Festival Lineups and the (In)Equality of the Sexes

By Katie Macbeth

Some of the world’s biggest artists are women, yet year after year we are constantly seeing women being ignored by festivals. Big festivals like Reading & Leeds, Glastonbury, Coachella and Lollapalooza champion the biggest names in the music industry, helping music fans all over the world define who those big names are. However, a large proportion of the time, the release of festival lineups highlights the rampant gender inequality within the music industry.

The world’s most in demand female artists are Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, with rising stars like Halsey and Clairo constantly gaining support. These names, and similar artists, routinely fail to be recognised by festival co-ordinators. A Pitchfork survey completed in 2018 found that on a whole, women make up less than 20% of your average lineup.

Released earlier this year, Reading & Leeds’ initial 2020 lineup features 20 womxn artists (out of six stages), with only three appearing on the main stage. Liam Gallagher, Stormzy and Rage Against The Machine were announced as headliners, with Liam Gallagher being a repeat headliner from other festivals. It would be so much more exciting to fill that slot with wxmen artists and bands, think about how many people would talk about the event positively if it had more diverse headliners?

To excuse this, people often state that there ‘isn’t enough female talent’, which simply isn’t the case. Across the board, womxn are killing it. Take Billie Eilish for example, no matter if you love her or hate her, you have to recognise how talented she is. Billie’s debut album ‘When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go?’ won the ‘big 3’ at the Grammy Awards, yet she’s still missing from festival lineups worldwide. Punk band Amyl & The Sniffers, won ‘Best Rock Album’ at the ARIA Music Awards. They’ve supported the likes of the Foo Fighters and Green Day (and are currently working alongside Billie Joe Armstrong), yet they’re not seen on festival lineups.

So here’s our run down of some of the best wxmen creatives…

SOPHIE is potentially one of the world’s biggest DJ’s right now, playing massive sold out shows at fabric in London and playing even bigger venues over in the states. SOPHIE rose to fame with her “hyperkinetic” take on pop music, working with the likes of Charli XCX, Kim Petras, Cashmere Cat and many more. 

Witch Fever are one of the strongest womxn bands the UK has to offer, playing liberating, feminist gigs across the country. Witch Fever have supported the likes of The Blinders and Strange Bones, and have the support of IDLES’ Joe Talbot and Alan Mcgee. More people need to be made aware of Witch Fever, their electrifying gigs are not to be missed.

Lady Gaga is one of the most diverse performers in the world, offering dance, pop, jazz, country and heavier tracks to please all audiences. Not only that, but her live shows sell out in seconds. Currently, Gaga is doing a 47 show Las Vegas residency with each gig offering a different, unique take. Some of these 47 shows are dedicated to her Jazz tracks, where others see Gaga’s pop tracks come to life. Her shows are talked about worldwide, a true performer who deserves to headline big slots like the Pyramid at Glastonbury.

Anohni has been making huge waves within the music industry for a number of years, releasing numerous albums tackling controversial issues. On one of their latest releases ‘Drone Bomb Me’, Anohni speaks of a nine-year-old Afghan girl whose family was killed by a drone bomb. Their latest album, ‘Hopelessness’, talks about current events such as climate change, leaving a lasting impact on the listener. 

Since exploding into the music industry back in 2016, Shea Diamond has spoke loud about gender identity, self-esteem and self-expression. Shea’s confidence shines through in every pop banger she releases, like ‘Keisha Complexion’ which was written about loving herself as a black trans woman and is as political as it is catchy.

Also coming through the ranks are the likes of The Ninth Wave, Lucia & The Best Boys, Girl In Red, Pins, Liines, Calva Louise, Dream Wife, Loose Articles, Average Sex and many more, releasing amazing tracks consistently. 

It would be so easy for festivals to make their gender split much more equal, yet it appears that most choose not to. It’s time for things to change, womxn are the face of the music industry and it’s time for festival producers to recognise it.

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