Festivals in the diversity check: We know how inclusive music festivals will be in 2023.
Let go and celebrate! Isn’t that what we all want when we go to a festival? Unfortunately, this is made a lot easier for some people than for others. Whether you look at the ratio of male to female artists and bookers or the accessibility for wheelchair users and people with disabilities: there is still room for improvement at most events. On the other hand, in 2023 there are also increasingly attentive initiatives, artists and organizers who demand and promote diversity, inclusion and female empowerment in the music business and at festivals.
It’s about time these topics finally got a place on the Main Stage! Because let’s be honest: live music and festival spirit are the most fun when everyone can celebrate with you. But until then, we still have some work to do.
Women On Stage: What’s Up With The Headline Slots?
In the headlining slots on the big stages at festivals, women are still the exception. The Keychange study “Empowering Women in Music” by the Reeperbahn Festival on gender diversity in the music industry from 2022 shows how bad things are about equality. The relationship between male and female artists on German festival stages is sometimes really underground : At Rock am Ring, for example, there were less than six percent female performers in 2022. Lollapalooza, MS Dockville, the Reeperbahn Festival and Melt, for example, do it better: there is a more balanced ratio here. The goal for the future: 50/50.
Incidentally, the reason for the unequal gender distribution on festival stages is not the lack of female musicians, but rather the focus on the decision-makers, who have a significant say in the festival line-ups: Because according to the Keychange study from 2021, 75 percent are seated of the music companies surveyed are men in these positions. This inequality fuels three problematic circumstances: sexism, the gender pay gap and the future for female musicians. Rolled out backwards, that can mean: If you don’t see a role model up there on the stage with whom you can identify, then as a teenager or young woman you don’t believe that even in the music circus (like in so many other male-dominated professions) you ever will have a chance. The massive gender pay gap in this industry is also striking – while in other professions women earn an average of 18 percent less than men, in the music business it is up to 30 percent. And this disadvantage in terms of opportunities and payment based solely on gender is: nothing other than sexism.
Is a women’s quota for festivals the solution?
That’s why some sides are calling for a women’s quota for festivals. However, their introduction is controversial: because where the compulsion comes, artistic freedom ends.
What one can demand, however, is that bookers for festivals expand their knowledge of bands with front women, female DJs and solo artists and offer these music-making women more space on the many festival stages. “Yes, but they haven’t had great success yet, nobody’s looking at them,” critics reply. But so many boy bands didn’t have fame and glory before they blew away an entire festival audience at 4:30 p.m. on that legendary Saturday afternoon. They are out there, the female-fronted bands, singers and female DJs – they just have to be heard, ideally on the big festival stages in the republic.
Festivals must fly the flag against racism!
Festivals are a mirror of our society, which unfortunately means that racism is also present here. But places where culture takes place have a special responsibility to tackle this – and all other forms of discrimination – because people are given a stage here. Anyone who reaches tens of thousands of music fans must therefore choose carefully – not only according to how good the musical performance of the artists is, but also what values they represent.
Background checks for headliners are still not done enough
Unfortunately, a proper background check is often neglected before bookings. This was also the case this winter, when the double festival Rock im Park and Rock am Ring announced the Texan metal band Pantera for the line-up. You should have known better: Because the band has often been noticed for racist behavior – like in 2016, when the band’s singer, Phil Anselmo, ended a performance at the Dimebash Festival with a Nazi salute and the right exclamation “White Power”. .
Anti-Semitism is also widespread in parts of the music scene
Despite misanthropic views, other musicians have also received major booking contracts this year, such as Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters with his tour of Germany, who has repeatedly attracted attention in recent years for his anti-Semitic behavior. Not only is he one of the most famous members of the BDS movement, which calls for a boycott of Israel, he has also been accused of repeatedly incorporating anti-Semitic symbols, such as pigs with stars of David, into stage sets at his concerts.