The last sunny spells will soon be over, marking the end of the summer and the end of the music festival season. And what could be a better way to celebrate the end of the summer if not with Ireland’s largest music and arts festival, Electric Picnic?
The atmosphere in the music festivals has changed a lot since festivals became mainstream businesses creating jobs and supporting well-established and up-and-coming artists. However, not all artists get equal opportunities to perform in front of immense crowds of cheerful festival-goers.
In the past years, many festival-lovers have expressed dissatisfaction with unfair gender representation among artists. And while fans’ criticism was taken seriously and more diverse and inclusive lineups have started popping up in the last years, it will take more effort from organisers, sponsors and fans until we see equal gender representation on the stages of music festivals.
We decided to investigate Ireland’s most famous music festival Electric Picnic to see how gender representation improved throughout the 19 years of the festival’s existence.
Our methodology consisted of collecting data from Electric Picnic posters. In some instances where we could not find the poster, we used Wikipedia to fill in the gaps. Then, we sorted all the acts listed on the festival posters into five categories: solo male artists, all-male bands, mixed-gender bands, solo female artists, and all-female bands.
The results revealed what we already suspected – Electric Picnic has come a long way from its first festival in 2004, where no female performers appeared on the stage as solo female or all-female bands, and only 11% of the acts were mixed-gender bands or collectives with at least one female as a member. Things are very different in 2022 – female representation skyrocketed, with female acts making up nearly 40% of all performers appearing on the stages of Electric Picnic. This year also has the lowest number of male acts, which make up 50% of all performers at the festival, while mixed-gender bands and collectives make up 10% of the acts. So have we finally witnessed equal gender representation in Ireland’s largest festival?
It is important to mention the festival itself grew significantly from a one-day gig in 2004 to a three-day music and arts celebration with over 27 stages in 2022. However, the path for female performers to secure their place at Ireland’s most celebrated festival wasn’t smooth. In the festival’s second year, only one female performer appeared on the lineup, alongside 30 male and 15 mixed-gender acts. It took eight years for Electric Picnic to invite a double-digit number of female performers. That was achieved in 2011 when 11 female acts performed alongside 58 male and 14 mixed-gender acts throughout the two days of the festival.
While the numbers we cracked might tell a real success story about Electric Picnic and gender representation among artists, there is just one fallback. Even if many more female artists are given stage time in Electric Picnic, the numbers seem less gratifying when looking exclusively at the headliners, as the gender representation among Electric Picnic headliners is still far from equal.
Throughout the 19 years of EP’s existence, only 15% of headliners were female, while almost 70% of male acts headlined the festival.
Even in 2022, female performers were highly underrepresented among the headliners, with only 21% of females and 21% of mixed-gender acts headlining the festival. In comparison, 57% of male acts headlined this year’s Electric Picnic.
Where are all the female bands?
Another critical finding revealed the poor representation of all-female bands. All-female bands made up only 2% of all performers who appeared in Electric Picnic throughout all 19 years, while all-male bands made up 36% of all performers. Only once, in 2013, an all-female band headlined the festival. The first year the all-female band appeared on the Electric Picnic line-up was in 2008 – four years after the first festival! And that only made 3% of all the performers in a given year. The situation did not improve in the years to come. In 2022, only two female bands are set to perform at the festival. Throughout the years of Electric Picnic’s existence, all-female bands have seen the poorest representation, while male bands enjoyed their spotlight at the festival.