CMT president Brian Philips is weighing in on the lack of opportunity for women at country radio, saying the genre has to get rid of the "imaginary rules" that currently lead to such narrow playlists.

Philips spoke to The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville in response to comments radio programmer Keith Hill made to Country Aircheck, in which he said, “If you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out,” and also cautioned against playing females back-to-back. Hill makes the argument that research shows females just don't test well with country radio audiences, but Philips feels that kind of research can miss the point.

"Anytime you take an art form and draw narrow lines around it, you are always wrong," he says. "You never look smart in the long run by saying female artists don't test."

The CMT head says simply looking at numbers might make someone miss the next big breakout female star.

"It is an industry trying to come to terms with living in a moment and trying to mark it off by saying, 'This doesn't work.' It is a mysterious art form," he notes. "One day somebody shows up and the universe gets turned upside down and everything you thought was true is no longer true. That is the miracle of Nashville. Everybody needs to cool off and do their jobs. They will recognize talent when it walks through the door and there will be much celebration. These imaginary rules that have people laughing at us have got to stop."

Citing Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and, more recently, Shania Twain and Taylor Swift as females who have re-defined the roles of women in country music, Philips is confident that another female star will find a way to shake up the system.

"I still think we are really good in this town, in spite of all of our faults, at spotting [talent] when it walks through the door, whether it is Taylor or the Dixie Chicks or Shania Twain or Dolly. We don't let the talent fall through the cracks very often," he says. "It has to right itself; it's the law of nature. One in a billion humans has the talent of Taylor Swift, but fortunately we live on a planet with 7 billion people, so somebody will come through the door and change everything again. There is an inevitability to it."

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