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Festival Republic launches studio support scheme to facilitate gender rebalance on festival line-ups

By | Published on Wednesday 9 August 2017

Festival Republic

Live Nation’s Festival Republic yesterday launched a new initiative called ReBalance which is seeking to support the next generation of female musicians and record producers.

The scheme – also backed by the PRS Foundation – hopes, in part, to try and overcome the male dominance of festival line-ups, which has become a talking point in recent years. Not least in 2015 when music blog Crack In The Road edited the poster for Festival Republic’s Leeds and Reading festivals so to remove all the male artists, resulting in an almost a solid block of yellow and only a smattering of artist names.

Of course, some of the most successful British artists in recent years have been female, though stats for the overall music community remain dramatic in their lack of gender balance. PRS Foundation recently noted that only 16% of songwriters and composers in the UK are women, and there are certain behind the scenes roles in the music industry that remain very much male domains too, such as studio work and sound engineering.

Although the lack of gender diversity within the artist community becomes most apparent when festivals list all their acts on one poster, Festival Republic boss Melvin Benn argues that this is a problem for the wider music industry, not just the festivals sector, with label rosters also being male dominated, especially outside of pop music.

Benn said yesterday: “There is a significant lack of female acts with recording contracts and, indeed, airplay. It’s quite astonishing. Artists like Maggie Rogers, Halsey, Zara Larsson and Ray BLK are all playing festivals and succeeding in the music industry, so in that respect there has been a surge, comparably, to previous years. But all these artists have a very mainstream presence. Mainstream pop doesn’t seem to have an issue, but the festival environment caters for all genres, hence this being a wider problem”.

Announcing the ReBalance initiative, Benn went on: “Something needs to be done about gender equality in the music industry. It’s a wider issue that involves us – the live industry – but the solution doesn’t rest only with us. I have decided to be proactive in working towards this no longer being an issue in the future, and that’s what this project is about”.

The three year ReBalance programme will provide free studio time to British female musicians – including bands with mixed-gender line-ups – at the Old Chapel Music Studio in Leeds, with an industry panel selecting a different artist to benefit from the support each month. As well as providing studio time and access to a sound engineer, Festival Republic will also cover travel and accommodation costs, and will commit to offer participating artists a slot at a relevant Live Nation-owned festival.

Meanwhile there will be an accompanying apprenticeship scheme training up two female sound engineers, who will initially work alongside the project at Old Chapel Music Studio and ultimately lead on it.

Confirming her organisation’s support for the programme, PRS Foundation’s Vanessa Reed said: “We look forward to helping Festival Republic to deliver this important and exciting programme and to following the results of the monthly studio sessions planned. We need more male leaders like Melvin Benn to recognise the ongoing gender gap in music and to use their position to do something about it. Coming up with campaigns and initiatives like ReBalance, will ultimately strengthen our industry and be of benefit to us all”.

We can only hope that schemes like this – and there are others – will help ensure that future festival posters won’t become a block of yellow just because you remove the names of the male performers. And while we’re talking about this, festival promoters… You know your comedy stages? You do know there are more than two female comedians in the world don’t you? Many of them are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe right now, so maybe talent scout there rather than just watching ‘Mock The Week’. And you can, of course, check the comedy coverage of our sister mag ThreeWeeks, that’d be a start.