Jennifer Nettles honored with first-ever Equal Play Award at 2020 CMT Music Awards

Tanya Tucker, Miranda Lambert and more stars highlighted the challenges women artists face when clamoring for equal spins

Jennifer Nettles put the music and radio industry on notice when she pressed for equal radio play for women in country music at the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards in 2019.

For years, artists have been fighting for parity, and a tribute package that aired during Wednesday evening’s CMT Music Awards -- featuring the likes of Tanya Tucker, Miranda Lambert, Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris, Mickey Guyton, Gabby Barrett, Sheryl Crow and Ashley McBryde -- highlighted the challenges women artists face when clamoring for equal spins.

“We've struggled to get women on the radio. … Not as many women are getting played on radio,” the package said. “It's very important to hear the ladies. There's a lot of amazing women out there delivering and that's not on us. The fact that 16% of all artists in the top 500 country songs were female, is just crazy. You're basically saying to a generation of young women, 'Maybe someday. But it's not your time right now,' which sucks.”

Now, the "Sugarland" songstress is being honored for her determination and willingness to stand on the frontlines against the machine of radio for the betterment of women with the first-ever CMT Equal Play Award, which was presented to Nettles by show co-host Sarah Hyland.

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Jennifer Nettles was honored with the first-ever CMT 'Equal Play Award' on Wednesday at the 2020 CMT Awards.

Jennifer Nettles was honored with the first-ever CMT 'Equal Play Award' on Wednesday at the 2020 CMT Awards. (Getty)

“I've been so excited about this, I put on eye shadow, OK -- and that's been a while,” Nettles quipped to Hyland as she accepted the hardware. “Thank you so much for this honor, CMT.”

Nettles also gave a big shout-out to CMT's senior VP of music strategy, Leslie Fram, as well as the network’s Equal Play team, “who has been so supportive from the beginning.”

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“Thank you to all the fans and especially, my artists, my sisters out there who continue to burn the Holy Fire,” Nettles added. "I am so proud to be a part of this legacy of women in country music with you. And I am so proud of the stories that we tell. We have more to do as soon as we can. And I can't wait to do it all alongside you holding your hands.”

For the work Nettles has already done,  CMT and CMT Equal Play recently altered their programming to ensure 50-50 equal parity for women and men.

Jennifer Nettles is pictured here at the 53rd annual CMA Awards at the Music City Center on November 13, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage,)

Jennifer Nettles is pictured here at the 53rd annual CMA Awards at the Music City Center on November 13, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage,)

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“Jennifer Nettles is that rare artist who speaks her truth, calling out injustice wherever she sees it,” Fram told Variety on Tuesday. “Her commitment to equal female representation across the board in the music industry embodies the spirit of our equal play initiative and makes her the perfect recipient of the inaugural ‘CMT Equal Play Award.’”