In Criticism of: Reading Festival 2020


The gender gap in music festival line-ups has been a long running controversy within the music industry, it only highlights the lack of equality towards female musicians. This year’s Reading and Leeds Festival line-up has certainly caused controversy as only 22% of musical acts performing feature at least one female or non-binary member, this is astonishing for such a global festival which tends to portray popular musical acts within mainstream culture. Festival Republic (who runs Reading/Leeds, Latitude and Wireless) in 2018 came under scrutiny for its lack of female musicians, with Wireless festival only having 3 female performers play during the 3 days of the festival. Wireless Festival and Festival Republic were automatically called out for their lack of diversity forcing them to introduce an all-female stage, so more women had a chance to show their musical ability. This led to Festival Republic to promise to try and decrease the gender gap on their festival line-up list, for Reading Festival the amount of female performers has increased within the two years since the incident, it has only gone up by a whopping 3%, in 2018 only 19% of the acts were female, now only 22%. This slow increase may not be all boiled down to a deliberate act of sexism and may be to do with the issue with the music industry as a whole, however it is still shocking that female/non-binary performers can’t even be at least 30% of the line-up.

Many arguments towards the lack of female/non-binary musical acts is that there is ‘not enough’ of them to put on a festival line-up which was also stated by TRSNMT boss who claims more women need to “pick up guitars” to get on the festival line-up. This one comment in itself is misogynistic and undermines the amazing talent that is regularly produced by women/non-binaries. Another argument towards this is that there are not enough musical acts featuring women/non-binary that could possibly headline a festival, this comment again is incredibly incorrect and also undermines the fact that women/non-binary acts are still not placed on the smaller stages. Many of the bands on the smaller stages or play early in the day have a small fanbase meaning popularity is not important when booking these acts – which is another statement used to justify the lack of diversity at festivals. There are many amazing female/non-binary musicians out there and here are a few (many on this list could be potential Headliners as well):
• Hayley Williams
• Sophie & the Giants
• Lauran Hibberd
• Miley Cyrus
• Billie Eilish
• Honeyblood
• Mystery Jets

We are not asking for a 50/50 spilt of performers, all we want is to see women taking up a larger proportion of the line-up list at festivals instead of less than ¼ of the acts. It is important for women and the non-binary community to see other women/non-binaries succeed in hopes it could inspire others to chase their musical aspirations. Festivals are trying to deal with the issue as noted by Latitude festival organiser Lucy Wood in 2018 that “We all want more women on the bills and we’ve all consciously tried to get more women at the top end, but there’s only so much you can really do”. But maybe it only proves there is an inequality within the music industry which needs to be further addressed. Festivals could attempt to be more daring with their line-up choices as well, instead of including the same male musical acts with many line-ups such as Truck, Y Not?, Victorious many more practically having the same headliners. Line-ups for the many different festivals are starting to look increasingly similar, so why can’t there be at least a few more female/non-binary acts added to the line-up list?


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Editor 2020/21 and a History student with a Britney Spears addiction.

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