female:pressure - Electric Indigo FACTS survey interview

female:pressure has launched its FACTS survey 2020 that quantifies the gender distribution of artists performing at electronic music festivals worldwide. There’s good news - an increase - but much more work needs to be done by the industry. We’ve interviewed female:pressure’s Electric Indigo who has given some brilliant perspective. female:pressure have also given suggestions for Festival Organisers, Artistic Directors, and Artists to help create change, and have a limited edition t-shirt to support their FACTS work.

Electric Indigo - photo by Stefan Fuhrer

The FACTS survey 2020 is an incredibly valuable piece of research that presents a global picture, and we recommend reading the full report, which shows numbers in different ways, including by country and festival. UK festivals are improving but the figures for female artists vary hugely, and since the FACTS survey started have ranged from 0% to 77.3%.

What role does public funding play in the increase, does the rise indicate strong progress, how can the music industry and audiences help improve things, and is female curation important? Electric Indigo has some illuminating answers.

FACTS logo by alehop

Electric Indigo interview

What is your view of this year’s FACTS Survey figures

I think if we were a political party, the rise of proportion of women in electronic music festival lineups from slightly over 9% in 2012 to almost 25% in 2019 would be sensational! But a more differentiated view is necessary. The results are partly great, especially when it comes to ambitious festivals that generally are more edgy and vanguard than commercial. On the other hand, I’m afraid that having about 25% of women in the lineup might be a temporary hype and the proportion could decrease again in no time. I don’t see a solid basis for gender diversity yet. In this regard I think it is interesting that Nina Kraviz and Amelie Lens are the busiest DJs worldwide.

I assume it has to do with the fact that it has become a flaw, at least in somehow progressive circles, if there are no women on the lineup. At the same time, commercial festivals need to book the best known acts which radically narrows down the pool of “bookable” DJs in general and of “bookable” women in particular.

Several trends are quite clear: Public funding seems to relate with a higher proportion of women in the lineup. If the program is curated by an all-female team of artistic directors, the percentage of women in the lineup rises significantly.

Another aspect I find interesting and I just recently noticed: The festivals with the highest male proportion are very likely to have 0% non-binary artists. The proportion of non-binary artists is a lot higher at festivals with the highest proportion of women in the lineup. That means that extensive exclusion of women affects a wide spectrum of genders. Another clue that feminist action is not and must not be one-dimensional in respect of gender.

What is helping create these improvements

Requirements to include a certain quota of women in order to receive public funding, like the Musicboard Berlin has in place, is extremely effective.

Having women program a festival lineup is most of the times very effective.

To be honest, I think our survey series, in particular the first FACTS survey from 2013, had and have a wide impact on the awareness of lack of diversity and cultural uniformity in this sector.

It became relatively popular in the media to broach issues of diversity and to feature women - at least in the-ten-best-lists…

Visibility of successful women in the scene is very important to encourage younger talents.

Visibility and activity of a lot of women, non-binary, gender-fluid people in every area of the scene is even better!

Safer spaces and Codes of Conduct help to create improvements.

And there is much more. We actually have a whole chapter in the survey dedicated to this question. And, of course, this is still by far incomplete. It is a complex, societal issue that needs to be tackled on many different levels.

Do you see a difference between the situation in electronic music and in other genres

I don’t know. I assume there is no systemic difference.

Are you experiencing a change when you are performing and creating

Yes, it seems to have become a lot more common to see a non-male person playing electronic music or DJ-ing compared to 25 years ago. I don’t hear comments like “for a woman, you’re surprisingly good” anymore. Which, by the way, is unfortunately still a standard sentence in any apparantely male-dominated field. But this probably has to do with my age and duration of my artistic career rather than a profound change in people’s preconceptions.

What practical steps can people take to help improve things - eg music industry members, media, venues, audiences

I would like to refer to our chapter “Suggestions for Festival Organisers, Artistic Directors, and Artists” in the FACTS survey.

(see below)

What would you like to see in FACTS 2021

I would like that more festivals respond to us with their data, so that we have better numbers for whether a festival received public funding or not, who is programming a festival and how many people attend. We contacted all 166 festivals we included for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 (392 festival editions of 166 different festivals), 30 festivals came back to us.

I would like to see the rise in diversity in more countries.

I would like to see more festivals curated by women.

Electric Indigo, avantegarde 2019 - photo by F. Mayolet

female:pressure suggestions for Festival Organisers, Artistic Directors, and Artists

  • Book more people of different genders. Book more people of colour. If you believe they are unfamiliar to your audience and/or won’t bring in enough money, use your resources to invest in good press work and consider installing local/underground stages and promote a general ethos of inclusivity at your events. Network and collaborate with booking agencies that have diverse rosters and inform yourself about and/or connect with festivals around the world that have diverse line-ups. Inform yourself about maker spaces and workshops that serve underrepresented grounds in music production and skills. These types of community spaces have important knowledge to share.

  • On the organisational level, install a mixed-gender team to program your festival’s line-up.

  • If you are interested in having a diverse line-up that reflects the state of the art in electronic music, you might take actions such as making public call for participation and specifically make diverse representation a criterion for selection. Be intentional and transparent about your inclusivity goals.

  • Support your local underground scene by connecting with record dealers and music journalists who are experts in the field.

  • If you have the capacity, include discussion and skill-sharing programs to promote diversity and inclusion in the electronic music industry. Host workshops on topics such as music production, gear selection, music promotion, and other music business skills. By facilitating skill-sharing workshops, you can foster a community where budding artists can connect with one another and the scene. You may even cultivate the skills of artists who may play at your festival in the future. We believe that the relationship between artists and festival promoters will change for the better as a result. Workshops and discussions can be funded in a variety of ways, from ticket sales to donations to institutional funding from socio-cultural programs, for example.

  • Ensure safe working conditions and accountability at your festival by training personnel in cultural sensitivity and inclusion, so that all artists are treated with respect, regardless of race or gender. Consider often-overlooked details such as cooperative and safe child-care for the families of artists and staff and gender-neutral toilet facilities.

  • Initiatives like the Clubcommission Berlin who represent the gateway between clubs, promoters, industry and cultural policy players and engage with the needs and perspectives of the different club and festival stakeholders, could invite these stakeholders collaboratively to establish guidelines that may be developed into a certification. If a festival complies with such guidelines, they would be able to promote their events with the logo and certification. The commission guidelines can be found here.

  • Believe in a multi-faceted and heterogeneous electronic music scene. Strive for a less capitalistic approach to your listeners by supporting a more performance-oriented music culture.

  • We would like to see widespread adoption of a “Code of Conduct,” a guideline for best practices for festivals to accommodate the societal and cultural implications that their programs, advertising, and publications produce, by electronic music festivals. We believe it is never and has never been “just about the music.” Festivals have interests such as: obtaining fame or relevance, having economic success, or promoting particular “agendas”—many times of personal importance— such as the advancement of a genre or political worldview, among others. A good example of such a code was posted in 2018 by We Have a Voice.

  • We have some suggestions for artists themselves. Connect yourself with local and/or global networks and seek out resources for female and non-binary artists, many of which are listed on the female:pressure website

  • To artists in positions of relative cultural power, in particular white cis-men, we applaud those of you who have shown solidarity with female and non-binary colleagues by boycotting festivals when there are line-ups fail to be diverse or inclusive. We think strategies such as this are effective at making promoters and curators question their policies!

The female:pressure FACTS survey is a continuous project, undertaken by volunteer members of the female:pressure network, that quantifies the gender distribution of artists performing at electronic music festivals worldwide. FACTS 2020 is the fourth edition of the survey, which was first published in 2013, and updated in 2015 and 2017.

female:pressure FACTS survey 2020