Sunday just gone was International Women’s Day. A year on from our analysis in 2019, has the scene made positive inroads in tackling gender inequality, issues of diversity and breaking up what is an institutionalised “boy’s club”? While the conversation has progressed at a steady pace, unfortunately it would appear that we have stalled on the action front.
More worrying than the stagnation, is the predictably familiar stonewall reply from boardroom decision makers that seek to shutdown any scrutiny and dismiss the voices of discontent as frivolous white noise. This is none truer than in the case of festival line-ups. After several years of positive change, albeit slow, the industry was in danger of making a U-turn in the year 2019-20. Everybody from Download to Coachella to Reading & Leeds made the less than compelling argument that “the female talent simply doesn’t exist”. TRNSMT boss Geoff Ellis faced a giant backlash when he defended his booking policy with the line that “more women need to be picking up guitars”. Ahem. Even Glastonbury organiser Emily Eavis had some sympathy for those protests, insisting that even she and her team were finding it difficult to achieve a 50/50 balance, though she did go on to say, “it’s a challenge, but the acts are there.”
A force of good slaying the naysayers are Barcelona’s Primavera Sound Festival, who are proud to have achieved a 50/50 split in their 2019 edition and forthcoming 2020 outing. A spokesperson said, “we’re proof 50/50 line-ups are possible” going on to say, “it can be done - and should be done.”
When shesaid.so founder Andreea Magdalina closed her International Music Summit speech by proclaiming “the future of feminism is men” it wasn’t as contradictory as one might initially assume. It seems unlikely that Matt Healy of The 1975 was listening given the audience, but nevertheless, the influential frontman has adopted the mantra. Moving forward, the band has committed to playing only gendered balanced line-ups, with Matt citing “this is how male artists can be true allies.” Thankfully, he isn’t alone. Many top international touring DJs have also indicated that they are now insisting on a clause in their contract to remedy the imbalance.
Another leading light is Vick Bain. Angered at the lazy rhetoric she saw coming from festival boardrooms, she compiled a list documenting all of the female artists signed to a record label or releasing music independently, dubbed The F-List. “I’ve done the work for them, so now there’s no excuses.” Bravo Vick, ball back in your court, industry.
So where are we at?
Comparatively, electronic music events are slightly ahead of those in other sectors, but there is still work to be done. Made using an entirely female crew, new short film Underplayed features Sherelle and Alison Wonderland and focuses on gender inequality in electronic music. Inspired by her own experiences in the also male-dominated film industry, director Stacey Lee saw many parallels in her subject matters. “My own trajectory to be taken seriously was long and hard” - proving that this is an issue across the creative industries. We wouldn’t want to end on a bum note, so whilst we acknowledge it hasn’t been a stellar twelve months for gender balance in the industry, let’s at least champion our peers who have shown commitment to the cause.
North of the border, Terminal V have managed to achieve gender parity without compromising on quality. Arguably, New Horizon is the most comprehensive line-up of any electronic music event in Scotland in living memory. Nina Kraviz, Charlotte de Witte, Helena Hauff, Honey Dijon, Lena Willikens, Octo Octa, Shanti Celeste and Tijana T are all a part of proceedings at the Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh on Saturday 11th April - many of them with top billing.
Tickets on sale now.