Activists Say Rock Festivals Have Too Many ‘White Male’ Acts, Demand Change
Equality activists are pressuring British music festivals to end their reliance on bands dominated by white males.
Diversity experts ordered organizers to “open their minds” and book more female and ethnic minority acts at some fo the country’s biggest festivals including Reading, Leeds, Download, V Fest and Glastonbury.
Festival bosses typically respond by observing that their job is to sell tickets rather than meet diversity quotas, so they book their acts accordingly.
However, that hasn’t stopped the social justice warriors from interfering.
The events attract hundreds of thousands of attendees, each of whom spend about £200 ($250) per ticket for a weekend of music and entertainment.
But despite the events’ evident financial success, they are continually criticized for their choice of artists – typically world-famous rock bands consisting of four or five white male musicians.
Research compiled by the UK’s Press Association news agency said that of 321 acts booked for UK festivals, only 47 have a female member and 89 have a non-white member.
This year’s biggest white male acts are Radiohead and the Foo Fighters (Glastonbury), Eminem and Muse (Reading and Leeds), Aerosmith (pictured above) and Slayer (Download).
V Fest – more of a pop than a rock festival – ticks more boxes this year by having Katy Perry and Jay Z as its top acts of the weekend.
In the vanguard of critics of the festivals was Keith Harris, the chair of UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce. He said: “People have got to open their minds.
“They (female/non-white acts) clearly have fans out there and if you put them on the bill they will clearly bring an audience and in some cases they will bring a new audience, because a lot of the male headliners have been round eight or nine times.”
Some festivals swore to take the criticism into account. Bestival, a smaller event with a hippy reputation, said it has a “responsibility to help rebalance the male dominance of festival line-ups”.
As such, it is introducing gender quotas for its DJ stage next year, and will insist half of artists are female.
Other, more established festivals, have been less keen on such advice in the past.
When one of the organizers of Reading and Leeds Festival was asked in 2015 why they kept booking so many men, he cited economics.
Speaking to the Guardian, he said: “Why do you think we book the same male acts again and again? Because they sell tickets.
“Trust me, if there was a female headline act in the rock genre that sold the same amount of tickets as any one of the headline acts this year, I’d book them.”