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Is there really not enough women in music?

For over a year we were stuck inside, gazing out the window like lonely dogs pining for their owners to come back. All we thought about was what we wanted to do once we were free. And if you’re anything like me, you spent that year thinking about music festivals.

Oh yes, music festivals. The place where anything goes. The place where you, for some reason, aren’t mad at that guy for spilling his tepid pint down your back. You aren’t even mad that same pint cost almost a tenner. It’s the place where no corner is safe from drunk girls that just can’t hold it any longer. Her friends gather around, using their jackets as shields, protecting her from the prying eyes of passersby as she squats.

That’s the place I consider the homeland.

Copy and paste, copy and paste

So, with memories of my atypical haven playing on a loop in my mind, each day I opened Twitter to check lineup announcements. Each time they left me with a not bad, but far from good, taste in my mouth. Like when you’ve been eating really healthy but then you indulge in something sugary and it really didn’t live up to expectations. Like really didn’t live up to expectations. You feel like it wasn’t worth it. Each lineup announcement, at least for UK festivals, was pretty much the same as the last. Where’s the individuality? Where’s the character? How does your festival look any different from that one? And even more worryingly, where are all the women?

When you take into consideration the slander UK festivals have been subject to these past few years over their dire lack of representation, you’d expect better than the same men headlining what feels like every UK festival. Women make up 19% of festival lineups. A pretty sad statistic. And every year this starts huge Twitter wars. People voice their upset at the lack of representation and then others hit back with: “women don’t make music”, “women aren’t good enough at making music”, “there aren’t enough big female artists right now.” But is that true? Let’s have a look...

Maybe we’re short of women musicians

So, it begs the question, is it actually that hard to find female musicians? I’ll do you a favour and answer that really quickly… no. In an era of Spotify, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, (I would go on but you get the gist) we have an endless supply of musical talent. But before we look at platforms, let’s touch on the creative process.

Music has never been easier to make. If you have a laptop, you can make music. You don’t even need to know how to play an instrument anymore. There’s software out there that does it for you. So, now people are making music, whole albums even, from their bedrooms. The 1975 are a prime example of a band who “made it” and they made a lot of their music on a laptop in their bedrooms. And they aren’t the only band doing this, there are thousands of young musicians doing the same. Including women, of course.

Where are they hiding then?

Now, let’s go back and talk about those music platforms. For the first time ever we can listen to music from anywhere and everywhere. We can listen to music created by a teenager in their bedroom who lives in Peru. Or by someone in the South Pole. Or by that guy you sat next to in year 5 science who’s now a SoundCloud rapper. If you have a laptop and an internet connection, you can put your music out there. And that’s how some of the biggest names in music found fame. Think Doja Cat, Justin Bieber, Arctic Monkeys, Post Malone, Billie Eilish, and dozens more. They all used the internet to start their careers.

SoundCloud is a platform where over 20 million users share their music. It’s full of creative, talented women posting music every minute. Women musicians aren’t as rare as some would believe. And they’re certainly not hiding.

Well, they aren’t big enough to headline

Yeah, you’re right. No SoundCloud musician could headline a major fest. But they could still be featured lower down on the lineup. Only they aren’t. But let’s stick to the topic - artists big enough to headline.

Despite what festival defenders on Twitter might have you thinking, there are dozens of women (or acts with women in them) that could put on a jaw-dropping headlining performance. Let’s just name a few…

Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, Wolf Alice, Babymetal, Evanescence, Florence + The Machine, Bjork, Paramore, Haim, Halestorm, Young MA, Billie Eilish, Solange.

There are loads of different genres and styles in there, and that’s just a few off the top of my head. And they’d all put on a cracking headlining performance. And they’re pulling some of the biggest crowds festivals have seen. So there are women who can headline, festivals just aren’t booking them.

In fact, just to show how many women are currently making moves in the industry, I made my own lineup for R&L consisting only of women or acts with women in them. Check it out below.

Women have been paid dirt by the industry since day one. It’s harder for women to get into the scene for a dozen reasons. And this is without touching on the horrific, multiple cases of sexual misconduct in the industry and the rampant racism.

Music has always been a lads’ club and festivals making absolutely no effort to have equal representation only shows their support of music staying a lads’ club. It shows they support the idea that only men deserve the headline spots. That women aren’t good enough. And quite frankly it’s dated, disappointing, and disgusting.

A blog typically ends with a call to action, so here goes.

If you do anything today, listen to a woman. Listen to Beyonce, Porridge Radio, or Wargasm. Any band, singer, or rapper that is a woman. There are thousands out there and they’re being paid filth by the industry.

And let’s call out festivals and other events when their lineup is overwhelmingly male. It’s 2021, for god’s sake.

Holly Quinn, Cohort R1, Junior Content Producer at Coster Content


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