Taking center stage...
Festivals prove to be a big problem for the women of music.
Women are consistently absent from festival lineups, excluded from the main stages, and are often on the receiving end of gross misconduct while in the audience.
It's no secret that the male-to-female ratio of festivals is dismal. In country music, the problem is particularly pervasive and persistent.
The absence or abuse of women can never become an issue of complacency.
While there is no shortage of coverage about this issue throughout other genres of music, solutions for the lack of inclusion seem to be coming too slowly in the country music community.
Omitting women from one event lineup may not seem like a big deal but its effects are far-reaching. First and foremost, its never just one lineup. Festival bookers often defend their exclusionary lineups with a shrug and some version of “we just didn’t include a lot of women this year”. The problem is that seems to happen every year across the majority of festivals. Adding insult to injury, the largest event’s don’t often choose to do it differently the following year. When the are short on women on season, they don’t ensure women are the majority of the lineup the following year. Going from none to one, or a none to an opener but no headlining spots is not exactly progress to write home about. When lineups don’t balance back out, it clearly indicates the problem was never about supply. It was simply the booker’s preference for men over women.
We all know the music business is a business and exclusions hurts the bottom line.
Lack of representation directly impacts an artist's exposure to large crowds. When absent from a lineup, not only does an artist not receive whatever potential payment was offered for the gig, they also miss out on merchandise and product sales, downloads and streams from new fans, and a host of other supporting avenues for revenue.
Sponsorship opportunities are often extended to artists with substantial fan bases. Artists who have to struggle to be seen are likely to be passed over or missed.
In addition, the backstage area at a festival is a breeding ground for budding relationships. Collaborations and creative communities are strengthened just by sharing the same stage. If the music business is built on “relationships”, women must be invited to the places where those relationships have a chance to develop and deepen.
Press and promo teams often use festival bookings as pseudo stamps of approval from the industry. Crowd shots tell stories about the level of interest from fans.
It can be a struggle to recruit or retain talented band members who rely on substantial touring schedules to support their personal livelihoods.
Beyond the booking, if women are an afterthought when booking, what can be expected for the experiences of women at the event itself?
More and more women are coming forward to share firsthand accounts about how participating in “festival culture” frequently involves being sexually harassmed and /or assaulted. In some reports, 90-100% of women who attendee large festivals experienced some form of abuse. Being a female music fan shouldn't be synonymous with also being misconduct survivor.
If women aren’t booked for festivals, or their fans don't feel safe coming to see them when they do, they will continue to struggle to get ahead. Not for a lack of merit but rather by simply being shut out by an industry that chooses against inclusion.
Thank you BookMoreWomxn (Twitter , Instagram) for partnering with us and for your ongoing work to shed light on the need to book more women and non-binary musicians. Please follow their accounts and support the work they do.