According to analysis by Sky News, only 17% of the leaders at the UK’s top festivals this year are female.
Music industry experts say women are seen as having too much of a “risk” for the top spots because of the perception that festival-goers prefer to watch men, as well as female talent. still too little.
Industry figures also called on Glastonbury to do more to close the gender gap.
Across 104 festivals this summer, just one in five (20%) of the headline acts were led by women, compared with almost four in five (78%) led by men and 2% for those who are not. binary system.
At the biggest festivals, with a capacity of more than 30,000 people, the ratio is even lower for women at 1/6 (17%).
And if you calculate the total number of people performing on stage during the title periods, only one in ten (11%) are women.
According to our research, while women are still behind men in every way, they are more liked by fans on YouTube, Google and radio than festival promoters when it comes to headlines.
Meanwhile, names like Glastonbury, Isle of Wight Festival and Latitude don’t have a single woman topping their main stages this year.
Glastonbury, which is issuing its final ticket in 2023, faces a backlash in March after the reveal of Arctic Monkeys, Guns n Roses and Sir Elton John will top its famous Pyramid Stage this year.
Folk rock singer, Cat Stevens, was also named “legend” Sunday afternoon despite rumors that Blondie would take the position.
Organizer Emily Eavis said the female lead they had planned, widely rumored to be Taylor Swift, had to withdraw due to touring.
Women ‘too much of a risk’
Eve Horne is a producer, singer-songwriter and founder of Peak Music UK, which mentors female and non-binary artists and producers. She also joins Music UK’s Diversity Task Force and is a board member of Moving The Needle, which works to improve the inclusion of women in the industry.
She said there is hope that the devastating impact of COVID will lead industry bosses to prioritize inclusion and diversity.
“If anything it did 360 and turned around,” she told Sky News.
“People are starting to make money again and say it’s too risky to put women in the lead.”
Eve claims promoters repeatedly tell her that festivalgoers of all genders prefer to see men perform over women.
She added: “In the end it was all about the money and we still had older white men guarding the industry.
John Rostron, chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals, which represents 105 UK events, said the problem stems from having a smaller pool of female artists for promoters to choose from. .
“Title placement can be the pinnacle of an artist’s direct career.
“There are a lot of barriers for any artist to get there, but for women, there can be three times as many barriers, so the talent pool at the top is less.
“We have to wait for them to show up and then get them ready to book.”
The problem is made worse at larger festivals, where big artists charge high fees and promoters have to meet those costs with ticket sales – and are also accountable to shareholders.
“You can’t say that a boy band sells more tickets because they’re men,” he added. “But you could say they sold more tickets than the other band when that proved true.”
YouTube users and radio DJs choose more women
Sky News looked at YouTube views and radio plays to see how popular female artists are on those platforms. “Lead actress” refers to actions with a lead actress.
They are much better represented on both platforms than they are at the top of the festival billboard.
On YouTube, in the 12 months to the end of March, female artists accounted for 35% of all music views, while male artists accounted for 65%. Non-binary acts at less than 1%.
Nearly half (24) of the 50 most searched artists on Google during the same period were also female.
Both datasets show that fans really want to see female artists.
On radio, they’ve averaged about a third (32%) of broadcasts from 2019 to date, with male artists making up just under two-thirds (65%) and non-binary 3%. .
So far in 2023, the gender balance is roughly equal, with both male and female artists at 48%, the rest being non-binary.
Six of the top 10 songs played on radio this year are by female soloists, including Miley Cyrus’ Flowers – the most popular song of 2023 by far.
The rise in non-binary representation is largely due to a handful of artists, such as Sam Smith and Olly Alexander.
At the festival there are signs of progress. At all stages, nearly three out of 10 (29%) of behaviors were led by women – a nearly 2% increase from the five-year average.
But that progress is not reflected in the header positions.
‘Glastonbury affords inclusive management’
By contrast, Mighty Hoopla, a 25,000-person festival in south London, has been without a male lead since 2018.
Olly Alexander made a splash in 2018 and will be back this year.
It provides a “platform for LGBTQ+ performers” and ensures at least 50% of the performers are female and non-binary in the entire lineup.
Cassie Leon, head of festival inclusion, told their audience it was “relatively easy” to commit to a diverse lineup.
“Part of gay culture is trying to uplift women as much as possible,” she added.
When asked how other festivals should improve women’s representation, she said special staff should be hired to promote inclusion.
“It’s a problem for everyone, from agencies to festivals to talent spots,” she said.
Specifically about Glastonbury, she added: “If you can buy Elton John, you can buy inclusive managers.”
While Britain’s largest festival may be less profit-focused than others, raising funds for charities and supposedly paying artists a portion of their usual fees, the Smaller associations still seem to do a better job at preserving female leaders.
Jungle and drum and bass artist Nia Archives is leading two indie festivals this year – We Out Here in Dorset and Outlook in Croatia – as well as performing at Glastonbury.
“It’s been a tough one for me,” she said, “because I know I’m being given those opportunities but also realize that not everyone has those opportunities.”
Heavy metals and stones among the worst offenders
Aside from Mighty Hoopla, no festival in our database has more than a third of its repertoire led by women from 2018 to present.
Six have had nothing since – Isle of Wight, Download, Kendal Calling, TRNSMT, Slam Dunk Festival and Bloodstock Open Air.
With half of the worst offenders coming from rock and heavy metal, John Rostron, of AIF, representing Bloodstock Open Air, said things were “particularly difficult” for those genres because there are “much smaller talent pool”.
Bloodstock festival director Adam Gregory shares his views.
“There is a shortage of female-led bands in the ranks,” he said, adding that title slots are reserved under “the strongest offer available.”
John also shows how some major festivals sign up artists exclusively – preventing them from playing other events.
“Someone playing third at Reading might be the perfect person to headline one of our smaller festivals, but they can’t. It’s the responsibility of both organizers and artists to say no to exclusion. “
There are groups trying to make a difference.
Not Bad For A Girl, a DJ collective based in Manchester and London, was founded 4 years ago to “create a platform for female and non-binary DJs” – running their own events, representing performed elsewhere and on the radio.
They wore signature pink headscarves that were meant to “erase conventional beauty standards” after the members were denied opportunities because of their gender.
Founder Martha Bolton says they actively support diverse talent, such as by “hosting two events and using one as a dairy cow, so that the other can promote another.” emerging artists”.
She added that large organizations like Glastonbury have a responsibility to set the standard for the industry.
“It needs to be bigger people making that jump for the rest of us who can’t take the risk.”
There is no official governing body for the UK music industry, so there is no official measure of accountability when it comes to gender diversity.
UK Music, which has its own diverse task force, acts as a union and connects smaller associations representing specific parts of the industry.
Glastonbury: Arctic Monkeys and Guns N’ Roses join Sir Elton John as leads
Sir Lenny Henry ‘surprised’ by lack of black people at UK music festivals
Keychange is an EU-funded diversity program that requires 600 signatories (41% of which are festivals) to commit to at least 50% women. By the end of 2021, 64% of signatories have reached the target.
But both agencies are not legally binding.
In an interview with The Guardian in March, Emily Eavis said Lizzo, who will perform right in front of Guns N Roses on the Pyramid Stage, could be “absolutely outstanding” but the rock band was booked. .
She reiterated that women’s inclusion is “a top priority on our agenda”, having pledged to implement a 50:50 representation ratio by 2020 and ensure more than half of the behavior are female and non-binary until 2023 to date.
In its diversity statement, the festival said it was “working alongside equality and anti-discrimination experts” on an internal review.
“We try our best and obviously we aim for a 50:50 ratio. Some years more, some years less,” Eavis told the BBC earlier this year, adding that “looks like we have two female leads” for 2024.
But she added that despite being the biggest festival in the country, the change isn’t just up to her.
“We’re doing our best so the system needs to be developed. This starts with record companies, radio stations. I can shout as loud as I want but we need to get people involved. .”
Sky News has contacted Glastonbury for further comment.
(c) Sky Bulletin 2023: Why are only 17% of the UK’s top festival heads female in 2023?