Music festival season is almost upon us in the UK and in the following months we can expect to anxiously wait for the line-ups of our favourite festivals. However, so far the line-ups revealed for 2018’s music festivals has been disappointing. The UK’s top music festivals have been called out for the lack of female artist and headliners performing. With the effects of the recent sexual assault allegations in the media, the #Timesup movement and the exposure of Wireless festival’s lack of diversity in its line-up last month, people are outraged.
UK artist Lilly Allen was the first to draw attention to Wireless festival posting a picture of the line-up with all the male artists removed, with the caption ‘The struggle is real’. Over a three day period, just three artists have been confirmed to perform: Mabel, Lisa Mercedez and Cardi B. Wireless, which is supposed to be the capital’s biggest urban music festival, has since been called out by other artists such as DJ Anne Mac, who turned to Twitter to say, ‘This is appalling. So so so embarrassing,” while artist MNEK responded: “This can’t be [for real].”
Unfortunately, this is not new information. In 2015, music blogger Josh Dalton of Crack in the Road edited the Reading/Leeds Festival line-up; out of over a hundred acts, only nine artists were female. Ellie Goulding has also consistently drawn attention to the lack of female performers at festivals. In 2015, she called out Glastonbury during her interview with the Cosmopolitan, saying she, ‘got annoyed Glastonbury had so many men on the line-up.’ However, the festival did listen and was headlined by Florence and the Machine the following year.
‘Pitchfork tallied up all the festival acts playing in the UK and found 74% were male, 14% female and 12% mixed gender.’
In 2016, Huffington Post revealed that the issue is worldwide. 32 million people attend music festivals in the US every year and 51% of the attendees are women. Despite this ‘Coachella’s 2016 line-up included 168 male artists and just 60 female artists — a figure that includes both all-female and mixed-gender acts. Ultra’s 2016 line-up only featured 20 female artists, while a whopping 198 exclusively-male acts made up the rest of the weekend. Lollapalooza tapped 124 male acts to perform at its 2016 festival, and only 47 female acts.’ Last year, music website Pitchfork tallied up all the festival acts playing in the UK and found 74% were male, 14% female and 12% mixed gender.
However, more festivals are doing their best to try and close the gap between equality, including Bestival. Organiser Rob Da Bank told the BBC that 60 per cent of Bestival’s audience is female, “which is kind of unusual… but it’s great we can reflect that in the line-up.” “We counted it up two weeks ago and almost a quarter of our acts are female – which I know is nowhere near the 50 [per cent] it should be but it’s more than a lot of other festivals.” Coachella has also risen increased the number of female artists on its bill from nearly 40 to just under 60 and Beyonce is set to headline the festival.
The lack of female artists performing in festivals brings to light the inequality of the music industry. Women Make Music, a recent study carried out by the PRS Foundation, found that women represent just 16% of UK songwriters and composers, and that there is a lack of women in other roles across the industry. The issue seems unlikely to get resolved soon despite the considerable talent of many female artist such as Lana Del Ray, Adele, Lorde and many more women who should be given a chance to shine.