Female:pressure network just released an update of their FACTS survey regarding female and male proportions at electronic music festivals.
Better known as Electric Indigo, the Austrian artist Susanne Kirchmayr is the founder of the female:pressure network. Celebrating it’s 20th birthday last year, the organisation aims to strengthen the worldwide networking, communication, representation and recognition of female, non-binary and transgender artists.
Most of the artists of female:pressure surely have come across the common argument about the lack of female artists in comparison with their male counterparts. For promoters worldwide, a common question, instead, is why there are more men than female represented in the business.
Is there less female artists in the electronic music scene, Susanne Kirchmayr?
“I think there are less female music producers for example, but I guess no one has the absolute numbers. It is impossible to count all the bedroom producers. Even making a research on all the Resident Advisor profiles would not be representative as not all artists have such a profile – apart from the insane amount of work.”
Personally, Kirchmayr is not that sensitive what it comes to the motives for her being booked. “I’m taking chances to play out, in the worst case a gig is always an opportunity to practice”, she says and highlights that a lot is based on how the artists are actually presented. “Of course there are also really stupid circumstances, or even misogynistic approaches on the bookings and events.”
Kirchmayr talks about the social aspects of the music business. “Maybe the bookings should be all about the music”, she says, “but no matter the gender, it’s never only about the music or the quality of the work”.
What do you mean?
“The “hiring” processes are hardly formalised, it’s always friends booking friends, sending recommendations to each other, booking an artist they have already seen being booked. Factors like sympathy or social compatibility play a role. But of course it’s not only about social aspects either, one cannot have a flourishing career over decades if they constantly suck”.
A six-women team of female:pressure’s network is called Trouble Makers. The team, including Kirchmayr herself, are the women behind FACTS survey, a biennial project aiming to deficit in equal opportunity and visibility for female and non-binary artists in the electronic music festivals.
The gender data is collected only as female and male, and the transgender artists were assigned to their chosen gender or by the pronoun they use for themselves. Groups of several artists are being counted as mixed if they comprise artists of not only one gender. Besides the core team of the Trouble Makers, a team of voluntary assistants has helped the core team in collecting and analysing all the date. The research is currently not funded in any way.
First time published in 2013, the FACTS survey found that only a bit more than 10% of the artists in the worldwide festival lineups were female. The results started a major discussion, but despite that, the next of the survey still indicated the continued lack of female artists.
The third FACTS survey was published in August 2018. It measured a data from 229 festival editions with almost 19 000 performances mainly in European and North American electronic music festivals taking place between 2015 and mid-year 2017. This time, the results showed a small increase in the female representation: 15% of all acts were female. When looking into the numbers between 2016 and mid-year 2017, in total of 15,7% of all measured festival acts were female.
Although the promising shift in the female-male ratio, it is clear that there is still an enormous gap between female and male performances on-stage. However, festivals like VIA Festival in USA, CTM in Berlin, Hyperreality in Austria and Norbergfestival in Sweden have notably increased the number of female artists in their lineups since the first survey in 2013.
The general development from 10% to 19% at the maximum feels quite small.
“It depends on how you look at it. If women were a marginal political party, this would be called a huge success. In four years, the percentage has almost doubled! In absolute numbers, the development is not that huge, but the numbers are definitely moving.”
How is the situation at clubs?
“I could imagine that clubs are doing even worse than the festivals, but I don’t know for sure. It’s way more work to analyse the club programs than festivals, and we have decided to leave the clubs out from the FACTS survey. Viennese organisation Femdex has made a similar research about the local clubs.”
But what could be done in order to further diversify the festival or event lineups? Kirchmayr recommends starting from diversifying the curating teams. “Sometimes a male promoter might approach female:pressure and ask who to book”, she tells, “they should acknowledge that it is an consulting work that should be paid or otherwise rewarded”.
Kirchmayr also recommends diversifying the music genres of festivals and events. “Risk-taking is good, and expanding the genres might be really rewarding and surprising”, she says.
Is there more ways?
“No newcomer is a great artist from day one. People need to gather practice, if a promoter has a chance to give warm-up slots for local newcomers, they can make the lineups also more diverse. It is also very important for the promoters to make sure the event space is as safe as possible, free of sexual harassment and that the event follows code of conduct.”
As a DJ, Kirchmayr has started crafting intelligent playlists where she quickly finds the music made by female artists with an own tag. “I don’t want to be the mother of calling for diversity and still play mostly men stuff. The intelligent playlists make it easier to manage, equalise and get more balanced collection of music. Now I have so much more fun at the gigs”, she says.
Here you can access the whole report about the latest FACTS survey. The next survey will be published on International Women’s Day in 2020, and people can contribute on the survey from this data collection form.