The Independent: How to get more women performing on the main stage at music festivals


The push for gender-balanced line ups is gathering pace, yet there are still so few female headliners. In this eye opening article by The Independent, Samantha Warren investigates why this is. Here are some comments from the MIA’s Alice which explore some of the themes in this article…

The article titled ‘How to get more women performing on the main stage at music festivals’ details the push towards ‘gender balanced line-ups’, or so-called ‘50/50 pledges’ which call for equal numbers of male and female performers at high profile festivals and music events by 2022. However, this move and the way that it is executed does spark some controversy.

One method which always leads to debate is using quotas to address gender inequality. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“The problems begin when we look more closely at what happens when quotas are used to address gender inequality. The argument is that without legislation requiring organisations to appoint a set number of individuals from the minority group, change will not happen fast enough. The 2011 Davies report, commissioned by the government, calculated it would take 70 years for men and women to achieve equality on company boards if the status quo wasn’t challenged.

Yet these quotas can result in women’s recruitment to less influential positions. In countries where gender quotas for company boards are already mandatory, it is not uncommon to find women in non-executive positions where their power is limited – impression management rather than real change. We can see this happening at Glastonbury, too.”

Over the last few years there’s been much back-and-forth about whether quotas damage or promote women’s interests. There are positives to quotas; they are the quickest, most effective and easy to implement way to ensure equality. Quotas can also force the break-up of elite circles that might otherwise remain unchallenged.

Of course, there are also negatives, such as women chosen through quotas being seen as “token”, resulting in them being less respected, seen as being less qualified and even given less power than their male counterparts. People may also interpret quotas as unjust – they could lead to discrimination against the individual men who happen to be running against a woman.

This article rightly points out that “in music, as with many other creative and tech industries, the talent pools are far from equally sized”.

For me, this highlights the real issue. In order to bring more females into the music industry, and widen that talent pool, we need to make a concerted effort to inspire women to enter male-dominated occupations. Now, I’m not claiming that quotas or gender balanced line-ups are the way to do this. There have been some fantastic and varied new ideas and initiatives which do just this, such as NAMM’s Smart Women In Music fund, the Hit Like A Girl International Drum Contest, Girls Rock London and more. We need to keep this up!

The article sums up my point perfectly here:

“Offering safe spaces to learn, connect with other women for support, to network and get noticed: these are things that will create sustainable change for a more inclusive music industry of the future.”

Surely not all that difficult?

Read the full article written by Samantha Warren in The Independent here:

If you’re interested, here is one of my previous articles on sexism and the music industry, written way back when I was a newbie to MI:

Please let me know your thoughts on any of the above, I always value your feedback!