Women Performers Speak Out Against 50/50 Trolling of Festivals
Plain and simple, the trolling of music festivals on Twitter for not having 50/50 men vs. women on their lineups is very specifically hurting the cause to include more women on festival lineups. By demanding an immediate and severe shift in demographics, especially in certain segments of the music economy that may only have a small percentage of women performing professionally in them in the first place (sometimes less than 20%), it’s politicizing an issue that should be universal, it’s eroding alliances between people who agree more women should be given greater opportunities, and it’s making music communities into polarized war zones, pitting fans against the independent promoters who give opportunities to independent artists, male or female, and who are the last line of defense in the aggressive moves to coropratize live music in America.
Saving Country Music has tried to do what it can to explain in very patient, detailed, well-researched, and reasonable terms why attaining immediate 50% representation of women on all festival lineups is A Complex Issue, and why Twitter Trolling Is Hurting The Case For Women on lineups, not helping. This is not propaganda from the patriarchy. This is not being apologetic. Saving Country Music wants more women on festival lineups. Many fans want more women on festival lineups. Most festivals want more women on festival lineups. And of course female performers want more opportunities. And there is a concerted effort across many sectors of the music industry to make that happen.
But expecting every festival to achieve 50/50 representation of women immediately is unreasonable to impossible in certain sectors of the music economy, and the severe name calling, division, and accusations of sexism and misogyny are sowing discord that in no uncertain terms is resulting in less opportunities for women than it’s creating by destroying consensus behind the issue. Often chaos is what these Twitter trolls are looking to inseminate into otherwise healthy and vibrant music scenes, not caring about the outcomes for the music itself, only looking to score points for Twitter accounts solely set up to troll festivals.
The latest internet storm stems from the release of the lineup of Mile 0 Fest in Key West, FL for early 2019. While many across the Texas country and Red Dirt scene were praising the efforts of the promoters for putting together one of the most female diverse lineups we have seen in Texas music in history, ignorant Twitter trolls with no context for the dynamics in Texoma music, no ties to the music personally, and who’ve never been to these festivals, railed against the lineup and the promoters of the fest for not including enough women.
The trolling of festivals has now become so severe, the women these trolls are purportedly trying to help are now coming out against them.
“There are not enough females that sell tickets to make every bill 50/50,” performer Bonnie Bishop explained amid the criticisms of Mile 0 Fest. “It’s not a realistic expectation to force every festival to be gender equal – there are more men than women with touring careers, plain and simple … This is more females than I have EVER seen on a Texas lineup! Thank you Mile 0 Fest for giving my sisters a spot, we all appreciate it.”
Bonnie Bishop also went on to say, “The music business is not Fun Fair Positive Soccer. Everybody doesn’t go home with a medal. You work your ass off and if you’re good enough and don’t quit you’ll get a shot. That goes for male OR female.”
Fellow Texas music performer Bri Bagwell agreed. “Right. Can’t expect 50/50 when there aren’t 50/50 touring and playing. Not like we don’t appreciate people fighting for us, but I think Mile 0 Fest and The Music Fest keep raising the bar for what can be done for females and festivals.”
And if you think Bonnie Bishop is just playing Uncle Tom because she made the lineup, she has been on record saying similar things in the past. In February Bishop said on Twitter, “I appreciate the gesture but festivals promising to make bills equal-gender doesn’t really solve any problems…especially if they book a bunch of chicks that aren’t great just to even out the score b/w male vs. female acts. Our industry is already oversaturated with mediocrity.”
Texas music songwriter Jamie Lin Wilson was all over the place at the inaugural Mile 0 Fest, and was declared ‘Queen’ of the fest by Saving Country Music. She appearing on the main stage with multiple headliner acts as well as her own performances, and also piped up in defense of the leadership effort Mile 0 Fest is showing on the issue.
“I guarantee that Mile 0 Fest asked more women to be a part, and they’ll probably announce more. But I HATE that this is starting to be the response to every festival announcement that happens. It waters down the well-intentioned efforts,” she said on Twitter. “I appreciate the efforts … you’re (sic) efforts are valiant & you’re trying to do good. But every fest can’t include every artist. It’s just not possible. Schedules, money, etc. We all work our asses off. One thing that is entirely true is that women in this business SUPPORT EACH OTHER. We’re a team, & we’ve worked hard to not be written off AND to not be lumped together for reasons of gender alone.”
Jamie Lin Wilson continued, “I know there is a gap in representation of women in the industry. There are many truths involved in this. Sheer numbers, subjectivity of music in general, even reasons behind songwriting to begin with. But the bottom line is that I’ve chosen to not dwell on any opportunity I’m not given, & focus on opportunities I’ve earned. Male or female, that should be the same.”
Out of the 39 artists originally announced for Mile 0 Fest, 8 of them were women, which is just over 20%. As a percentage, this may look weak, but the improvement this shows over other festivals in Mile 0 Fest’s peer group, improvement year over year, and many other factors make it a well-fought victory for female representation in Texas music. For example, there is nothing in the country music world right now—festivals, playlists, radio charts, or anything else—that have 20% coverage of women, let alone in Texas music, where the sheer number of women performers is even smaller than mainstream country.
But you can’t just go off of how many female names are on a poster when determining the coverage of women. Using the system from Canadian Women Working in Music, it is fair to delve into the players of the respective acts, and count performers who include women on the front line for performances or as primary parts of a band in your overall evaluation of a festival lineup.
Included in the Mile 0 Fest lineup is Flatland Cavalry. Fiddle player Laura Jane is arguably the #2 of the group, and over the last few years has become one of the most recognizable names and faces in Texas country. Shinyribs has two women in their liuneup—Alice Spencer, and songwriter/Trishas member Kelley Mickwee. Including those two acts takes the percentage to over 25% women coverage for Mile 0 Fest, and there are still names to be added (Carter Sampson was announced as an addition on July 13th). Compare this to the percentage of women among Mile 0 Fest’s market competitors, and the inclusion of women is downright remarkable.
Certain individuals may still be disappointed there aren’t more women, but with the 2019 Mile 0 Fest lineup, the women actually make up a disproportionate amount of the performers compared to the actual population of Texoma artists. Right now on the Texas radio charts, there are 7 women out of the top 100 slots. That is 7%. At 25%, Mile 0 Fest is on the cutting edge. This is why it’s imperative to zoom out and look bigger picture, not just to be fair to the festivals, but to also create benchmarks on improvement. Mile 0 Fest is showing leadership with their lineup and approach, and not just by booking a disproportionate amount of women for their scene to perform, but giving those women the opportunity to excel with the way they’re presented, which is an important dynamic often overlooked.
There are many issues to address with the ratio of male to female performers on festivals, many of which Saving Country Music covered in The Complex Issue of Achieving Gender Parity in Live Music.
But to summarize many of the major points, things often not considered when criticizing the lack of female representation on a lineup are:
- Lack of availability of women performers to fill 50% of performance slots.
- Women headliners turning down festivals, especially ones with a history of featuring mostly male performers by calling them “sausagefests,” and exacerbating the problem.
- Booking agents not making women aware of bids from festivals, or only being willing to book women at festivals for aggressive guarantees.
- Lack of radio, tour, management, or publicity support for women, which is not the fault of festivals.
And the worst part about much of the trolling of festivals throughout music is it’s implied or outright stated that misogyny or sexism is at the heart of the promoters not booking more women, when this is rarely the case. This is not corporate radio or corporate-owned festivals. These are independent promoters who often lose money on their events, or look to break even or make a small sustainable profit at best. They’re just trying to put together compelling lineups to support music they believe in.
And most importantly, there are people in the music business crafting constructive efforts that are seeing results, like the 2019 Mile 0 Fest lineup. When trolls on Twitter enter the equation, it makes the effort to champion women for certain festivals a polarizing issue as opposed to a universal effort to make sure all performers are considered on their merit, and not judged just by their gender.
After all, what artist wants to be booked on a festival simply as a token towards a 50/50 gender ideal, and only play to an empty field because they’re not appropriate for the festival, or have not built up enough of a fan base yet? That’s also why it’s sometimes a benefit to see women filling out an undercard and on side stages of a festival, not always a detriment. They’re building up a fan base for future headliners spots. Festivals like Mile 0 Fest curate women correctly to build constructive support behind their careers.
Festival lineups are always controversial. That’s just their nature. And music fans should feel free to speak up if they want to see changes made, and promoters should be receptive to that feedback. But when the feedback comes in as accusatory and combative, all that happens is people dig down into their preconceived stances, and the opportunity for dialogue and progress is lost. When you have women coming out against the trolling of festivals on the behalf of women, you know the effort has gone too far.
Without a doubt women face a greater uphill battle in music, especially country music. But let’s not make it worse for them by setting up arbitrary and unattainable benchmarks for percentages of performers without understanding the more global and complex problem that has led to this environment. Let’s not polarize the charge of making sure everyone, regardless of gender, is given equal opportunity to earn the right to play at important festivals. Let’s keep it a universal one.
Fat Freddy's Cat
July 16, 2018 @ 10:52 am
I’ve noticed that this is an issue with Twitter trolls in general: they’re people who have no involvement with the thing they’re ranting about. In this particular case, I’m sure many of these trolls wouldn’t be caught dead at a country music festival.
July 16, 2018 @ 10:56 am
well thought, solid out article. i hadn’t heard anything about this backlash.. thankfully i’ve given up twitter and facebook. most well intended wailing (squeaky wheels and all that) usually end up hurting the effort – whatever it may be – more than helping.
July 16, 2018 @ 10:57 am
jesus. ‘…WELL THOUGHT OUT, SOLID ARTICLE…’.
i’m giving up on Monday already
July 16, 2018 @ 11:38 am
I Can’t believe Maren hasn’t said anything
July 16, 2018 @ 1:16 pm
Puppets don’t count.
July 16, 2018 @ 1:41 pm
Whoa, someone call the burn unit.
North Woods Country
July 16, 2018 @ 1:47 pm
Oh she will. It’ll sound like a bad bearing, but she will.
July 16, 2018 @ 12:08 pm
Today’s discovery: The Bee Gees in 1979 were more country than anything on today’s country radio! This was at their disco peak too. It made #39 on the country chart in ’79. This was several years before Conway Twitty had a #1 hit with this.
This was the B-side to their #1 POP hit “Too Much Heaven” that year!
July 16, 2018 @ 12:13 pm
Gosh, I am shocked that such an utterly useless piece of technology (Twitter, social media in general) has gone from being used for some good for a short period of time, to now being an overall detriment.
Twitter is terrible and much like the internet message boards to preceded Twitter and Facebook, organizers/businesses would do well to virtually ignore both platforms since I believe they represent a very small minority of what the people who actually DO matter (or should matter to these festivals), the people who pay to attend or intend to pay, think.
July 16, 2018 @ 7:48 pm
I stop reading when i see the word ‘tweeted’.
July 17, 2018 @ 12:33 am
Twitter stock has risen 98% in the past 6 months, which is pretty ridiculous for a glorified 1990s message board with limited text allowed, lol.
July 17, 2018 @ 8:06 am
Twitter is yet another example of how rigged our Stock Market is and how Wall Street continues to ruin this nation. I’m not sure Twitter, in their entire existence, has even come close to turning a profit. Their stock is literally up only because POTUS has determined it to be his favorite place to rant about things that annoy him. As an organization, Twitter suffers from a severe lack of stable leadership and no real path to actually making money. I seriously believe if it wasn’t for Trump using the platform, they might already be gone since unlike Facebook, they really don’t have a viable path forward for actually making money.
July 18, 2018 @ 8:33 am
‘would do well to virtually ignore both platforms’
Tell that to the major news organizations. If you ween them off Twitter they’ll have to do/pay for real reporting.
July 16, 2018 @ 12:24 pm
Our Windy City Smokeout ended yesterday and out 26 artists we had 5. Ashley McBryde was the highest on the bill (3rd from headliner) and came out and tore it up like a true pro. She was one of the main reasons I went. We all know the few reasons for the disparity starting with the radio not playing enough women for them to become more successful on top of the fact that there just isn’t as many women artists as there are men. It IS what it fuckin IS! 50/50 is impossible!! In my own personal album playlist right now out of 10 albums 4 are women. Ashley, Sunny, those Church Sisters weaseled their way in….lol and even though the Musgraves album isn’t Country it’s still a pleasant adult contemporary album and it’s ok for that but no we don’t want her with that album headlining our Smokeout! We can’t have any big big names because the area isn’t that big. So what women could headline next year? Even second on a bill? No Sarah Shook isn’t big enough………yet?
July 16, 2018 @ 1:49 pm
Just out of curiosity, is JB short for Joes Bar?
July 16, 2018 @ 3:19 pm
I never even thought of that. Actually Trigger tacked on Chicago to my name after my first couple of posts as “JB” because there was already a JB posting here. JB are the initials of my real name. Joe’s Live/Bub’s Rosemont are my home bars as I’m always there because it’s so close to home and run by the friendliest people in the world who are total pros. Joe’s On Weed St. as well. They bring up smaller bands from Nashville and elsewhere to play the 4 bars so WE(the Chicago fans) don’t have to sit through local cover bands every night. (Thank God!) They put them on big stages too. They also put on the Windy City Smokeout every year. When I use the term “we” in any of my posts I’m just meaning the people of Chicago in general most of the time or like above I know “we” (ie:The Smokeout) can’t fit any big big names. This was Ashley’s 3rd time here and after the killer show Saturday she announced she’ll be headlining the crown jewel Joe’s Live in October. Not bad for a Girl Going Nowhere……………….
July 17, 2018 @ 6:08 am
Ashley’s view from the stage. The pic gave me goosebumps so I thought I’d share
July 17, 2018 @ 6:09 am
Oh ok lol. Just wondered. I wish Joes on Weed had more of the Texas bands like they use to. Not really the same as it was 4 or 5 years ago.
July 17, 2018 @ 8:20 am
I think it’s easier for bands/artists (and yes women artists too!) to just drive up here 7 hours from Nashville for a Fri/Sat 2 gig thing and go back home than the Texas bands that are usually out on a tour that’s why we get more Nashville. Of course many of those bands didn’t originate in Nashville that’s just where there based now. Probably a booking agent thing as well. Just like with all the festivals, you can only book the women that are willing and WANT to come!
July 16, 2018 @ 12:36 pm
I don’t get the attacks on Mile 0 Fest when it has one of the better female line-ups of festivals I’ve seen. Not to mention that there seem to be competing events during the same time frame. I believe that both the Outlaw Cruise and the newly announced Brandi Carlile “Girls’ Weekend” event overlap by at least a few days.
July 16, 2018 @ 2:12 pm
That’s another factor. When you already have a finite amount of female touring performers and three destination festivals on the same weekend, it makes it difficult for festivals to fill out the top portions of their lineups with women.
July 16, 2018 @ 2:36 pm
This makes perfect sense. I’d call it a no-brainer, but that wouldn’t have been the case for me without having read your stuff on this topic in the past. As it is, I think many of the loudmouths know that, but since it doesn’t fit their narrative to admit to the complexity of the situation, they push on.
July 16, 2018 @ 4:43 pm
Couldn’t agree more. The cutting off our nose to spite our face continues. And yes it generally is the know-nothing bullies on Twitter who chime in the hardest. I use Twitter for work and try to stay out of the rest of these tiffs. Strangely, I haven’t seen much about this and I’m in the industry.
July 16, 2018 @ 7:00 pm
The Bonnie Bishop quote is pretty awesome: “…especially if they book a bunch of chicks that aren’t great just to even out the score b/w male vs. female acts. Our industry is already oversaturated with mediocrity.” I imagine being tokenized and given a spot on the bill SOLELY because of your gender might feel a bit weird, not to mention diminish the quality of the festival. And yes, mediocrity is already everywhere.
I used to be able to deal with and filter out with “look what my kids are doing now” and “here’s what I ate for lunch” posts on social media because I did like to keep up with what my friends were doing some times …until it all became so politicized. Consequently I haven’t used Facebook in ages and twitter hardly ever. What I hate most is that I would love to see more great women performers, and my favorite artist is a woman, but the thought that I am part of the problem because I don’t believe in forced quotas is disheartening. I’m glad to see there is some level-headed, good intentioned, and well spoken push back on this. Optimistically, I think this will level itself out after more push back, and the conditions for women in the industry will improve at the same time. Time will tell…
July 16, 2018 @ 11:37 pm
What a goddamn joke. Our standard of living has clearly gotten too high when people have time to complain about this shit. 50/50 my ass, get a life you losers.
July 17, 2018 @ 3:40 am
Triggers this seems to be a bigger problem in the US and, in particular, country than it is in Europe. Is there any serious research as to why?
It does exist here too but I don’t think it’s as much of a problem here.
Anyways I’m going to a concert tonight to this place:
http://www.yxfeldt.com/portfolio/dalhalla/ But I’ve been thinking of cancel it.It’s 30 degree celsius (86 fahrenheit) and here in Sweden that’s HOT and down in that pit it’ll probably get 35 degree.
And I’m 60 years old with bad lungs (COPD) So I really should stay at home but…And yes it’s a female band. 🙂
July 17, 2018 @ 5:04 am
lol 86 degrees? Oh you poor, poor person. Try not to MELT! AHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!
Dirt Road Derek
July 17, 2018 @ 6:43 am
As usual, trolls ruin everything. Take a minimal understanding of the situation, mostly acquired through reading heavily one sided Twitter rants. Throw in zero consideration for the consequences of aggressive knee jerk reactions. Add some anonymity and a pack mentality, and you have a bunch of armchair trolls mindlessly trampling on the well meaning efforts of people on the ground. Progress is ground to a halt and the trolls move on to their next target, leaving the job of rebuilding the movement to someone else because trolls aren’t in the business of creating solutions. They exist only to criticize and attack. Trolls ruin everything.
July 17, 2018 @ 11:05 am
I tend to agree except this…..The nashville machine has not produced any great female artists in the past 10 years. All of the female artists whom i love: Angelina Presley, Whitney Rose, Margo Price And Sarah Shook: come from a vibrate indie scene, which if history is correct will become mainstream in the next couple of years.
Once i never listen to female artist now it is roughly 30% is females, the reason i don’t listen to 50% is plain and simple I am a male and female pov love songs well they are kinda hokey.
Great argument i am so glad i have stumbled on to this site.
July 17, 2018 @ 5:12 pm
Idealistically of course the shows would have 50/50 women and men. They would also have a certain amount of Artists of various Races, and Nationalities. But quotas don’t work, not in either case. If anyone is being excluded on basis of gender or race of course that nonsense has to be stopped immediately. But if that isn’t the case quotas aren’t needed (I don’t think ever) and can cause a lot of problems.
There can be resentment when someone is picked just to fill a slot, taking the place of someone possibly more qualified. At a Festival if any performers are considered sub-par that’s when people would go to the concession stand. (Or throw a bucket of ice cold water on their heads and at their friends bec of the heat). The performer sees a mass of people clearing out as they start, which can’t feel good to who was chosen to fill the ‘quota’. Also those music events can be expensive. To some people, they save for a while to be able to go. It’s not fair for them to get less than the top-level performers possible.
The main reason for lack of women performers has to be dealt with but as the article says, not in this way.
July 17, 2018 @ 9:54 pm
Yeah, let’s maybe not bring Communism to music. Sound good?
July 18, 2018 @ 12:35 pm
My rule for twitter and instagram, follow nothing but music, nature, history and dawg related accounts. If any have an agenda or try to sell me something unfollow. As for facebook, that is the seed of Satan.
July 18, 2018 @ 12:55 pm
The problem with that is now that every sector of American culture has been politicized, this doesn’t always work. All I follow on Twitter are music accounts exclusively. Three years ago, it might have been 10% political. Now I would say at least 75% of the posts I see have some political angle to them.
July 18, 2018 @ 1:42 pm
I can tolerate an occasional reference to current events, might make a comment or two myself, but if it becomes more than that I delete em. You can’t go wrong with dog accounts.
July 19, 2018 @ 3:14 pm
This is also a problem even in classic radio – I listen to WSM quite often and am shocked to quite frequently hear just one single female artist in a hour of music – and then it’s usually the DJs personal favorites – Kitty Wells, Connie Smith, Loretta Lynn, Melba Montgomery, all of whom are wonderful but so are dozens of other major female artists. And sometimes it’s 90 minutes before they play another “girl singer”.