TRNSMT’s Geoff Ellis faces backlash after saying women need to “pick up guitars” to get on festival line-up

"If Primavera can manage it, why can't TRNSMT?"

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.

Ellis made the bold statement after the announcement of the festival’s 2020 line-up, which includes the all-male headliners Liam Gallagher, Courteeners, Ian Brown and Lewis Capaldi.


From the 13 acts announced so far, Rita Ora and Little Simz are the only female acts – attracting criticism for many who are calling for a better gender balance of artists on the bill.

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.”

Little Simz

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:

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.

This year also saw Norway’s Øya Festival achieve a near 50/50 gender split line-up for the third year in a row

Emily Eavis
Emily Eavis talking to Jo Whiley earlier today. (Photo: James North)

Recently, Emily Eavis also said that she’s aiming to ensure that Glastonbury Festival‘s line-up for 2020 is “as close to” 50/50 gender-balanced as possible.

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.”