Are there any good female musicians?

A music festival

Music festivals dominate British summertime. Reading and Leeds, Glastonbury, the V festival, Download and Wireless are just a handful of the music events that take place across the summer here in the UK.

Families with children, teenagers who’ve just finished high school and young adults trek to the various locations around the UK to listen to their favourite musicians and spend time with their friends.

Although prices for some of these festivals have increased the number of attendees has not decreased. With some people choosing a festival over a holiday abroad.

But in more recent years people have been discussing the lack of women being booked for festival slots. Women solo acts, all-women band or mixed gender bands. Artists have begun calling out festivals for their lack of diversity and representation.

Women in music have always been a widely discussed topic. The music industry is seen as a male-dominated industry. A survey conducted by UK Music looked at the figures of diversity within the industry with particular focus on the business side.

According to the survey women make up 60 per cent of intern positions and 59 per cent of entry-level business roles in the industry, but they only account for 30 per cent of senior executive positions.

The BBC conducted a study in June 2017 which showed that around 8/10 headline slots were occupied by all-male acts.  Below you can see a graph which shows the percentage of male, female and mixed-gender bands headlining festivals from the year 2008 – 2017

BBC graph on how male acts have dominated festival top slots

How male acts have dominated festival top slots [BBC]

The graph shows that this issue is not a new one but one that is being discussed more openly, yet every year as each festival announces their full line up we are continually seeing the same issue.

In 2016, Annie Mac and Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell made a documentary titled Where Are The Women In Music. They discussed the lack of women within the music industry on all fronts, on festival bills, in business and on the tech side of music.

They also discussed the sexualisation of women in the music industry. Talking about her experiences as a woman in the music industry Rowsell said,

“As a woman in the music industry, I’d hope we can be as successful as men. I went to a girls’ school, and there wasn’t many girls who wanted to be in a band. You felt like you had to do it alone. What’s hard about the music industry is that when you start off, you don’t have that much power.”

Women musicians are discussing the issue and calling out festivals for not including enough women. As well as some festivals are recognising the issue.

Last year Glastonbury announced an all-female space at the festival. With all female artists performing and only female attendees allowed. Called the Sisterhood it is an intersectional, queer, trans and disability-inclusive space open to all people who identify as women’. Organisers described the space as a place to escape our ‘’male dominated society’’.

Many people praised Glastonbury for the move as it created a safe space for women at festivals. Since concerts, gigs and festivals are places where sexual harassment against women is common.  But Glastonbury did receive backlash for the decision with some people calling the move ‘’sexist’’.

Around February and March, the festivals slowly announce their line-ups. Publishing their first round of acts and eventually publishing the full line-up.

In recent years’ people have edited the posters to show what the festival would look like without male solo acts or all-male bands. This year Lily Allen called out Wireless for their lack of women bookings.

Here are some line-ups from different festivals from previous years, also with the men edited out:

The line-up from T in the Park in 2015

The line-up from T-in-the-Park in 2015


The line-up for Reading and Leeds in 2015

The line-up for Reading and Leeds in 2015

The discussion of women in the media and the arts incredibly prevalent right now. Take for example the #MeToo movement, the lack of nominated women during awards season, the lack of opportunities offered to women and the women’s march which happened across the globe last month.

These are the conversations we need to be having, we need to find solutions to these issues. It’s not a matter of a lack of talented women but the lack of not being nominated or cast or booked or simply being offered the opportunity.





Featured image by Veld Music Festival via Flickr CC