Excerpted from a 2014 article in The Guardian:
“Rachel Newton is a harpist and singer in the all-female sextet the Shee. Most of the time the band live and work happily as women, even if the harp is a bugger to get on and off buses. But the Shee’s agent has been told by a mid-level folk festival that their services won’t be required this year because, and this is a direct quote, “We’ve got one all-girl band. Might look into fitting them in next year.”…Counter arguments that male-dominated lineups merely mirror the preference of punters are, according to some who book the actual artists, not supported by evidence. Nikki Hampson, who organizes West Yorkshire’s Shepley Spring festival and has been programming folk events for about 10 years, has never witnessed a crowd reticent to watch an all-women act. “They just want good music, whether it’s all male, all female or bits of both.”
Read the rest of the article here.
The next festival booker they talk to claims that audiences get more excited in advance about male acts, but I think that opinion is a bit suspect. Having booked live music for twenty years, I don’t think that’s the case at all.
Note: in 2014, we started collecting information from festivals around the country on the percentage of female-fronted bands in their lineups, and on the numbers of women in general on stage. The results were depressing, but with some bright lights, such as Summerfolk and Shelter Valley Folk Festival* And at the 2015 conference, Folk Music Ontario programmed 50% women panelists. We need to advocate for more woman on stage with all music bookers, and get more women into positions booking festivals and series, in order to make permanent change.
*Full disclosure: I (Candace, hi!) am the Chair of the SVFF Board of Directors.