Whilst the cold weather and the abundance of big fluffy coats signifies we are well and truly still in Winter, talks of summer and all the heat, sun and fun that come with it are rampant. Namely, the time has arrived where festivals slowly begin to disclose their line-ups to the eagerly anticipating ticket-buyers. But with this annual occurrence comes another feature of festival line-ups we have all disappointedly come to expect; the lack of female acts at such events.
Whilst Reading and Leeds Festival has yet to announce its line-up, it can be assumed that this will typically consist of male acts, as 95.5% of its line-up over the past decade has been dominated by men. Currently however, the issue of contention is that of the newly released Wireless line-up. Only 3 of its acts are female, and this has caused an outcry on social media, with stars such as Lily Allen criticising the lack of diversity of the festival. To make this snub even more obvious, twitter users have taken it upon themselves to remove the male names on the line-up, highlighting even further how poorly females have been represented.
Traditionally, large musical festivals such as Reading and Leeds, and Glastonbury have booked rock bands to headline, typically consisting of 4 white, cis, males. This description easily brings to mind a vast multitude of bands, all of whom tick all the boxes that one associates with performing at such a high calibre festival. Acts such as Kasabian, Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Killers, to name a few, dominated the festival circuit last summer, as well as countless other summers before that. All acts that fit the criteria to be a headliner. None involving a woman.
To deny these bands their merits due would be insulting, as they are extremely talented, their longevity proves this. Yet this is exactly where the festival industry falters and thus suffers. It has found a tried and proven method to success, which will keep their customers coming back again and again, year after year. Booking traditional arena bands seems like a sure-fire way to success, as they have the capacity to sell tickets and make the festival money. Yet this raises the question of why female acts and bands are not given the same platform for triumph? Are they simply not capable? Or are they not being given the chance they deserve?
Festival promoters themselves acknowledge the lack of diversity within the industry, with varying opinions on it. Melvin Benn of Festival Republic states that “We put on bands that people want to buy tickets to watch – so it’s the public that makes the decision about what bands play at festivals”. Benn’s comments suggest the fault is in the hands of the public themselves, implying that through our continued ticket buying, we are encouraging a system which continuously plays it safe. Yes, for years the traditional model has worked and made for an enjoyable event, but it has become dated and stale.
Yet the music industry IS changing. Festivals such as Wireless prove it, as they move away from traditional line-ups consisting of rock music, and instead comprise of the rap and hip-hop genre, now the most popular music genre in America. The stereotypical white leading man found at festivals is no longer the only option, with the black man now being a viable and bookable choice for the headliner spot. To say race is not an issue within the music industry would be naïve and ignorant, yet a new and forward-thinking discourse is emerging within music, of which women are being intentionally left out from.
Women are being misrepresented not because they aren’t popular, acts from the likes of Beyoncé to Haim prove this, but because they aren’t traditional. Music promoters won’t book them not because they aren’t talented, but because they haven’t been booked before, and thus there is no guarantee they will pull in the customers like tried-and-tested male acts will. They’re not being given a chance.
Interestingly, Field Day Festival aimed to reach a quota for 50% of acts consisting of women, yet failed in this, claiming that “there simply weren’t that many available”. Clearly, there is a correlation between lack of female representation in the industry and the decline of aspiring female musicians. Completely understandable due to the lack of platform female musicians are given to showcase their talents. But as music lovers, festival fiends and most importantly promoters of equal rights, we have to use all our means to express our concern for this pressing issue, with social media being a great place to start. We must use our voice so female musicians can continue to use theirs.