Female representation within music is terrible | Feature

female representation in music sign

TRNSMT 2020 shows how bad female representation is in music today.


It’s time to talk about the importance of female representation – an issue which must be hammered home until we see positive, tangible change. This seems all too relevant in the music industry after the announcement of TRNSMT’s 2020 festival line up.

TRNSMT is Scotland’s largest outdoor music festival and is set to go into its fourth year. Rightly so, it’s announcement of acts set to play the festival so far has sparked outrage online. With 13 acts announced, only 2 of those are female identifying artists, Rita Ora and Little Simz, with neither having been booked to play a headline set.

As this is not the first time the festival has gained negative media attention, it appears that the festival’s organisers’ reputations have become stained with backward thinking. In fact, it’s such thinking that appears to be the whole base of Geoff Ellis’ so called excuse for the line up being so male orientated, claiming there are purely ‘far, far less female artists’, leading to the conclusion that this supposed lack of female musicians means that achieving a ‘50/50 balance’ will be ‘several years ahead for any major festival’

TRNSMT festival line up

This goes even further, Ellis stating that there is a need ‘to get more females picking up guitars, forming bands, playing in bands’. We’d go blue in the face protesting this claim as such a statement is wholly untrue. There is in no way a lack of female musicians out there, and as for those who actually, in his words, pick up guitars, studies by Fender show that ‘50% of all new guitar purchases are by women’

It’s ever so clear that the festival bosses, not restricted to those in charge of TRNSMT, love diverting attention from their mishandlings by attempting to blame women. It’s a savage, unworldly action to present the notion that they are in anyway passive in choosing a limited (to say the least) number of female acts, their hands being forced to only pick up the phone to males because women simply don’t want to be involved in the same way. 

Marta Pallares Olivares of Iceland’s Primavera Festival gave BBC Newsbeat a perfectly concise reaction to the issue, claiming it’s ‘not difficult once your mind is set – when you decide that you want to do this, you start looking for female bands and see that you have been listening to them during the last month’. It’s no surprise here that in 2019, the festival became the first to achieve a 50/50 balance, with the likes of Christine and the Queens, Robyn, FKA Twigs and Lizzo performing.

To put it simply, more needs to be done, and can be done, as shown in Iceland. It’s time female talent (which does exist) is equally recognised and appreciated, be it female soloists, all female bands or female fronted bands, Lauren Tate, Wolf Alice, HAIM, Calva Louise, Witch Fever, Soeur, Hands Off Gretel, Nadia Sheikh, the list goes on. 

All in all, it should be appreciated that such an issue is at least being spoken about, for instance, TRNSMT festival’s head of communications claiming, last summer, that a 50/50 bill is a ‘long-term goal’. But still, while our aim isn’t to blatantly shut down the festival, it is vital that we raise this issue and bring attention to the fact that this can no longer happen – it’s tiresome, it’s repetitive and it’s unjust. How long must we wait, simply for opportunity?

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February 2020
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