Women In Music: Are they really in the field at all?

(Rocbeyonce/Wikimedia Creative Commons)

With spring fever on the rise, the end of the school year and summer break cross my mind more and more each day.  The best part of break for me is looking forward to the different concerts and festivals hitting the road. In high school, I always remember “fangirling” over the different lineups and must-sees for the summer.

Some, however, have used a more critical eye when it comes to musical festivals, particularly concerning of the lack of female representation at music festivals and in the music industry.

For example, in January, American singer Halsey tweeted, “Damn guys come onnnnnn. Where the women at. [Firefly] was one of my favorite festivals I’ve ever played and it’s a shame there’s not more females on the bill. With the exception of (the amazing) SZA, the first like 20 acts on the bill are men. It’s 2018, do better!!!”

While Firefly is not unique in its lack of representation of women in its lineups, the demographics of today’s music festivals are not necessarily a reflection of the political views of the industry.  Rather, I think it reflects a limitation the music industry faces as a result of a bigger societal issue.

What I fear with the perspective of artists such as Halsey is they will potentially decline invitations to festivals as a form of resistance.  As a result, they may continue to perpetuate the image of low female representation in music.

As a female myself I, of course, advocate for equal opportunity, representation and recognition of all genders in all career fields, not just music.  However, to argue that festivals are selecting their lineups on the basis of sex and gender is a bit of a tall assumption.

Dating back even to early music, women have been limited in opportunities for pursuing music.  In the classical periods, both boys and girls were exposed to music in the home. Most families owned at least a piano in their home and many children studied privately with a teacher.  

However, it was once children got older that their opportunities differed on the basis of gender. Boys were more often encouraged to get a job or go to school, whereas girls were encouraged to stay at home in the domestic lifestyle. This socialization of boys and girls to set different lifelong goals for themselves was a beginning to gender barriers, not only for the music industry, but across all fields.

Despite the lack of representation of women at the top music festivals, including Firefly and Coachella, women still remain present and successful within the field.

In a statistical analysis on information from Billboard.com, Business Insider reported Beyoncé as the highest paid American artist in 2016, at a salary of $62.1 million, with Guns N’ Roses being the second highest paid artist at $42.3 million.  

In the classical performance area of music, some orchestras audition their musicians with the use of “blind auditions,” where the adjudicators are blinded from all factors of the musician other than their playing ability. While this is a progressive approach toward a more gender-inclusive industry, it at the same time shows gender biases are still very real.

While seeing more female artists on festival lineups would show we are moving in a progressive direction for gender equality, female artists are still being recognized for their accomplishments and are able to promote and sell their music to their fans with little limitation.

Additionally, though the representation of women in music may still be lacking in quantity, it certainly doesn’t lack in quality.  Some female artists have used their platforms to help promote acceptance for current societal issues. For example, Lady Gaga has used her platform to promote a more inclusive culture for the LGBTQ community and Demi Lovato recently has been advocating for mental health awareness and self-care.

Yes, I believe that women could be recognized better in the music industry as a whole.  But I think the solution is not to protest against festivals or organizations that seem to “exclude” females from the musical community, but rather to be more aware of what all women in the field are accomplishing and make sure they are recognized and celebrated.


Lucy Littlefield is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lucille.littlefield@uconn.edu.