Shortly after Splendour In The Grass unveiled its first wave of 2020 performers, the festival’s co-founder has responded to criticism regarding the gender balance of the lineup, particularly the lack of female headliners.
The Byron Bay festival, which marks its 20th anniversary this year, announced a lineup early today (February 19) led by all-male headliners: Flume for Friday, The Strokes for Saturday and Tyler, The Creator for Sunday. Less than half the acts in the announcement are women or have at least one non-male member.
Festival co-founder and producer Jessica Ducrou discussed the criticism with the press today. To the Sydney Morning Herald, she said, “as a woman working in the music industry, who supports women and would call myself a feminist: I’m 100 percent committed to supporting women in any way I can, but I do think there’s a difference between filling a quota to placate the critics and booking what’s right for the festival.”
The gender balance of the Splendour lineup is “certainly something we consider” when booking artists, she said, “but I think a majority of performers who are women would appreciate that they’re chosen because they’re great, not because they’re women.”
As SMH reports, 45 of the 104 acts listed in Splendour’s first lineup announcement are women or feature at least one non-male member. Such acts include Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Julia Jacklin, King Princess, The Jungle Giants, Thelma Plum, Sampa The Great and G Flip, to name a few.
That means 43 percent of Splendour’s 2020 lineup features a non-male member, an increase from 2019’s 34 percent.
the men v the women of splendour 😐 pic.twitter.com/DxHdFuASh5
— 𝕖 𝕝 𝕝 𝕚 𝕖 ✨💓🦋💐💌 (@sunbeaminq) February 19, 2020
“Part of the challenge has always been that we can only book what’s actively out there on the market and popular and selling tickets if we want to survive,” Ducrou told SMH. “I’m pleased to see that, even from three or four years ago, there’s just a lot more to choose from in terms of female-fronted acts, women in bands, and as DJs and performers than there’s ever been. That’s made it easier for me to do my job.”
Ducrou told SBS that although having a female headliner was “a priority” for Splendour, “unfortunately all the obvious choices that have been mentioned, along with some others, were unavailable for a variety of reasons”. Those reasons include “recording schedules, touring commitments internationally or generally off the road, the list goes on”.
The gender balance of festival lineups has been a point of heated discussion lately, especially after UK festival Reading & Leeds announced its 2020 lineup, which was also led by all-male headliners in Liam Gallagher, Rage Against The Machine and Stormzy.
Last week, The 1975 frontman Matty Healy pledged to play only festivals with gender-balanced lineups going forward, though he said the band would not withdraw from its existing festival commitments.