The percentage of female musicians and artists on stage has been much debated in the past few years, also regarding Roskilde Festival. The argument is that fewer women than men comprise the 175 musical acts. Here, we offer our views on gender balance in the music industry and how we as a festival strive to change the fact that fewer women choose a musical career.

How does Roskilde Festival view the gender (im)balance in live music?

We want to proactively change the world. We want to give women a better chance to be part of the music industry. We feel that we have a responsibility to make an impact and to change things for the better. Both on and off stage.

The balance is definitely off. Only 20% of live musical acts in Denmark are female. Of course, we want to change this. Why? Think of it this way: the music scene thrives and talent is nurtured when the gender balance in live music reflects society.

We see ourselves as a cultural platform where role models (both male and female) can inspire this change.

So why isn’t half the line-up female?

A full Roskilde Festival line-up reflects diversity, quality and tomorrow’s stars. In some genres, women are more poorly represented than in others (metal and some urban genres, for example).

Festivals and other music venues depend on the supply and availability of artists and are the last stop in a long ‘food chain’- from the early years of music school to the choice of pursuing a career in live music.

These days, more females than males opt out. We want to change that. It’s the reason why we – like so many other festivals – have fewer female acts to choose from when curating a line-up.

How is Roskilde Festival changing the gender imbalance?

We’re striving to present female artists that act as strong role models for both the women and men in front of the stages. Ideally, a Roskilde Festival concert can challenge the public’s perception that far fewer women than men choose a career in live music. Music, art, and culture can be a tool for change.

In 2017, young artists, such as Princess Nokia and Madame Gandhi, were truly exciting because they offered charismatic artistic and personal profiles while working within traditionally male-dominated urban music. As role models, they  offered an alternative path and inspired audiences.

In 2017, Jenny HvalSolange, the collective DiscwomanElza Soares and Jah9 were all examples of female artists using the language of music as a platform in the name of equality.

It’s no coincidence that they – both individually and collectively – were part of the line-up at Roskilde Festival 2017. Together, they have positively affected the gender imbalance both now and in the future.

Do Roskilde Festival bookers have a gender strategy?

Gender awareness is part of a larger strategy which focuses on diversity, artistic quality and nurturing new artists.

The festival’s goal is to constantly renew itself and to stay relevant to new movements and trends, so that festival-goers can enjoy new and unique experiences. The festival strives to be a platform for new ideas, including helping to develop and to grow undiscovered artists and talent.

In this manner, female role models are part of a larger strategy of securing diversity, artistic quality and talent growth.

Does Roskilde Festival work with quotas?

We do not use quotas or quantitative goals, such as having X number or percentage of women on stage in year Y. We don’t think quotas can change the fundamental gender imbalance in live music.

Rather, we aim to change public perception of this imbalance by presenting female artists who can act as role models.

What is the percentage of women in the line-up?

We do not calculate the percentage of artists according to gender identification.

In fact, Roskilde Festival does not use quotas or quantitative measures. Rather, the festival programmers and curators aim to change the gender imbalance by focusing on role models (see above).

Percentages are easy to relate to. However, percentages only show that there are fewer women than men and that there is an imbalance. This has been well documented and debated since 2012.

But, the figures don’t reveal what’s behind this imbalance, and how it might be challenged and changed. Focusing solely on percentages is not likely to make more girls and women choose a life as professional musicians.

We wish to encourage a dialogue that is not exclusively grounded in percentages and comparisons. Instead, we hope that our actions shine a light on ways to contribute to change in a constructive way.

Only by sharing knowledge, taking action and offering concrete suggestions, can we push the gender imbalance in the right direction.

What does Roskilde Festival think of the keychange initiative with several festivals promising to achieve a 50/50 gender percentage by 2022?

We hope the festivals will achieve their goal, and we have donated 10,000€ to PRS Foundation’s International Keychange initiative.

Roskilde Festival has chosen not to sign the declaration or in any other way to put a number or percentage on gender distribution.

We accommodate several types of diversity in our programme (genres being one of them), and we believe that other initiatives instead of specific gender percentages are the right way forward.

We are convinced that any lasting change and influence must occur far earlier in the music industry food chain. Roskilde Festival has a better chance of influencing the future by providing role models within genres where women have traditionally been outnumbered (metal, rap and electronic music, to name a few), and by donating the festival’s profits to initiatives that are working to create tangible solutions and concrete changes, in the name of talent development and enlightenment.

What knowledge do we lack?

We don’t know nearly enough about the mechanisms that cause the documented imbalance – apart from the fact that it is explicit and clearly noticable to audiences at venues and festivals, igniting debates on social media, at music industry seminars and in the media.

In order to understand why the balance is off, we are currently supporting research conducted by the music industry organisation, Dansk Live. It aims to document the cause and effect of gender imbalance. Such knowledge can help the music industry, the Ministry of Culture, the school system, gender science and others to create the change that will enable more girls and women to be part of the live music scene, both in Denmark and internationally.

What does Roskilde Festival do to shine a light on the subject?

Roskilde Festival is a meeting place for music, art and social consciousness. In this unique exchange between artists, opinion makers and curious festival-goers, we can challenge each other’s views and break habits together.

In 2017, we paid special attention to cultural equality. Freemuse (fighting for the rights of female musicians) focused on gender balance around the world, and organisations such as MIX CPH, Danish Women’s Society, LGBT Asylum, Warehouse 9 and many others, explored equality in relation to gender, rights, sexuality, and more.

At the same time, our art projects explored topics such as gender identity, sexuality, feminism and masculinity and challenged the participants’ understanding of themselves and each other.

Acknowledging that we are – as previously mentioned – the last link in the music industry’s food chain, we work actively to ensure that the festival’s financial profit also benefits equality and helps upcoming artists. One example is Musikstarter, an organisation that has successfully promoted equality within talent development for 13-18-year-olds since 2013. Roskilde Festival has supported Musikstarter since 2017.

Additionally, Roskilde Festival contributes to KVINFO’s festival for girls and to talent development at venues, clubs and at other organisations.