Summer Music Festival Season 2019: The Good and the Bad So Far


Summer music festivals will be upon us soon. According to Nielsen, 52% of the US population will be outside sipping ice cold beverages and listening to their favorite artists in the sunshine, and half of those attendees will be women.

We’re happy to say that there have been some big wins for women in music recently:

  • Beyoncé headlined Coachella in 2018, becoming the first black woman ever to do so.

  • Ariana Grande will be the first woman to headline Lollapalooza this August.

  • Since we last checked in on the Keychange pledge, a global effort for festivals to reach 50:50 gender balance by 2022, another 60+ festivals have signed on, including the recent addition of the iconic Central Park Summerstage Festival in NYC.

Great, right? Not so fast.

Who gets to record and who gets an award influences who headlines.

Since artists need a following in order to get booked for a festival, who gets to be in the recording studio matters. This recent study (pdf) from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative has some horrifying information about gender balance in several key segments of the recording business from 2012-2018 based on a sample of 700 popular songs:

  • Women wrote an average of 12% of songs and represented just 22% of the artists.

  • For every 47 producers, JUST ONE was a woman, and for women of color that number was only about 1 out of every 218 producers.

  • Over the last 6 years, women represented 10.4% of all Grammy nominees.

This July, Deborah Dugan, CEO of (RED), will be the first woman to helm the Recording Academy. That’s the voting body that gives us the Grammys each year, for better or for worse. There is definitely hope with a woman in leadership, because the outgoing president? He was castigated by several luminaries in the industry including Pink and Sheryl Crow for suggesting that women artists need to “step up” to be recognized at the Grammys.

Dugan has much-needed work to do when she takes over this summer, and we hope her influence will improve the ratios both in the studio and on the Grammys stage to increase the likelihood that we’ll see more women artists hitting the festival circuit.

Festival Lineups: The Good…

Let’s start with the good. Primavera Sound Barcelona, a huge 3-day event that takes place at the end of May, is going for a 50:50 lineup. They had this to say about it:

Why do an equality line up now? Because we should have done it ages ago. Because, looking back over our previous line ups and despite the progress in the last few editions, we needed to go further. If half of our audience is female, why shouldn’t half of our line up be so too? Why can’t there be equality in schedules, styles and stages?... We are starting here, accelerating our change to build a line up that shouldn’t be the exception, which we want to make the norm. But let’s not forget that this is only a line up and only a festival, what matters is everything else.

The Central Park SummerStage Festival, which includes over 100 events throughout New York City parks, has hit 50:50. Heather Lubov, executive director of the City Parks Foundation, said in a statement (pdf) that “we will present a line-up that is reflective of our city’s population, focusing not only on gender equality, but also on the huge diversity of cultures and backgrounds that make New York so special and exciting.”

Austin City Limits has 45% women this year, staying on trend from their 2018 lineup.


…And the Bad

#BookMoreWomen (@BookMoreWomen) creates GIFs to reveal what lineups look like when the men artists are removed from promotional posters.

While Lollapalooza may have a woman headliner, the rest of the lineup leaves room for improvement.


Electric Zoo’s lineup is bad, really bad.


Apparently, mostly dudes are made in America.


For the record, Lynyrd Skynyrd has one woman out of 9 band members, and it’s one of only 5 bands with women appearing at Exit 111.


And rounding out the bottom is Louder Than Life. The visual speaks for itself.


There’s plenty more examples of men-heavy lineups where these came from on the #BookMoreWomen Twitter feed.

Avengers, if you’re heading out to see music this summer, tweet us @GenderAvenger and tell us how the rosters stack up. We’re keeping an eye on festivals, and we’ll report back at the end of the season.