Tuesday, December 18, 2018
GIK Acoustics - Europe
GIK Acoustics - Europe
The Moshville Times

Female Headliners Lacking at Major Festivals

Another day, another festival announcement and another lack of women amongst the initial headlining acts. Sadly this is all too often a recurring theme amongst the majority of festivals and nobody appears to bat an eyelid.

After many months of waiting we found out the first headliners for this year’s Reading and Leeds Festivals. Over the years they’ve tried to move away from being predominantly rock/indie based by including more artists of other genres which opens up the field for a bigger category of women to be involved. I’m afraid to say though that this has meant absolutely nothing. This week they announced Fall Out Boy, Kendrick Lamar and Kings of Leon as their three main acts.

Of course, there are more to be announced, but the idea of the initial announcements is to entice people to attend the festival so they tell us a good percentage of the best acts performing that weekend including most headliners. Unless they pull something massive out at a later date then it is hugely disappointing to see male domination continue once again.

In the past year both Paramore and Lorde have graced us with their best work to date but have been overlooked while Paramore remain as only one of three headlining acts over the past decade who have had a female musician in their ranks (the others being Arcade Fire and The White Stripes). In 29 years there have been nine artists who include a woman that have headlined Reading Festival but six of those came within its first nine years which means only three women have been deemed “good enough” or “acceptable” to headline Reading & Leeds in almost twenty years.

Fleetwood Mac, No Doubt, and Blondie are three acts who immediately spring to mind who would all be a massive pull to a festival that has had the likes of The Cure and Guns N’ Roses top the bill in recent years. They could draw just as much of a crowd as the aforementioned two but have been overlooked just like Paramore (who may have co-headlined but still didn’t finish as the last act. That went to Queens of the Stone Age), Florence & The Machine and Lorde.

There was major backlash about the initial 2017 line-up after Against The Current were the only act to include a woman with the rest being all-male groups or male solo artists. The same applied in 2016 when CHVRCHES were one of very few acts to feature a female input within an incredibly male-dominated lineup. These both further added to the tally of male musicians to appear at Leeds Festival which now stood at a whopping 95 percent over the previous ten years.

Leeds & Reading aren’t alone in this though with Glastonbury having had the most females performing in 2017 yet this still stood at a lowly 23 percent in ratio. These statistics are very disheartening for any female musicians trying to achieve success as they need to work ten times harder to be noticed for their talents and not their look, hairstyle or what they’re wearing. All things that men are never judged upon.

I will end part one of this feature with a look at everything that is incorrect about this year’s Grammy awards. Male domination is not just found uniquely at festivals with Bruno Mars picking up several awards. This isn’t about bashing other extremely talented artists but Ed Sheeran won “Best Live Performance” for a song about the shape of a woman’s body over Kesha who sang passionately and emotionally about the well documented abusive turmoil she has had to endure over the past several years.

If Kesha had been awarded that Grammy it would have been of huge significance. Not only would it have presented hope to women everywhere, it would also have made a statement of support to someone who has went through a horrendous struggle. It would have given inspiration to many females trying to make it in the music industry and shown proof that you should never give up on anything you aspire to no matter what problems you may face.

On the same night every other artist in Lorde’s nominated category of “Album of the Year”, which were all males, were given a platform to perform individually but Lorde was asked to perform with other artists which she declined.

Oh, by the way, of the 899 people to be nominated for a Grammy award over the past six years? Just nine percent are women. Which leads me to the response of Grammy President Neil Portnow, when faced with criticism over Lorde and Kesha being overlooked, saying that women “need to step up”.

Women don’t need to “step up”, Neil. You need to stop the tradition of backslapping your fellow males and realise there are many talented women in the industry who you are continually overlooking. Name me a male who has stepped up in the last year more than Kesha has? That is an insult, and very insensitive, to an incredibly talented woman who, in the eye of the media, has been through something so terrible that it would have been unsurprising if she decided to give up. But she didn’t. She battled through and presented the world with a written song about the horrific events but that wasn’t good enough for the Grammys when given the choice of a song about a woman’s body.

In part two of this subject, I’ll be speaking to various people from different positions who all feel very strongly about women in music being noticed. The more we speak out, the less people can ignore and that can only be a good thing for the future.

About The Author

Ross McClenaghan

I'm Ross from Scotland and you'll probably see me at the barrier during a Paramore show or selling merch at an Altered Sky show.

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Kenneth Taylor
Kenneth Taylor

Great article Ross!! It sucks more females are not invited to play!

Chris Mancini

Absolutely love this article.

Another huge problem is the whole thing that somehow “female-fronted” appears to be a genre. No it’s f***ing not in exactly the same way that “male-fronted” isn’t.


The only reason for saying “female fronted” is if it makes a difference to the sound. A woman singing “clean” vocals obviously sounds very different to a man so as a descriptor it’s fine. The term should not, however, be used as a genre.


This is an AMAZING article. Can we be honest though? Paramore has the most outstanding female front runner, but look at all the shit she has had to go through to be a part of a band filled with men. All she wanted was to be a part of the group without others calling it the Hayley Williams show. But if we are also going to be honest, I’m in love with the band BECAUSE of her amazing vocals and wide range of talent. There are other females out there who are just as talented as miss Hayley Williams. I… Read more »