The never ending battle of the lack of women on festival lineups

The line-up for the 2021 Leeds / Reading was released was met with approving nods and a multitude of shares and joyous emoji’s across social media. The festivals offerings included inoffensive indie favourites Catfish And The Bottlemen as well as Stormzy and Post Malone, the slightly left field rap grime headliners for historically rock festival. Plus Liam Gallagher as let’s face its since every self respecting sell out festival now needs one brother or the other. Fan of electro beats got a nod with Disclosure and even the Scots got presented with Lewis Calpadi. But on second glance there was something missing from the line-up which couldn’t be deemed an accidental a distinct lack of female bands on main stages or high up any stage bills. 

Leeds and Reading aren’t the only festival guilty of this blatant lack of gender representation Neighbourhood have previously announced line ups with not one single female act before announcing a few token vaginas after the backlash. Previously Wireless festival headlined by the out spoken man of the people Stormzy launched their initial line up and female acts made up less than 10% of acts announced. The problem isn’t just UK based, America is mirroring the issue with festivals such as Coachella and Bonoaroo having similarly depressing misogynistic stats.

This isn’t a new issue, in 2015 blogger Josh Dalton created a mock-up of the Reading and Leeds line up poster and removed all male acts, just 9 acts remained and only one was deemed worthy enough to be on the main stage. But since the controversy first attempted to shame festival promoters across the internet to readdressing the balance it would seem that fiveyears later things aren’t getting any better.

This was something I was acutely aware of when I became involved with presenting a radio show and booking for festivals. I wanted to be actively involved in creating a platform for all artists, not just men with beards, guitars and skinny jeans in hotly tipped indie bands, and don’t get me wrong the line-up for Reading and Leeds is an impressive one that I would no doubt enjoy with enough fruity cider fuelled abandonment to ensure I had tooth ache and heart burn for days after, but there is something deeper going with omitted women from line-ups that needs to addressed. It’s saying that women in bands just can’t pull a crowd, they can’t sell tickets, they literally are being told they have no economic worth to festivals and the music industry at large. The inevitable conclusion to that message is why on earth would women even bother getting involved in an industry that will never get them the respect on monetary backing that their male counter parts get.

Also there is a chicken and egg argument here that needs addressing. Young girls and youngs boys for that matter grow up wanting to become what they see. They want to emulate their heroes. Yes there is less female bands out there but until female bands are given prominent festival slots they won’t be inspiring the next generation of Courtney Loves (hopefully without the drug problem) Shirley Mansons, Justine frischmanns and my current fave Bang Bang Romeo’s Stars. Which will be self profiling prophecy of there being even lessfemale bands. The entire industry needs shook up like a snow globe in the hands of a toddler fuelled by Smarties from the 90s before we cared about the impact of E numbers in food.

The music industry not supporting women is just bad business sense.

Some of the biggest hits are by women sharing their stories. Aretha Franklin did not write Respect, Otis Redding did but his original version reinforced the traditional family structure of men work all day, bring home the money so should get their wives respect in return. The song became a legendary hit when Franklin turned the track on its head and gave a women’s view point.

Change does need to come from the top as record company executives have much more control over the industry than I like, but their decisions are based on sales and numbers which is something we can all do something about.

We can support female acts, watch their shows, (legally) download their tracks and post about the lack of women on festival line ups instead of just clicking a thumbs up when Liam is given yet another platform to sell more merch on.