March 8, 2019

Today’s playlist celebrates International Women’s Day; it features many inspirational and creatively electrifying female artists from the Roadburn world. Some have played the festival already, some may do so in the future, one or two are probably a little out of our reach (we can but dream). Every week our playlist features women like this, but today they dominate it.

The theme of this year’s IWD is balance (you can read more about it here). It’s a topic that comes up fairly often in relation to music festivals; surely you’ve seen those posters with all the non-male acts removed from the line up? All of a sudden, a jam-packed line up is reduced to a scattering of names – and rarely are they the headliners.

There are campaigns and pledges to redress the balance on festival bills, which is surely a step in the right direction. But is it practical to view it in this way? One of the most common counter arguments from bookers is that there just isn’t the same number of artists that are non-male, or that they won’t book a band just because they’re female if they’re not up to the standard of the male bands –  hence the imbalance. And whilst it is then possible to provide them with a list of acts that do feature a woman that they could have booked but didn’t… what they’re saying is – sadly – often true.

To set straight the lopsided, male-heavy line ups, we have to start much further away than the festival main stage. The reasons that more men pursue a career in music than women are complex and often studied, but there are plenty of signs to indicate that it’s an arena that is simply not as welcoming to women as it is to men. Women are frequently held to a higher standard than men in terms of their presentation, their ability and their commitment.

Here in the UK, recent membership figures from the PRS Foundation for music indicate that only 17% of their members are women. Is that an accurate reflection of the make up of creatives making music? Or are there other barriers (confidence, lack of female-led information, self belief?) to women becoming members and being recognised in this way? What is encouraging, however, is that the same report indicates that 40% of their new members under the age of 20 identify as female. So, perhaps change is coming after all…

And when it does, we need to be ready. We need to be prepared to dispense with archaic views about what women ‘should’ do and allow them the same freedom, space, money and opportunities afforded to their male counterparts. If you’re reading this and shrugging your shoulders, bewildered, and thinking that you do that anyway – then good! Plenty of little girls are told that certain sports or instruments are ‘for boys’ and that’s where it starts.

When I took part in a roundtable discussion for Metal Hammer magazine last year, there were a few things that we were all pretty much in agreement with: women don’t need a leg up, we just need equality; and that strong female role models played an important part in us having belief in our capabilities. Which brings us back round to the visibility of women on festival bills – now, today, inspiring the next generation of young girls and women.

Roadburn is proud to have many female-identifying and non-male musicians and artists involve in the festival. They are welcomed as equals here, and their contributions provide a necessary and illuminating narrative that is an essential part of the make up of Roadburn – and in our opinion, the wider world. Listen to the message in their music, absorb the inspiration from their art, and play a part in redressing the balance.
-Becky Laverty

Hether Fortune photo credit: Joseph Jagos.

If you’d like to seek out these tracks elsewhere, here’s the information you’ll need:

Hether Fortune – Sister (Etruscan Gold)

GOLD – Why Aren’t You Laughing? (Artoffact)

Brutus – Cemetery (Sargent House)

The Savage Rose – Romano (Target Records)

Royal Thunder – Tied (Spinefarm)

Chelsea Wolfe – Feral Love (Sargent House)

Zola Jesus – Soak (Sacred Bones)

Moor Mother – Deadbeat Protest (Don Giovanni Records)

Lingua Ignota – All Bitches Die (all Bitches Die Here) (Profound Lore)

Pharmakon – Crawling on Bruised Knees (Sacred Bones)

Insect Ark – Skin Walker (Profound Lore)

Foie Gras – Sisyphus (Yellow Year)

Miserable – Gasoline (Sargent House)

Emma Ruth Rundle – Real Big Sky (Sargent House)

Marissa Nadler – If We Make It Through the Summer (KRO)

Helms Alee – Pleasure Centre (Sargent House)

Pharlee – Darkest Hour (Tee Pee)

Made Out of Babies – Cooker (The End Records)

Sky Ferreira – Kristine (Capitol)

Nicole Dollanganger – Heart Shaped Bed (Crystal Math)

Oathbreaker – Immortals (Deathwish)

Svalbard – Revenge Porn (Holy Roar/Translation Loss)

Sólveig Matthildur – Dystopian Boy (Artoffact)

SubRosa – Troubled Cells (Profound Lore)