an all-male lineup for the network’s annual Artists of the Year honors. This year, there’s some serious course correction going on. The honorees set for the 2018 telecast Oct. 17 are exclusively women, including Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini. Even the mixed-gender bands being celebrated are being awarded only for their female co-frontpeople — Hillary Scott from Lady Antebellum, and Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman from Little Big Town.
Take that, bros.
CMT’s move comes amid an ongoing controversy over the lack of women on country radio that is threatening to stretch from years into decades, with recent statistics showing the drought is only getting worse. The Artists of the Year lineup is hardly CMT’s first attempt to address the imbalance; the network has had a Next Women of Country initiative to promote rising female artists on the air and on themed tours.
The honorees from last year’s show that will not be returning — and who may want to start preparing their gender-bias legal briefs now — include Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Keith Urban, Jason Aldean and Chris Stapleton.
“In this monumental year for women, dedicating one of the biggest nights in the genre to applaud female country artists not only solidifies our commitment, but we hope will spark a much-needed change in the industry,” said CMT senior VP Leslie Fram in a statement. Fram is the leading force behind Next Women of Country and, outside of her CMT duties, is outspoken as a co-founder of Change the Conversation, a Music City org devoted to training a spotlight on sexism in the country music industry.
All of the women getting accolades from CMT this year are returnees, with the exception of Morris, who’s risen to country’s top ranks on the strength of one superior album. Underwood and Ballerini were last on the show in 2016, Little Big Town were honored (as a group) in 2015, Lambert appeared on the telecast in 2014, and Lady Antebellum’s lady is returning for the first time since 2011.
The show will air live from Nashville Oct. 17 at 8 p.m. ET, tape-delayed for the west coast for the same time slot. Additional performers have yet to be announced. Last year’s show, retuned at the last minute to pay tribute to the Las Vegas festival shooting victims, scored record high ratings for the eight-year-old franchise.