Females in Fests: How St. John’s Spring Line-ups Stack Up

Disappointed with the lack of female artists headlining this year’s biggest festivals, I decided to see how Newfoundland & Labrador compares. On the national stage, the lack of female artists headlining huge events like Coachella and Lollapalooza calls attention to the unfaltering misogyny that permeates the music industry. Compared to 2015’s bigger line-ups (thx Pixable), where Pitchfork’s 30% female artists tops the list, Newfoundland’s spring lineup is pretty female-friendly.


26 acts featuring a female artist
45 acts

With 58% of the 45 bands playing Lawnya Vawyna, it just about doubles the female representation of this year’s biggest festivals.

When we look closer, however, discrepancies emerge. Women dominate indie/folk/pop music or, y’know, the music that features pretty girls in floral dresses and big smiles. Light-hearted and fun is how women are expected to act, and playing acoustic guitar or piano are acceptable lady instruments. I don’t mean to degrade these genres because they are full of talented women, but I can’t help but notice how easily they follow female gender norms.

Heading over to the heavy (punk/rock/metal) and electronic shows, dicks start to dominate the stage.

Musically, these scenes are very different, yet they share a certain masculine bravado. They’re both fast and loud, inciting an adrenaline rush in the crowd that provokes panoramic pushing.

While there may be a lack of support for female artists in these scenes, I’m not totally sure that’s all to blame. I think young women do feel empowered enough to overcome that bullshit and start their own bands. Still, many women aren’t choosing to amp up.

I wonder, instead, if women just aren’t comfortable getting angry yet. Are we intimidated by the idea of being loud? When women raise their voice, they are so often told to “calm down,” that they are being emotional wrecks, has it worked to shut us up?

Maybe I’m way off the mark. Maybe women just don’t like loud music. But looking around at all the women in the crowds, I have trouble believing that. Something is preventing women from buying amps, and it’s not the price.

image0064 acts with women
105 acts

East Coast Music Week, a festival highlighting bands nominated for the East Coast Music Awards, featured a fabulous 64% of acts that included women. Unfortunately, local media did not do a great job of showing this, prompting the hashtag #eastcoastmensawards, but that’s not really ECM’s fault.

Now the ECMAs have a very different process for choosing musicians, which is basically that you have to apply. A high price-tag and a stack of paperwork prevents many awesome artists from bothering, which means that most of the people playing the festival had the ego to do so.

As most of your favorite artists probably didn’t make it into the ECMA nominations, you might’ve ignored it. Newfoundland’s inferiority complex has gotten rich and has become more of a “fuck you, Canada” complex, resulting in 23 submissions from this province.

image02Including producers and sound engineers, 71% of music genres had nominated at least one act featuring a female. However, the proportion of acts with females that actually won falls to a pitiful 9/35, or 26%.

Female success was concentrated in feminine genres, like pop and roots/traditional because, again, who doesn’t love a pretty girl with an acoustic guitar? It’s ok to play music if you dress nice and wear make-up for it.

100% of the songwriter nominations were for acts including women, mostly solo artists, acknowledging there were at least enough female applicants to fill an entire genre. Inexplicably, not a single woman was nominated for solo recording of the year. I guess according to the ECMA’s, women can write songs, but they can’t play instruments.

Here, again, women wielding electric guitars were rare. The Loud category had no women, the Rock category had one.

It’s difficult to theorize about female representation in the music scene with only three points of data, but the similarities between them are striking. Feminine female artists are successful when they play feminine, female music; cute, pop beats and flowy skirts are very tasteful to the public’s and the musicians’ palate. Let the boys buy the amps, because it’s ok for them to be angry and loud. Stay within your gender norms, and you too can be Canada’s next rising star. But be sure you make your man a sandwich first because we wouldn’t want to piss anyone off now would we?

&now for a fun, female-inclusive ECMA nomination that didn’t win.

6 thoughts on “Females in Fests: How St. John’s Spring Line-ups Stack Up”

  1. Pingback: Women Behind the Scenes: Festivals and Gender Representation – St. John's Women in Music
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