Representation At Music Festivals

Self Help 2017

‘Tis the season for summer music festival lines-ups to be announced. And with festival announcements comes criticism about representation of women, people of color and LGBT+ identities. Each year festivals continue to place mainly CIS male acts on their lineups, seemingly forgetting about other identities that have just as great music.

This week the British weekend long Wireless Festival announced their lineup. The summer festival is in its thirteenth year and has found itself to be the go-to even for fans of the worlds most talked about rappers, artists and DJs.

What should’ve been a great day for the London based festival was quickly turned upside-down by singer Lilly Allen who was quick point out the lack of women represented throughout the entire weekend on Twitter. In her Tweet, the updated festival bill graphic highlights the lack women playing the festival.

Fans of these big named male artists were quick to hop onto Allen’s comments saying, “They actually want people to come to the festival,” or even “Because people don’t wanna hear someone whine about relationship problems like 99 percent of female singers” in the Tweet’s replies.

However, Allen’s criticism is needed. In an industry dominated by male representation in album sales, festival lineups and for awards, it’s hard to see why female artists are not being represented in the same ways when they had some of the biggest tracks of 2017.

Sunday’s are typically the smallest day of festival attendance and two out of the three females artists playing Wireless Festival are billed to play that day. Even CardiB, who had one of the biggest breakouts and rap hits of 2017, is billed at the bottom of Sunday.

Wireless isn’t the first festival for the upcoming summer to be matched with criticism about representation. Delaware based, mainly alternative-rock and pop festival Firefly announced their lineup only to be called out by Halsey on Twitter. The singer who played the festival in the past and who has been an advocate for equality regardless of race, gender and sexuality has no problem calling out big names in the music industry.

Halsey points out that the first 8 acts, including the four headlining artists, are all male and then another female fronted act isn’t named until several lines down the bill.

While the festival has great representation across artists of color, the lack of female artists doesn’t help the festival in a time where those who identify as females are struggling with issues of sexual assault. While Hollywood might be in the spotlight for their #MeToo and Time’s Up campaigns, the music industry has struggled to gain such momentum in these movements even though it’s happening just as much.

While many lineups are being criticized for their lack of representation, one festival that (sort of) got it right this year is Coachella. The 2018 lineup consists of several more female acts than past years and includes a female headliner-something several of these other festival lack.

Beyonce had to pull out of the 2017 festival due to her pregnancy with twins Rumi and Sir, currently one of the few females to headline huge festivals in 2018. While this shouldn’t be huge news and seem like the music industry is taking leaps and strides, but it is.

Refinary29 reports that “the most significant increase by the numbers, up to 33% women from a past high of only 25%” for the California desert festival. This shift towards female artists dominating the festival is hopefully a shift for the better, despite the festivals other controversies.

While festival lineups are slowly but surly arriving for the summer season, it’s not looking likely that the male dominated festival trend will end anytime soon. There’s still major festivals such as Lollapalooza have yet to release their much anticipated lineup. There’s still hope that one festival somewhere out there will one day have a predominately female, POC, and LGBT+ identified bill.

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