Friday marked a mini-boom for announcements of festival bills, all with a heavy focus on male performers. Titled by Liam Gallagher, Snow Patrol, David Guetta and Duran Duran, the Isle of Wight offered 73% male programming.
Gallagher is also making headlines at the TRNSMT festival in Scotland alongside the Chemical Brothers and the Courteeners, at the top of the chart where all-male performers make up 61% of performers. At Kendal Calling, headlining Stereophonics, Supergrass, the Streets and Dizzee Rascal, a partial lineup announcement featured 79% male.
“It is totally unacceptable that after a year of unrest, women and minorities are excluded from this return to life,” said Maxie Gedge, UK project manager for Keychange, the PRS Foundation initiative promoting festivals. of music to commit to engage in queues at 50%. women and gender minorities by 2022.
“We usually stay positive instead of calling people out, but we get tired,” Gedge said. “It’s no longer an accident, it’s a declaration of exclusion. The fact that this continues to happen shows that there are some festivals that just don’t take responsibility, or see it as their responsibility when in reality it’s everyone’s responsibility.
Kendal Calling signed up for Keychange in 2018 and has improved her gender representation year on year, programming director Emma Zillmann said, from 14% of acts featuring women in 2016 to what would have been 32% in 2020, if the festival had not been canceled. She was hoping this year’s final lineup would include around 40% female performers.
It wasn’t for lack of trying, Zillmann said. “It’s not like this is something I looked away from because of the pandemic.” The festival was founded in 2006, “so the number of relevant, affordable and available artists that we haven’t had before is so small,” she said.
Booking emerging numbers featuring women and non-binary artists was easier, she said. “Once you get to the level of an artist who [sells more than] From 400 to 500 tickets per region, it becomes much more difficult. Is the music industry geared towards male artists? A lack of models? Sexual harassment? A lack of childcare or not having room to change? ”
Becky Ayres, managing director of Liverpool Sound City, the UK’s main Keychange Initiative festival, said it was widely rumored that agents were raising the prices of female artists “because they know there are more. desire to have egalitarian programming. “. Zillmann said she has not encountered this.
While the issue of gender parity at festivals is an annual flashpoint, “Kendal Calling audiences aren’t really clamoring to see these artists, which makes things a bit difficult for me,” Zillmann said. . “I don’t dispute that everyone should try harder. It’s not just festivals – we’re just the end of the day. We are an easy target because we have a poster that clearly shows the hierarchy of the music industry. ”
Male trends have rang with previous announcements from the festival, some of them still partial. The Creamfields dance festival is 91% male. Indie-Rock Festival Victorious and Metal Events Slam Dunk and Bloodstock featured over 80% male performers; at Strawberries and Creem, the Big Feastival, Latitude, Parklife and Big Foot, it was over 70%; Naked City, BST Hyde Park, We Out Here, Maiden Voyage, Field Day, Neighborhood and Leopallooza over 60%.
Only the Love Supreme and Deer Shed festivals featured more acts featuring women than men in their line-up. Reading and Leeds, Standon Calling, Black Deer, Kaleidoscope, Camp Bestival, Gala, Liverpool Sound City, Wide Awake, Cross the Tracks and End of the Road featured between 50 and 60% male artists.
Standon Calling founder Alex Trenchard signed up for Keychange in 2018 after the festival’s family population said they wanted to see more women on the bill. This year’s event features 53% male performers, but 100% male headliners, Trenchard said.
Part of it came down to an inability to book international artists due to current coronavirus restrictions on travel, he said. “We tried to make up for that further down the bill – this year our second leg is 65% female.”
Since the government revealed its road map out of the lockout in February, UK festivals have seen record ticket sales. Some festival organizers may wonder why they would play with a winning formula.
But Keychange’s Gedge said there was “only one positive economic case for diversity and gender diversity.” The refresh of the talent pipeline has kept events from going stale and improved the sustainability of annual events, she said.
In contrast, exclusionary programs sent a negative message to spectators, as well as artists and festival employees. “If women and gender minorities are not taken into account, what does that say about security?” Gedge said. “Decision-making processes do not take into account the experiences of half the population, and this should be questioned.”
In September, the Musicians’ Union reported that a third of UK professional musicians were considering giving up their careers due to a lack of work and financial support during the pandemic. With women, gender minorities and women of color disproportionately affected by the pandemic, Gedge said, better representation was crucial. “It’s really important that we take this very seriously and think about what we want the future of music to look like, not what it looked like.
Oliver Jones, director of Deer Shed in Yorkshire – which has one in three female headliners in total, and 49% all male acts on its bill – said festival organizers should “actively seek out female groups And “support the underdog”. This year, London-based punk trio Dream Wife are headlining the festival’s second stage after appearing in a previous slot machine game a few years ago.
While Standon Calling had struggled to book a female headliner this year, Trenchard said, the force of female performers amidst the bill for the event – including Porridge Radio, Billy Nomates and Greentea Peng – was bodes well for the future. “It’s a positive sign, although things don’t look positive at the moment.”
• This article was modified on March 26, 2021 to correct the date of Keychange’s commitment to gender parity on festival invoices. We are in 2022, not in 2020 as stated previously.