For the past twenty years, the music industry has seen its stages dominated by men in most genres and scenes.  With the exceptions of the occasional women-focused festivals, like Lilith Fair, women have tended to see very little representation on stages, and nowhere is that more noticeable than at a festival, where sometimes hours can pass before a woman, a racialized person, or a member of the LGBTQ community walks on stage as a member of a band.

With that in mind, we’ve been tallying up the numbers, and are presenting them below.

This list is presented in the spirit of information-sharing – often, bookers and Artistic Directors don’t realize how off-balance their lineup.  The numbers below reflect a serious and positive change in the numbers of women-fronted bands on festival stages – over the past three years, numbers have definitely increased.

We are calling on all music bookers, regardless of venue, format, or genre, to book 50% women-fronted bands in 2017, and a strong percentage of racialized people, LGBTQ people, and non-binary people. We know that the music scene in Canada has more than enough talented and skilled artists for this to be an achievable goal.

At the moment, this list features only festivals who are members of Folk Music Ontario (according to their website at the time of this research), a provincial organization with more than 20 festival members. This is not an attempt to single out a particular scene, but is a simple snapshot of where the numbers sit in an easily-identifiable group of festivals.

If you’d like to anonymously submit the numbers for a festival which doesn’t appear on this list, please fill out the form here and we’ll include them in an update.


Because side-players often change and the lineup of a band is not always consistent or dependable, we’ve chosen to count women-fronted bands.

For the purposes of this research, CWWIM defined “Women-led acts” as any act appearing at a festival which was:

  •  a solo female performer
  • a duo with at least one woman
  • a larger group in which a woman or women played a significant role (more than a backup singer or side player)
  • If it was clear an act did not meet these criteria, it was classed as “non-women-led”; if it was impossible to determine, it was classed “unknown”

At this time, we do not feel like any member of our team is qualified to accurately assess the numbers of racialized people or non-gender-binary people appearing on stages at festivals, but we note that we believe these numbers to be lower than the numbers of women-fronted bands, and believe that there exists more than enough talented artists in both groups to see higher numbers on stages in Canada.

2016 Festival Grades

Festival Report Card 2016A    45% – 50%

Summerfolk Music & Crafts Festival   54%

Kingsville Folk Music Festival    50%

Live from the Rock Festival     50%

Home County Music and Art Festival    49%

Trout Forest Music Festival    48%

Shelter Valley Folk Festival     47%

River & Sky Music Festival   45%

Festival Report Card 2016



B    35% – 44%

Stewart Park Festival    41%

Blue Skies    38%

Hillside   36%


Festival Report Card 2016C    25% – 34%

Northern Lights Festival Boreal   34%

TD Sunfest    33%

Winterfolk Blues and Roots Festival   33%

Mariposa Folk Festival    30%

Peterborough Folk Festival     26%

Bluesfest     25%

CityFolk    20%


No Grade

Eaglewood Folk Festival – no festival in 2016

Festival du Loup – 2016 lineup not posted at time of research

Haliburton County Folk Society Winter Folk Camp – 2016 lineup not posted at time of research

Fergus Scottish Festival & Highland Games – difficult to determine

Harbourfront Centre Festivals – Large number of festivals makes it difficult to determine


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7 Responses to 2016 Festival Report Card

  1. […] You can view our 2016 Festival Report Card here. […]

  2. Shari Ulrich says:

    Wow. I’m kind of flummoxed by “grading” festivals based on this criteria. Though I appreciate the work that went into it, and perhaps am misunderstanding the point, but it’s hard to put into words how and why it makes me squirm. As a woman in music, both as a musician and an artist for over 40 years, I never for a moment felt undervalued, under represented, or overlooked as a female. I know that booking a festival is an indescribably complex and difficult task given all the factors to take into consideration – budget, draw and artistic merit being at the top of the list. Though there may be some interesting statistics found in the ratio of male to female artists and musicians, (the latter profession most definitely far less populated by females) I feel the implication that any of the festival artistic directors would even subconsciously choose male artist over females to be misplaced. I don’t feel women need to have have presenters pressured by statistics into hiring them. I believe our work stands on its own merit and music presenters to be some of the least biased “employers” you could ever find. But hey, that’s just me!

    • Candace says:

      Hi Shari,
      Thanks for your thoughts; I’ve replied both here and to your message on Maplepost.

      It’s awesome that you’ve never felt undervalued, under-represented, or overlooked. It’s not just awesome, it’s amazing, because it’s an incredibly rare experience. You should definitely feel lucky!

      I’ve spoken to hundreds of women who do not feel that way, whether on stage or off. And over the last three years, I’ve tallied up the numbers of women-fronted acts to get a picture of how well-represented women are on stages in the music industry. Depending on the scene, it’s generally hovered around 10% – 25%, with a few standouts who came close to gender parity.

      The Folk scene, at that time, was not much better about booking women than any other scene. As people have begun to shine a light, bring attention, make noise about it, bookers in all kinds of genres have realized that they’re under-representing women in their lineups, and those lineups are changing to include more women.

      I hope you’d agree that there’s more than enough skilled, talented women in the music industry that can more than hold their own on stage, and that the quality of women artists is not the problem. Bookers create draw for artists. Maybe 20 years ago there were fewer women in music, but that’s changed pretty dramatically over time.

      I think that a lot of bookers, myself included (I’ve been a music booker for 20 years), have some unexamined assumptions about what makes a good lineup. Indeed, if you look at my lineups from a few years ago, gender parity wasn’t a consideration. But as we talk about it, bookers start to think about it, and realize that they can make a change in their own thinking and booking and have killer lineups that feature gender parity.

      I don’t think it’s possible for any person to be unbiased, but I certainly wouldn’t point to music bookers as ‘least biased.’ Maybe when we have more music bookers who are women, or who are racialized people, we’ll see less intrinsic bias in the music industry, but that’s another hurdle to tackle (which i intend to tackle).

      If music was actually inclusive, Canadian Women Working in Music wouldn’t be necessary, but it’s not, as the numbers show, though its changing for the better, in part because of our efforts.

      I’d suggest that we clean up our house before throwing stones at other people’s houses; Pop and Hip Hop can both lay claim to the highest-paid women in the music industry, who are probably the highest-paid musicians on Earth today. Pop tends to be under-valued as an art form because it’s seen as a ‘women’s genre,’ as Hip Hop is under-valued because it’s seen as ‘Black genre.’ Both have issues, but we can’t pretend that the Folk community has any kind of high horse to stand on when it comes to how we treat women. We can’t claim that women in Folk, Blues, Roots aren’t sexualize in their own way. It doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

      In 2017, we’ll be working on a research project to determine the wage gap between genders in the music industry, and we’ll be publishing that, too.

      I appreciate that seeing these things might cause some discomfort, but that’s really the point of publishing them. Women are under-represented on stages in the music industry; that should be uncomfortable.If that’s not your experience, awesome, but recognize that your experience is not the norm.

      As always, thank you for your comments.

      All the best,

  3. Michele Law says:

    Shari is correct. Being graded made us squirm, too. As the Artistic Directors for the Kingsville Folk Music Festival, we hire artists based on how good they, not on their gender. It just happened that in 2016 we hired more women, solely based on how fantastic they are. I’m sure this will change every year as our goal is to present the best possible performers. Our Festival lineup is at least 80% Canadian acts, including ethnically diverse Canadians, which we feel is important to the sustainability of the Canadian folk music scene.

  4. […] on festival stages – over the past four years, numbers have definitely increased. You can see the 2016 Festival Report Card here, which focused on Ontario Folk […]

  5. […] excitement as anything.  We also released two Festival report cards this year – one for 2016, one for 2017 – and the responses have been mostly really good.  One unexpected thing […]

  6. […] we’ve done for the past two years (2016, 2017), we’re collecting data on festivals and music series to find out how many […]

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