Opinion: Music festivals aren't booking enough women

Carly Lewis is an arts and culture journalist based in Toronto. She's scanned the lineups of music festivals, and says they are not booking enough women.
Sarah McLachlan has unwittingly become something of a controversy at the Toronto Jazz Festival. (

Book less men. 

If Carly Lewis could whisper into the ear of almost every festival programmer she ever met, that's what she would say. 

The arts and culture journalist recently wrote about the dearth of women, or those who don't identify as men, in music festival programming and she says the imbalance is profound. 

I mean, we have major music festivals in Canada that are programming anywhere from 10 - 18% , maybe 30% musicians who are women-identified.- Carly Lewis

Lewis says while she found some festivals that made an effort to book according to gender parity, for the most she's been struck at how many men get booked at festivals. 

And she doesn't buy into the idea, often suggested to her, that its simply numbers: more musicians are men, so more men get booked. 

Noting that Coachella has only booked one woman as a headliner, Bjork, in it first started in 1999, Lewis says programmers need to widen their view. 

You only see what you can see... and if you're a programmer of a festival and seven out of ten of your favourite musicians are men, then that's who you see and that's who you solicit to come into your line up. So I think it's a matter of not necessarily playing the numbers game, but looking more broadly at who is available beyond what's in view. -Carly Lewis

And before you bring up Lillith Fair's failure in 2010, don't worry we did. 

Click the "play" button above to hear the full interview with Carly Lewis. 


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