Festival Report CardThe 2017 Festival Report Card is here! 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 an LGBTQ, Two-Spirited, or Gender Non-Binary person 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. We’d like to give a huge thank you to the many volunteers who helped out with this project this year!

Festival Report CardThis 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 four years, numbers have definitely increased. You can see the 2016 Festival Report Card here, which focused on Ontario Folk Festivals.

We are calling on all music bookers, regardless of venue, format, or genre, to book 50% women-fronted bands in 2018, and a strong percentage of racialized people, LGBTQ people, two-spirited and non-binary people.

Festival Report CardWe know that the music scene in Canada has more than enough talented and skilled artists for this to be an achievable goal. We know that bookers can do better.

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. We have included festivals from each Canadian province and territory.

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.


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

For the purposes of this research, CWWIM defined “acts fronted by women-identifying people” as any act appearing at a festival which was:

  •  a solo woman-identifying performer
  • a duo with at least one woman-identifying person
  • a larger group in which a woman-identifying person or women-identifying people 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, Indigenous people,  LGBTQ people, Trans people, Two-Spirited, 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 we know that there exists more than enough talented artists in both groups to see higher numbers on stages in Canada.

Festival Report Card

We cannot stress this enough – even festivals with A grades have a long way to go in order to represent the depth, breadth, and variety of talent available in this country, and in particular should focus on booking more Indigenous and Inuit artists and ensuring that marginalized artists are paid as well as non-marginalized artists.

Though there are flaws in this method, we think it’s accurate enough to shine a light on the representation of women on festivals stages across the country.

We are pleased to see so many festivals with an A this year – 30 out of 89! – and hope this annual report card encourages the other festivals on this list to reach for an A in 2018.

Festival Report CardSummary

  • 30 festivals got an ‘A’
  • 89 festivals were graded
  • Every province and territory in Canada is represented in this report card
  • As a group, these 89 festivals get a ‘B’ grade, booking 36.5% women-identifying artists
  • We recognize the need to broaden our count to be more inclusive; we will continue to strive for that in 2018 and every year

2017 Festival Report Card

Please note that we are updating this list with new festivals as they are submitted, and also with feedback from festivals about their numbers. You can click here to submit a festival.

Festival Report Card

A    45% – 50%+ (30 festivals)

Haliburton County Winter Folk Camp ON –  100%

Harmony Bazaar NS – 100%

Venus Festival ON – 92%

Femme Wave Feminist Arts Festival  AB – 90%

Dawson City Music Festival YK – 75%

X Avant New Music Festival  ON – 71%

Ottawa Grassroots Festival  ON – 70%

Home County Music and Art Festival ON – 69%

Up Here Festival ON – 65%

Peterborough Folk Festival ON – 64%

Electric Eclectics  ON – 60%

Shelter Valley Folk Festival ON – 59%

The Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival  ON – 56%

Live From The Rock Folk and Blues Festival ON –  55%

Ottawa Explosion Weekend ON – 54%
Note: OXW’s own count differs from ours, and in our  tally they have 31% women-fronted bands, which is an C grade. They are providing us with a list, and we will update.

Regina Folk Festival SK  – 53%

Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival NS – 52%

Halifax Pop Explosion NS – 51%

Bobcaygeon Craft Beer & Food Festival ON – 50%

Groundswell Music Festival – Halifax NS – 50%

Hillside Festival ON – 50%

SaskJazz SK – 49%

Summerfolk ON – 49%

Tiny Lights Festival BC – 49%

Alianait Arts Festival NT – 49%

Shivering Songs NB – 48%

Accordion Noir Festival BC – 47%

Atlin Arts & Music Festival BC – 47%

Interstellar Rodeo – Edmonton AB – 45%

Lawnya Vawnya NL – 45%

Festival Report Card 2017

B    35% – 44% (23 festivals)

In The Dead Of Winter Festival  NS – 44%

M for Montreal QC – 44%

Skeleton Park Arts Festival ON – 44%

Cultivate – A Festival of Food and Drink ON – 43%

South County Fair AB – 43%

The Black Top Ball NS – 43%

Flourish Festival NB – 43%

Stewart Park Festival  ON – 42%

CityFolk ON – 42%

Roncy Rocks ON – 41%

Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival NL – 41%

Area 506 Festival NB – 40%

Vancouver Island Musicfest BC – 40%

Calgary Folk Music Festival AB – 39%

Interstellar Rodeo – Winnipeg MB – 39%

Dawson City Music Festival YT – 39%

Vancouver Folk Music Festival  BC – 38%

Mariposa Folk Festival ON – 38%

Folk on the Rocks NWT – 37%

Ness Creek Music Festival SK – 37%

Winnipeg Folk Festival MB – 37%
Note: This mark is based on WFF’s own count, which differs from ours.  Via our method, they got 24% – a D grade.

Edmonton Folk Festival AB – 35%

Northern Lights Festival Boreal ON – 35%

Festival Report Card 2017

C    25% – 34% (13 festivals)

Nova Scotia Music Week NS – 34%

Gros Morne Summer Music NL – 33%

Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival – BC – 33%

Halifax TD Jazz Festival  NS – 33%

Ottawa Explosion Weekend ON – 31%
Note: OXW’s own count differs from ours, and in their tally they have 54% women-fronted bands, which is an A grade.

Osheaga QC – 29%

Cavendish Beach Festival PEI – 29%

Ottawa RBC Bluesfest ON – 28%

Harvest Moon Festival MB – 28%

Pelee Island Festival ON – 27%

Blue Skies Festival ON – 27%

Back Lot Bash – Garrison Brewing NS – 25%

Festival Report Card 2017D – 15% – 24% (10 festivals)

Tay Creek Festival NB – 24%

Winnipeg Folk Festival MB – 24%
Note: WFF’s own count differs from ours, because they count using a different method.  By their count, the percentage is 37% – a B grade.

Kempt Shore Acoustic Festival NS – 21%

Living Roots Festival NB – 21%

Halifax Urban Folk Festival  NS – 19%

Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival NB – 18%
Note: they were initially reported at 14%, an F mark.

New Glasgow Jubliee NS – 17%

Paddlefest 2017 NB – 16%

Stan Rogers Festival NS – 15%

Festival Report Card 2017F 0% – 14% (13 festivals)

I’m just skipping ‘E’ and going straight for ‘F’ because this grade is shameful.

George St. Festival NL – 13%

Iceberg Alley NL – 13%

Bach Music Festival Of Canada ON – 13%

Peterborough Music Fest ON – 12%

Locke Street Festival ON – 11%

Tottenham Bluegrass Festival ON – 10%

The Hootenanny on Hunter ON – 8%

Fork and Cork Windsor ON – 5%

DT Concert Series  ON – 6%

Veld Festival ON – 2%

Montebello Rockfest QC – 2%

Summertime Blues ON – 0%


Did we get something wrong or leave something out? Feel free to tell us about it in the comments.  Please be nice; we’re humans, just like you.

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45 Responses to 2017 Festival Report Card

  1. Jane says:

    Halifax Pop Explosion is listed twice with 2 different grades (although one is misspelled as Halifaz). Which is correct?

  2. DW says:

    Also, Peterborough Music Fest listed with 2 grads as well. (B+F)

  3. Josh says:

    Area 506 fest is NB not NS.

  4. Al says:

    Hi! Both Cavendish Beach Festival and Cavendish Beach Country Festival should just be Cavendish Beach Music Festival. Thank you for putting this together!

  5. The correct statistic is that 37% of the 2017 Winnipeg Folk Festival lineup had a female artist either fronting the band, playing in the band, or as a solo act. We believe that every musician should be respected no matter how close they are to the microphone at the front of the stage. We do not agree with discounting the talent or commitment of an artist based on what instrument they play. Gender inequity is an industry problem and at the Winnipeg Folk Fest, we support female artists by not only giving them a stage to perform on at the festival, but by supporting their music careers right from the start through our Stingray Young Performers Program and year-round as part of our Hear All Year concert series.

  6. Candace says:

    Thank you for the correction; we’ll make the change.

    We also believe that every musician deserves to be counted, but find that many bands have side-player lineups that change, so are hard to in down, and in this survey we’re looking for the primary artistic voice coming from a band to ensure that women’s artistic output is what’s being showcased.

    We’re glad to hear that you’re supporting artists throughout their career, and look forward to your 2018 lineup!

  7. As representative of the Beaumont Blues and Roots Festival in Beaumont Alberta (near Edmonton) I would love to offer our festival for your consideration and ranking. In 2017 we celebrated our 10 year anniversary, we had 28 performances on 2 stages over 3 days June 16-18. Of those 28 14 were female fronted. Additionally our organizing board is made up of 8 people of which 4 are female. We have taken pride over 10 years for ensuring a balance of performers that includes as a minimum representation by male, female, aboriginal and youth Act. Additionally we were the first and one of the only major festivals to have a written mandate of presenting 100% Canadian content. Our attendance in 2017 was approx. 8000 paid guests.

    I love that you are keep a watch on this and holding festivals and festival directors accountable and as I said I welcome this sort of review in the future.

    Jeremy Kornel
    Executive Director
    Beaumont Blues and Roots Festival

  8. Dawson City listed 2x with two very different grades?

  9. William Toner says:

    Harvest Jazz & Blues appears twice with different grades. The second time as New Brunswick Harvest Jazz & Blues.

  10. Hiopagho says:

    I’m curious what the td toronto jazz fest got?

  11. J says:

    Missing from the list is Canmore Folk Music Festival

  12. Candace Shaw says:

    If a festival doesn’t appear on the list, you can take a look at their lineup, count it up, and add them to our database here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSetvsg1cFxOWUxsG252C72pMSHgfpOtprw0ZYxJIvI_51WXlw/viewform

  13. Andrea says:

    Hi there! Dawson City Music Fest is listed twice with two very different grades. Looking at the lineup, the correct statistic is 75%. Thank you!

  14. Andrew Homzy says:

    The events listed here are mainly folk festivals.

    Jazz festivals need to be thoroughly tallied.
    There are many classical music competitions. In many ways, they tell a story about diversity in music.

    The limited scope of this survey does not answer an important question regarding trained musicians – jazz & classical – who are educated with public funding and in the case of classical music, heavily subsidised with public funding.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Canadian Music Week?

  16. I heard an interview with one of your representatives discuss the Winnipeg folk festival. And I have to say It left me a little cold.

    I totally believe the cause is right , but there is an aspect to what you are saying I think needs tweaking . And here goes.
    Only considering the gender of the front person, because it’s “obviously ” the front person in the band who is the creative force is majorly false. If your report card is about Female headliners, that’s one thing, even though last year the big ticket was Lesley Feist, And the last three executive Directors of the Winnipeg folk festival have been Women. But you should go with the Winnipeg folk festivals numbers, in terms of reality. Woman working in music are woman working In music, be they the front person, or just the fiddler. Front people, singers, are often ( but not always)the least musically accomplished , and rely on their band members to give songs shape, flow, and general vibe. Front people can’t be front people without the band. The bias is a little insulting to musicians not trying to play the star game, and play music.

    “Just the fiddler.” I’d like to expand.

    All fiddle music comes from a long line of oral tradition, from a certain part of the world. In order to become a great fiddler, it takes years of musical immersion in what ever style you may want to learn to become a good player.
    Traditional music, is what usually creates the most excitement among festival audiences, wether the festivals want to admit that or not.

    So I’m a little suspicious about what’s driving this. It’s not the quality of the music.

    In fact it seemed pretty obvious to me that who ever was doing that interview could really care a less about folk music, which to me is a much more relevant eye to look through when judging the quality of a folk music festival.

    When discussion Gender Parity
    At a folk festival, one should also look at : the staff, the board, the volunteers, and the musician roster. Not just the names on the poster. Because while you are at once trying to stand up for female artists, you are stepping on and ignoring many fine folk musicians who are female, and did make valuable contributions, to the music and time for everyone at the festival. And are the backbone of the scene.

    A much more relevant report card would be for folk festivals and how much folk music they hire. If the festivals did that. Gender parity would no longer be an issue. Because it would probably happen all on its own.
    Because folks, are women And men. Living and creating together.
    Leonard Podolak.
    Fucking Expert.

    • Candace says:

      Hi Leonard,
      Candace Shaw here – I’m the one in the interview. You may remember me (or not); we’ve met and spoken a bunch of times.

      I’m going to start by quibbling with your recollection, and luckily because I know myself and I have the playback, I can be pretty precise.

      I didn’t say that ‘obviously’ the front person is the main creative driver, though I do think that’s usually the case. More on that below.
      I never said or implied ‘just’ a fiddler. I love fiddle music, and know a fair amount about the fiddle tradition.
      Those are both your additions to my words, so if you’re going to get angry about them, get angry at yourself.

      Whether or not the front person/people are the main creative force, it’s important for women and girls (and men and boys) to see women in front or leadership positions. I could write thousands of words about why we made this choice when designing this method, and I hear and know and can make the arguments against it. But I do think that most of the time, the front person is the main creative voice, even if they’re not the most “musically accomplished,” and it’s very important to hear women’s thoughts and ideas expressed by women.
      I want to see more women side players, too, but that’s going to take a whole different project, and that’s not the goal of this one.

      In no way is this project meant to fix all sexism everywhere all of the time. I think that’s the main mistake people are making when critiquing it, and it’s an argument often made against social justice projects. It’s not our goal with this project. Our goal with this project is to pressure bookers into hiring more women-fronted bands, and to get out and do the research and pay attention to the women out there making great music.

      So yep, we are not going to fix sexism by Christmas. Don’t I know it.

      The gender of the booker makes little difference – women are as ensnared in the patriarchy as men. I had some pretty stupid ideas about gender and how many women could go into a lineup until about 5 years ago. None of us are immune.

      I’ve added a note about WFF’s numbers, but I will not change them because they are not counting the same way we are, and all of the other grades on this report card are based on this method.

      If you’d like to create a festival report card that looks at gender parity throughout the whole festival, please do! If what we’re doing doesn’t mesh with your goals, please go ahead and set up your own organization to attempt to achieve your goals. If our methods displeases you, go ahead and use your own. We’d be very happy to see the results of a project like that, though I suspect it would take the kind of time and money that would make it prohibitive.

      I have been pretty involved in the Canadian Folk music scene for about 20 years, and I’ve got zero interest in the purist Folk arguments, whether for pure Folk music or for the supposed purity of politics, action, and intention of the Folk community. The community is a little less sexist, but still very sexist. I get that you might not know that, because it’s not something you’ve experienced, but please don’t say that if bookers just hired Folk artists gender parity wouldn’t be an issue. That’s demonstrably false.

      I’ve heard a lot of bookers say things like ‘Well, there just aren’t enough great women musicians to book parity,’ and that’s very much what “So I’m a little suspicious about what’s driving this. It’s not the quality of the music” sounds like.
      If that’s not what you’re saying, please clarify!

      If that is what you’re saying, I’m deeply disappointed in you and I hope, in reflecting on what you’ve written here, you’ll be deeply disappointed in yourself as well.

      The idea that a man can tell women how best to discuss gender parity is again very disappointing. I assure you this is not an area in which you are a ‘fucking expert.’

      I’m going to close by saying that we’re going to go after our goals in the ways we decide are best; when we incorporate an org called ‘How to fix sexism in the music industry according to Leonard Podolak’ we’ll totally give you a call.

      • Leonard Podolak says:

        Hey Candace,
        Thank you for your very considered response. I’m sorry to have put words in your mouth. I didn’t mean to do that. What you imply however, is clear.
        In my 20 + year career as a touring musician in Canada, the only ensembles I’ve seen at Folk Festivals, where the front person is the main creative voice, and leader musically speaking, is generally in the genre of Singer/Songwriter.
        In bands, of all genres, the creative flow is much more dynamic, and leadership musically, in the best bands, comes from everyone in different amounts at different times, that’s why they are in the band. The best of everyone’s ideas rise to the top. There are so many fantastic Musicians who are women that play key parts in the creation and arrangement of the music, but are not in the lime light. Those are still very strong roles, and should not be ignored.
        I totally agree with you, there are so many artists out there, unknown, who deserve a chance to shine in front of a large crowd. Festivals were originally about introducing artists to new audience, and vice -versa. Woman from the woodwork, who sing and play, who are just awesome who deserve the main stage. No question I agree with that.
        The festivals themselves, should be the headliner.
        If you draw from many folk music genres the world over, than you will easily find, woman in leadership roles as you describe in bands of all traditions. If you include Blues, Jazz, Swing, Appalachian, Irish (Scottish, Cape Breton, Quebecois, Acadian) African, Cajun, Latin American, Indigenous music( from North America and abroad), the list goes on, no problem!!!!
        So I back up what I say, that if an effort was made to make a dynamic line-up of music, spanning traditions and styles, then it would be simple and in-excusable not to have a 50/50 ratio using your model.
        It’s not about folk purity, it’s about dynamic and engaging festivals. Trad music, is old, but its also new, and constantly re-inventing itself, and the implication that only contemporary singer/songwriters and indy folk/pop is what’s new in folk music, is a very narrow and shallow outlook. And so un-true!!!

        “it’s very important to hear women’s thoughts and ideas expressed by women.”

        I truly agree, I couldn’t agree more in fact, but in context, this statement combined with your thoughts on where the creativity comes from in a musical ensemble leads me to think that what you are saying actually is that festivals should hire 50% Canadian woman singer/songwriters, as a rule, but I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so that’s what I need clarification on.
        I think if a Canadian festival one year hired, 100% female artists, spanning genres, it would be bold and beautiful.
        But as a general rule, I do not agree with the concept of Canadian Folk Festivals being booked with 50% Canadian female singer songwriters, any more then I agree with a folk festival being booked with 50% highland pipe bands, or banjo players, sousaphone players, or anything. As a rule that would be boring, and cut a lot of people out, which is also why I react so strongly.
        Furthermore, counting only the acts, where the leader, or singer, is the one with the record deal, the manager, the business manager, the road manager, the agent, the lawyer, is not necessarily the description of someone in charge how it’s gonna go, or in a position of power, if I had to sound like a cynical jaded bastard. Though perceptually it might be otherwise. One in that position often asks themselves, female or male, what kind of leader ship role do they actually have when thinking on their own careers?
        Not only is the scene sexist. Let’s talk about financial parity. Never mind that!
        There should be diverse, dynamic line-ups at festivals that challenge and enlighten audiences, and pay all of the artists at least a living wage and set the stage for the artists to soar. With a similar amount of women and men on site, preferably with an amount that reflects society, which weigh’s in favor of more women.
        The more women involved the better, just like everything in life, actually. That’s what I’m saying. Never mind who’s got the deal. That’s exclusive.
        As far as the fact that I’m a man, too bad for me, but in this case too bad for you too. The comments section didn’t say no men allowed, and if you don’t want the opinion of people on the scene you are a part of, then why have a comments section? You may not care about the politics of/in/about/around folk music and the festivals in Canada, but I do. That’s what strong voices sing about, the world, and how fucked and great it really is. Politics is everything. You yourself are making a political statement, and so am I, And I will stand up for all the women on the scene, front line, back line, singers and instrumentalists as well as all of the awesome ways woman play music, from all over the place, including Canadian Singer Songwriters, many of whom are frickin amazin. I think they should all be showcased, featured, and celebrated. That’s what I’m saying.

  17. Hi. You forgot to rate Wolfe Island Music Festival.

  18. Tom Landa says:

    Check out The Islands Folk Festival. I know the AD their ensured female representation.


  19. […] 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 has been […]

  20. […] with my new roommate Candace Shaw (who has done some amazing work in creating a report card for female representation in Canadian music festivals) and have been thriving pretty well, making new friends with the folks in my excellent building and […]

  21. Sara says:

    Hello there, I submitted information about Borderless Music & Arts Festival a while back and haven’t heard back at all. Just wondering if you got it!

    Thank you for all your hard, much-needed work.

  22. Hey Candace, thanks so much for doing this very important work. I’m hoping in the next set of criteria for 2018 you (I”m happy to help around wording) include Trans and Gender Non Conforming people in this report card. You’re wonderful, as is this project.

  23. […] festivals with a very low percentage of women in their lineups tell us they’re trying to book more women; we’re here to tell them to try […]

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

  25. Shae Guerin says:

    Interesting article and listings! Thanks for putting in the time. Don’t know how much any festival listing can represent the true state of female/trans involvement in any music scene; after all they’re usually but one event in a year full of shows. I avoid large crowds like the local Edmonton Folk Fest, and all of the gigs I played last year had a an even balance of men and women/transwomen (I’m NB trans, presenting femme).

  26. […] Folk Festival, Home County Music and Art Festival, Hillside Festival and Summerfolk. Visit the CWWM website for the complete […]

  27. […] and Art Festival, Hillside Festival et Summerfolk sont sur la première liste aussi!  Visitez le site web de CWWM pour la liste […]

  28. Greyson says:

    Hi Candace,

    Your work, and your responses to asinine comments on this thread are inspiring. Thank you for putting in the time! I wonder if you may have come across any interest or studies it measuring trans/non binary representation for these festivals? I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and for starting my own log of the festivals I’ve performed at. If you had any info, I’d be interested in hearing it!

    Thank you, chi miigwetch, merci,

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