TRNSMT festival boss Geoff Ellis is continuing to face a backlash for comments he made yesterday about the lack of female musicians on festival line-ups.
The boss of the Scottish music festival said that women need to be “picking up guitars” and “playing in bands” in order to secure their place on festival line-ups.
In response to the comments, Matt Griffiths, CEO of Youth Music, said he disputes Ellis’ view based on the work his organisation does with young female musicians throughout the UK.
Griffiths said: “Youth Music’s evidence shows the issue is not that ‘we need to get more females picking up guitars, forming bands, playing in bands.’ We support projects all over the country helping young women to do exactly this, thanks to funding from the National Lottery via Arts Council England.
“Our research has found that actually, more girls than boys tend to take part in music-making activities. However, there is a significant drop-off as children of all genders get older, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to miss out altogether.”
Griffiths said that despite there being a plethora of female talent, young women are not seeing enough role models – not just on festival line-ups, but on the curriculum and in production and leadership roles.
“The music industry is lacking in female role models, particularly in production and leadership roles – and there’s a gender pay gap,” Griffiths continues. “And the traditional music education curriculum doesn’t represent female musicians equally (ABRSM Grade 8 Piano features only one woman composer out of 33).”
Youth Music funds projects to aim to address the imbalance and is now calling on the industry to support their work and to create structural change in the industry to ensure there is better representation and support for women in the industry.
Ellis’ comments were widely ridiculed on social media with many listing the hundreds of female acts he could have included on the line-up. One fan said, “If Primavera can manage it, why can’t TRNSMT?” whilst another fan said “Glastonbury are aiming for a 50-50 split and know the importance of this – why can’t TRNSMT make the change too? There are no excuses.”
You can see some more of the reactions here:
THREAD: That's Geoff Ellis, the TRNSMT festival director, claiming it's not possible to get more women on a line-up by just booking more women because there's "far, far less female artists". In the most respectful way possible, that is simply not true. pic.twitter.com/K6PQDsDrrF
— Laura Webster (@LauraEWebsterr) November 26, 2019
You could have booked… Billie Elish, Dua Lipa, Lizzo, Georgia, Self Esteem, HAIM, Sigrid, F+TM, Maggie Rogers, Sia, G Flip, Halsey, ALMA…
But no Geoff Ellis please tell me more about how difficult it is to book anyone but the 11 out of 13 male acts on your lineup ?? https://t.co/kcb0SkKwLj
— Richard 'Pumpkin Spiced' Lartey ☕ (@giloi) November 28, 2019
— KT TUNSTALL (@KTTunstall) November 27, 2019
This quote from Geoff Ellis is ridiculous. Has he not heard of Courtney Barnett, Angel Olsen, Cate Le Bon, Girl Ray, Hinds, Los Bitchos, Lykke Li, Marika Hackman, Sharon Van Etten, Weyes Blood, Jerry Williams, Death Valley Girls, Stella Donnelly, The Big Moon, Faye Webster ETCETC https://t.co/rxiaDV6XZI
— matthew ⓥ (@_ColdIronsBound) November 27, 2019
.@TRNSMTfest If you are the organiser of something, and you don’t WANT a situation to change, and you put fuck all effort into it, then no shit it’ll take years.
Sorry, couldn’t find any pics of us playing guitars.
Maybe we should find some so we can ‘pick them up’ eh? pic.twitter.com/X19S2uJrlH
— KT TUNSTALL (@KTTunstall) November 27, 2019
People like Geoff Ellis have been so used to wielding the power to control the narrative, by deflecting criticism with straight-up lies. But it's just so feeble now. It's not working anymore. https://t.co/kgTDV21zL1
— Jasper Willems (@Jasper1023) November 28, 2019
Ellis’ comments are in direct contrast to Primavera festival, which secured the first 50/50 gender balance across its line-up earlier this year. Charli XCX, Lizzo, Christine and the Queens, Robyn and Miley Cyrus were just a few of the female acts to perform at the event.
The iconic festival’s 50th anniversary next year will see Diana Ross performing the coveted Sunday afternoon Legends slot, and Eavis says that there will be plenty of other prolific female acts on the bill too.
“It’s important we go as close to 50-50 as we can. It’s as important to have females on the bill as much as men but the pool – certainly on the headliner front – is not as big,” she told MusicWeek.
“So we have to work on that as an industry and nurture all these women coming through.”
She continued: “Every booking Glastonbury make is conscious, we’re trying to address the imbalance. We’ve got a way to go, there are areas of the festival that have 50/50 (gender representation) like The Park last year.
“But The Pyramid obviously isn’t and we’re working on it.”