In recent years we’ve seen a lot of news about the gender disparities within the music industry. One of the dividing topics at the moment is 50/50 gender representation on festival lineups. On International Women’s Day (IWD) we ask why is it so hard to book a diverse line up when there are so many great female acts?
Is there a lack of female talent? Insufficient support for growing artists? Or maybe it’s that festival programmers are disengaged from female talent, following years of subconscious bias to male acts.
We believe in equality across the board and have been consciously increasing the amount of female acts on our lineups for the last few years. Our predictions for 2020 show further growth in the goal of equalising the Love Saves The Day lineup.
As well as looking at diversity on our main stages, we believe change needs to happen on a grassroots level and are committed to investing in the headliners of tomorrow. We are ensuring that all of our smaller stages are achieving if not exceeding the 50/50 mark in the interest of providing emerging female talent with a vital stepping stone.
Last year the Cocktails and Dreams lineup was 60% female. This year we’ve dedicated the stage to support local emerging talent and keep a 50/50 balance. These goals will also apply to Shambarbers, Bump Roller Disco and The Ball Pool.
Alongside over 250 independent festivals we have signed up to PRS Key Change Campaign: a European incentive for music festivals events and conferences to achieve 50/50 representation across lineups by 2022. This initiative has done a fantastic job of highlighting this issue, creating an industry-wide discussion and raising awareness about equal opportunities for all, from artists to festival-goers.
A recent finding from Ticketmaster’s survey on festival diversity found that nearly 1/3 of consumers agreed: “A gender-balanced line up is something I consider when choosing which festival to attend”. This is a massive indicator that attitudes are changing! The survey also revealed that 49% “believe that is it the festival organisers responsibility to ensure lineups are diverse as possible.” We agree! But we can’t do it alone.
‘The Pool Isn’t Big Enough’
It’s time to nurture female talent: everyone wants it, everyone is hungry for women, but they are just not there’ (Emily Eavis, Glastonbury Festival)
Securing headliners is likely the hardest job for a festival booker! Headliners are one of the main reasons for people to buy tickets according to a study run by Music Watch on behalf of Eventbrite in 2016. These are the acts you might only see once in a lifetime, that you build your weekend around seeing. They also, to a certain degree, define the festival’s vibe and are shifting enormous volumes of concert tickets on their tours.
The festival market can feel oversaturated, creating sometimes competitive conditions to secure the most current/strongest headliners in a bid to appeal to a wide audience. Unfortunately, the lack of investment in female talent means that there are not enough headliners to programme despite seeing a fantastic growth of female-fronted and non-binary acts across the majority of mainstream musical styles.
As an independent festival we, like our peers, are competing with global music organisations who have the buying power to make exclusive deals with artists, meaning the act solely performs at the associated festivals. Younger artists are less likely to turn down deals like this, as they guarantee exposure and extremely high fees. This creates a ripple effect in the industry as well as more limitations in the booking process.
Today, online presence is transforming the industry and progression patterns for artists by propelling them into main stage slots faster than before, sometimes without albums or a longstanding musical portfolio.This is because people are buying less music which normalises streaming services and artists have the ability to grow massive audiences without touring. This, on the surface, sounds great: more opportunity for the youth to get fast success through music, right? The problem is that by creating extremely high demand to see new artists on festival lineups, they can be stripped of artistic growth. We exhaust them by not giving them enough time to keep up with our demand for their music, meaning we often see new, exciting acts that do well for a few years then disappear. We need to, as an industry and music consumers stop this cycle.
We want to reach the goal of 50/50 representation at Love Saves The Day but the vision is really beyond that. Most of us festival lovers feel a sense of community and belonging at festivals. We have this enriched culture where we feel free and open, but many social groups are not represented at festivals. The vision is to build an inclusive creative environment that reflects the diversity of Bristol and all those living within and beyond this city.