Where are the Women?

Evaluating the lack of women in major music festival lineups

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Lizzie Goncharova

A collection of GIFs presents the lineup posters for eight widely recognized music festivals, including such giants as Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza. First, the audience sees the official line up. Then each poster is altered with the all-male acts eliminated from the lineup, revealing some very empty posters, bringing to light an often unspoken trend: women consistently make up about one sixth of the acts in large festival lineups.

Last fall, female artists occupied the top five positions on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for six consecutive weeks (the first time in the chart’s 56 year history). This same female presence, however, has yet to materialize at the major music festivals. Although the lack of female groups may not change the festival experience for some attendees, it affects women as well as gender-queer individuals.

But some argue that the issue lies in the number of groups that fit the bill. When asked about festival lineups, Hangout Music Fest Director Sean O’Connell told USA Today, “A lot of it is just timing: Who’s got a record cycle? Who’s going out?”

Last fall, female artists occupied the top five positions on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for six consecutive weeks (the first time in the chart’s 56 year history). This same female presence, however, has yet to materialize at the major music festivals.

Still, this shortage of female acts has been consistent for decades. The percentage of Coachella acts including female members has only gone above 20 percent once since 1999.

Some argue that the inequalities are a result of deeply rooted sexism in the industry, yet this argument is weakened given the success of women in pop music. Because many of these festivals celebrate alternative subcultures that once formed out of male-dominated music scenes (grunge, jam bands, electronica), the many female acts of pop music are understandably less relevant.

The percentage of Coachella acts including female members has only gone above 20 percent once since 1999.

This doesn’t mean festival producers must now incorporate pop music into their lineups in pursuit of an equally gendered bill. This also doesn’t mean the only genre where successful female musicians can be found is pop. What it does mean is that gender is an unavoidable factor in the shaping of genres and the walls we put up around them; as listeners, it is important that we keep ourselves culturally literate to these patterns.

 

Pitchfork Music Festival 2015
Total acts: 46
Acts that include women: 13
Percent of women in lineup: 28%

 

Lollapalooza 2014
Total acts: 138
Acts that include women: 38
Percent of women in lineup: 27%

 

FYF Fest 2014
Total acts: 60
Acts that include women: 14
Percent of women in lineup: 23%

 

Coachella 2015
Total Acts: 166
Acts that include women: 26
Percent of women in lineup: 16%

 

Bonnaroo Music Festival 2014
Total Acts: 215
Acts that include women: 33
Percent of women in lineup: 15%

 

Riot Fest 2014
Total Acts: 127
Acts that include women: 17
Percent of women in lineup: 13%

 

Reading & Leeds 2015
Total Acts: 92
Acts that include women: 10
Percent of women in lineup: 11%

 

Skate and Surf Fest 2015
Total Acts: 38
Acts that include women: 0
Percent of women in lineup: 0%