Over decades, music festivals have become an annual tradition for millions of teens, young adults and millennials across the globe.

However, the much-anticipated Reading and Leeds festival lineup so far includes 57 men and one woman.

Promoter Melvin Benn is Festival Republic’s key booker. He told the Guardian in an interview in 2015:

“We’re not the tastemakers. Putting a festival on is a monstrous financial risk. The only way I balance the books is selling tickets. Why do you think we book the same male acts again and again?

“Because they sell tickets. Trust me, if there was a female act in the rock genre that sold the same amount of tickets as any one of the headline acts this year, I’d book them.”

Anyone who says there aren’t any “good” up and coming female bands is mostly talking bollocks. Especially if they’re the same person that books the same four-piece indie boy bands that we only liked mediocrely when we were 13, year on year. But whether it’s down to genuine misogyny or pure coincidence in an industry dominated by males is a different question.

Genre can no longer be put down as a factor in this. Over time, the Reading and Leeds lineups have only become more diverse in terms of genre, and it’s moved on from being a “rock festival” to having DJ’s, pop and grime- this year showcased by Wiley being announced near the top of the bill.

But the problem isn’t the fact there’s no female headliners- it’s the lineup as a whole. Bands need exposure from playing smaller stages to become headline material, but it seems festival organisers aren’t even willing to take that risk anymore.


Chrissy Costanza, singer and ultra babe of pop-punk band Against the Current is currently the only female to appear on the 2017 Reading and Leeds line up. To find out what it’s like in this huge era for females in music, I spoke to her about what she thinks the logistics are behind it:

How does it feel to be performing at Reading and Leeds for the first time in your career? Are you excited?

I’m pumped! I’m mostly excited because this will be our first real festival experience. We have actually played one other festival before but we had only been told two days before so it was super last minute, no rehearsals or anything, so I’m excited to go into this one prepared and confident.

That’s pretty impressive considering you’re near the top of the bill this year. What’s it like working alongside two guys, Dan and Will?

They’re my brothers! Like all siblings, we bicker and fight but we all have the same goal in mind so ultimately we’re a pretty good team.

People have been criticising the Reading and Leeds organisers, that currently you’re the only female on the line up so far. One Twitter user actually went as far as labelling it the “We Hate Women Festival 2017”- Do you think this is the case? or just sheer coincidence?

I highly doubt the people who book R&L acts hate women. Who knows, maybe they reached out to a handful of female acts that turned down the offer for some reason or another, so it’s hard to confidently point fingers. I think the lineup is symbolic of a much bigger issue that greatly surpasses one single festival in magnitude.

And how does it feel knowing you’re currently the only female on the line up? 51% of festival go-ers are actually female. Does it feel empowering, like you’re representing girls everywhere? Or more that you know there should be others up there with you?

It’s both. Of course it’s empowering to know that I’ve marched in there and made that stage. But of course I want that 51% to not only represent female festivals goers, but to represent female acts as well.

Have people become too conditioned to seeing males dominating the headline slots at festivals, that we often don’t notice when girls have been missed off?

Oh, absolutely. I don’t even think I realised how wickedly common it is to have a festival dominated by men, especially outside of the mainstream pop world.

Do festival organisers have a responsibility when it comes to the reputation of themselves to include a more diverse line up? The music industry itself seems to come under a lot of fire, not only for the lack of opportunity for women, but for black people, the LGBT community etc…

That’s a hard question to answer. My feelings may be a bit controversial but for me, I don’t want to be given an opportunity because I’m female, I don’t want to be put on a festival to fulfill some bullshit quota of female acts. I want to be there simply because I am good enough regardless of my race, gender or sexuality. I think the responsibility ultimately starts in the fans hands. Everyone’s fired up now because the discrepancy has been pointed out but I saw one media outlet post on Instagram, “What acts do you want to see added to the R&L lineup this year?” and aside from Paramore and PVRIS, the comments were entirely for male acts. The festivals are putting up the artists that are being demanded for the most fiercely, so let’s demand the women in music that we love.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a woman in music? Is there anything you’d change?

There are a lot of double standards. People are still threatened by the woman in charge. When a man is demanding he is a boss, when a woman is, she’s written off as a bitch. When a guy speaks out politically, he’s “woke” but when a girl does it, she’s problematic and preachy. It sucks. But you know what? I’d change the way other women perceive women in music. I’ve personally always had a harder time winning over female fans. There’s such a big girl power movement right now but I’ve been in positions many times before where fans of bands I’m friends with or toured with have said horrible things about me without even listening to my band yet.  If we want more girls in music to succeed then we need to be more supportive of women.

The industry has been described by the likes of Lady Gaga and Angel Haze as a “boy’s club” and that women feel judged more on their bodies than as a musician. Would you say women are praised more on looks or talent? Or a combination of both?

Of course it’s a boys club. Even if you move past just artists, the suits of the industry are 95% male. All I can say is that I gained like, maybe 5 pounds since I started doing this at 15, and I’ve been told I’m getting fat like crazy. And I’m like, who the fuck cares anyways? I’m not a model, you should be able to support my band the same way even if I look like a toe because the music will still be the same.

Four of the Top 10 selling artists of all time are female- including Madonna, Rihanna, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. So big names. But what they have in common is that they’re all pop and RnB artists. Have you ever considered the lack of diversity may simply come from your band’s genre of music? And that there simply aren’t that many female-orientated pop-punk bands out there right now?

The general umbrella of pop-punk/rock/pop-rock/alternative definitely has the biggest female deficit. Females dominate the pop world, Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Katy Perry, etc. I think there are generally less female fronted bands trying to get in than there are female solo artists, but that doesn’t mean that things can’t change. I’d love to see way more female fronted bands break the ceiling.

In previous decades there have been some amazing female fronted bands and artists- do any of them inspire you in particular?

Growing up, I loved Pat Benatar, Joan Jett and the Wilson Sisters (Heart). These were all bad ass women who knew what they wanted and just fucking took it. And then No Doubt came into my radar and Gwen Stefani was just IT.

Imagine your dream festival. You can pick your 3 favourite female-acts to headline- who do you choose? (and yes, you can bring the Spice Girls back *heart eyes*)

Ooo damn, that’s tough. I’d do, Joan Jett and the Heartbreakers, No Doubt, and Paramore. All badass women that rose above them all.


You can see Against the Current at Reading and Leeds festival this summer. Follow them on Twitter here.

Twitter: @sophxthompson

illustration by: Joel Benjamin @_joelbenjamin_


One response to “We Need to Talk about Women in Music”

  1. ongypsiemountain Avatar

    I totally agree. I’ve seen some awesome female musicians at festivals over the years but I absolutely agree that if we want more woman to be successful in the music industry (and any industry tbh) we, as woman need to be more supportive of each other, I think women are constantly encouraged to be in competition with each other and that needs to stop. Great post.


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