Music Festivals’ Leading Ladies

Happy Coachella! As the exemplary summer music festival and kickstarting the flower-crowned season, today marks the first of the dual-weekend fest. But there’s a problem- the number of female musicians playing.

Image courtesy of Karen Cox @ SheKnows.

Image courtesy of Karen Cox @ SheKnows.

A women’s lifestyle blog, SheKnows, took cue from a picture that had been floating around the internet featuring the Reading/Leeds lineup with all the male-only acts removed, and put together a whole post analyzing the more popular festivals in the same manner and allotting percentages of female acts present at each. The results were highly disturbing. See the full article here.

Coachella scored a whopping 13.5% composition of female acts. Yikes. The other fests didn’t fare much better- Lollapalooza scored 25%, Bonnaroo 23%, and Governer’s Ball coming out on top with 30%.

The problem is, this isn’t news. This has become commonplace in many music festivals throughout the nation, even the world. That’s not to say the acts who are chosen, be they predominantly male or not, aren’t deserving of a slot. No, the issue lies in ensuring these festivals are fostering the kind of inclusion and diversity the music community is so apt to promote.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

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Back in 1997 (hello two-year-old me), Sarah McLachlan- yes, the sad puppy commercial woman- along with the help of Dan Fraser and Terry McBridge, put together Lillith Fair, a musical festival just for solo female acts or predominantly female bands. And it went on from ’97 through 1999, with a hiatus before its revival in 2010. Unfortunately, the fest is now defunct, but it gained quite a following in its time, even earning a documentary.

And Lillith Fair stands as proof that not only is a music festival with heavier female presence possible, it’s also just as attractive as a typical festival. While an entirely female festival would be a stellar thing to bring back, I believe it would be enough to start with simply being more inclusive in pre-existing festivals. With more women earning bigger names in the music industry, from pop to indie rock, it wouldn’t be hard to scout out some more acts with two X chromosomes.

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And it doesn’t stop with the musicians. I joke, you joke, we all joke about the stereotypical music festival goer, particularly the crop-topped and sunkissed girls. But we’re narrowly missing the point- it’s a form of self-expression, an embracing of it at that. Sure, you’ll find your fair share of scantily clad women at almost any summer music festival- but you’ll find your fair share of guys running around shirtless, as well. It’s in the very definition of a summer music festival: outdoors, massive crowds, summer heat on top of all that. So while us ladies can’t necessarily rock with our tops off, a good, airy crop top or even bikini top is as close as we can get. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

There is something wrong with shaming them for that, which is something that happens sadly all too often. But seeing more feminine faces in the crowd gives those girls a sense of support, whether they need it or not.

The crowds at Lillith Fair were predominantly female. You do the math. More female acts = more female attendees = more security in the fact that it’s okay to be a girl and like music, and moreover, to celebrate that as much as male musicians and festival goers do. Party on, girls.

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