For anyone who attends festivals regularly, the latest research by the BBC will not come as any surprise: more than 84% of acts booked this year for the UK’s festivals were male, with only 3% of the acts female.
It’s a shocking statistic that only forces your eyes open even wider when you realise that of the 308 acts analysed in the study, twenty of them – that’s around 6% – took up 24% of the headline slots. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for emerging artists, or any real diversity whatsoever.
The most booked female headliner in 2017 is Rihanna, with four slots, but this pales into comparison when you consider that between them Muse, Kasabian, and The Killers rack up 32 headlining slots in the same year. Ready for even an even bigger number? Between the 13 all-male most popular headliners for UK festivals, pundits could see them a ginormous 113 times.
So where does that leave the ladies?
Well, there are festivals that focus on equality and diversity in their bookings like Field Day – but they’ve struggled to book 50% female acts because ‘there simply weren’t that many available’. It’s a cry in the dark, and not for more women to enter the music industry, but for them to be better supported, better mentored, and given the same opportunities that their male counter-parts are showered with.
We’ve got to give a shout out to V Festival, of course – on the main stage they manage a 30% female mix, with the two main headline acts P!nk and Jay Z. But they’re the exception, sadly, that proves the rule.
Mark Savage, the BBC’s music reporter, puts it really well: “There is a worrying reliance on white, male guitar bands at music festivals – which is strange, because white, male guitar music is massively out of favour. The charts are dominated pop and hip-hop . . . if bookers took a risk on these acts, they’d undoubtedly attract a younger, more passionate crowd – ensuring their longevity in the process.”
Keep an eye out for our Glastonbury round up: we’ve got (welly) boots on the ground as we type . . .