The amount of female artists in festival lineups has increased by 4,5% from the previous FACTS Survey, published a year ago.

Founded by Electric Indigo, the female:pressure network has published the fourth edition of FACTS survey. The survey, made by more than 40 volunteers, quantifies the gender distribution of artists performing at electronic music festivals.

For the FACTS Survey 2020, nearly 400 festival editions from around the world spanning the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 were surveyed, and the recent study also added a non-binary gender category on top of the already-existing male and female categories.

In the years 2017–2019, there were 20.5% female acts, 0.6% non-binary acts, 70.3% male acts‚ 6.6% mixed acts, and 2.0% unidentified acts, such as acts where the gender could not be confirmed, in the electronic music festival line-ups that were counted. For festivals spanning the years 2012 to 2019, 17.3% of all acts were female acts, 74% were male, 6.9% were mixed acts, and 1.5% were unidentified. 

The result of the first FACTS survey in 2013 indicated that barely 10% of artists listed in festival line-ups worldwide are female, and opened up an international discussion about the state of women in electronic music. The previous FACTS survey, collecting data from 2016 to mid-2017, showed that hardly 16% of the festival acts were women, so the results again show a slow yet steady increase.

Monument spoke with female:pressure’s Electric Indigo and Tanja Ehmann about the survey.

What the results are showing us?

E: Several aspects become quite clear: The increase of women in electronic music festival lineups is obvious and I’m happy about it as I think our female:pressure activities play a role in this change. On the other hand, I have doubts, too. Having about 25% of women in the lineup might be a temporary hype and the proportion could decrease again in no time. I don’t see a solid basis for gender diversity yet. In this regard I think it is interesting that Nina Kraviz and Amelie Lens are the busiest DJs worldwide. I assume it has to do with the fact that it has become a flaw, at least in somehow progressive circles, if there are no women on the lineup. At the same time, commercial festivals need to book the best known acts which radically narrows down the pool of “bookable” DJs in general and of “bookable” women in particular.

It looks like having an all-female curating team yields a higher proportion of women in the lineup. I would love to know more about this but unfortunately, it was generally hard to find out who exactly programs the festival lineups. Most festivals don’t disclose this on their websites. We reached out to each festival and asked for the regarding information but most of them did not answer our mails. Out of 166 festivals we contacted, only 30 got back to us with their data. We hope that with time, more festival organisers will cooperate with us.

Public funding also seems to have the effect that gender diversity in lineups rises. This probably has to do with regulations like the one Musicboard Berlin has in place: “In 2019, our focus will continue to be on promoting women in pop culture and strengthening the LGBTQI+ scene. The content of the projects must be based on a 50/50 participation of artists (e.g. booking, workshop organisers, participation of artists).”

On the other hand, I think, publicly funded festivals depend less on ticket sales and therefore can afford a higher fraction of less popular or less known acts.

Based on the results, are the lineups getting more equal?

E: Yes, it is definitely getting more equal but it’s still a long way to go.

T:  From my perspective, it is not possible to answer the question only by taking our numbers into account. More studies from different aspects or fields of the electronic music business are needed. Also numbers from clubs, record labels, streaming platforms such as Spotify, Mixcloud and Soundcloud, record shops and platforms like Bandcamp, magazines, career support programs and so forth are also needed.

Also the disparity of women who work not only as DJ’s or producers, but for example in the administration level, hard- or software music industry, in the booking sector, talent agencies, teachers or in the political has to change. As long as it’s not, the lineups are not getting more equal.

We also don’t know what the political development in many countries will lead to. In Poland, Brazil, USA, Turkey, where the right-wing and clerical leaders are in power, will be a conservative turn especially for LQBTQI* and artists of colour. Also the city development politics in big cities like Berlin, London or New York, where clubs and places of subcultural praxis is getting displaced. With this displacement people who are active in the field of emancipatory actions (postcolonial, gender theory and anti-racist), the fight and the basis of the effects we are now seeing might disappear.

In my opinion, a key factor is a form of organising – like female:pressure already does. But there are more initiatives needed to be recognised from people in power, especially the ones not from the state. There should also be access to the distribution of such power.

Also artists in power, such as Nina Kraviz, should use this power status or show solidarity by taking a stand against this unequal distribution of stage time.

Is this pace of improvement satisfying?

E: In certain circles, for festivals that are generally on the more sophisticated side: yes, definitely. When it comes to commercial, mainstream festivals, the improvements are too slow, I’m afraid. And I don’t think it is just out of ignorance of the respective people in charge but rather a complex combination of circumstances, a systemic issue that we have to counteract collectively on many levels.

Read the full FACTS 2020 Survey from here. Read also Monument’s interview with Electric Indigo about last year’s FACTS Survey.

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