female:pressure has launched its revealing FACTS Survey 2022, that quantifies the gender distribution of artists performing at electronic music festivals worldwide. There’s some good news, as well as plenty of room for improvement. We’ve interviewed female:pressure’s Electric Indigo about the key findings and what should happen next. You can also support the work by getting this FACTS 22 T-shirt.
The female:pressure FACTS Surveys are landmark pieces of work, with an international team researching and analysing data from a multitude of electronic music festivals. This year’s survey, available on the female:pressure site here, and also as a PDF, brings some positive news.
The proportion of female acts rose from 9.2% in 2012 to 26.9% in the current reporting period of 2020 to 2021. As of 2021, 1.3% of all acts surveyed are non-binary and 9.1% are mixed in comparison to 59.1% male acts.
We spoke to Electric Indigo (Susanne Kirchmayr), female:pressure founder, DJ, composer, and musician, about the survey results and her recent experiences.
Electric Indigo - photo Bela Borsodi, 2022
Congratulations to you and the team on this extremely valuable new FACTS Survey. How would you describe the progress being made at electronic music festivals worldwide?
Overall: slow but steady. More particular I find it interesting that not all festivals show a sustained increase in the percentage of women performing. There seems to be, for example, a peak in the female proportions of several festivals around 2018 and I think it has to do with the increased activity of the Keychange initiative and the funding that came with it.
Why do you think progress is slow?
Aren’t societal changes always slow?
Europe is doing better than North America, what is driving that do you think?
It might have to do with more public funding in Europe. People and institutions or companies who receive governmental money are often held accountable in regard to the gender participation to make sure that all genders can benefit from the funds. Sometimes, a certain quota is a requirement, for example with funding from the Musicboard Berlin.
Looking at the figures for the countries with the most festivals, the UK isn’t doing well at all. It’s the only country with a drop in representation. Do you have a sense of what has caused that?
I wouldn’t say that. When I look at the numbers, I see an unusually high female percentage for 2020 including data for 20 acts only. In 2021, the percentage of female acts is lower but still considerably higher than the average proportion for all countries in the current counting period (2020 and 2021). The main difference I see is that in 2021 we were able to count 173 acts which certainly is more representative than the number of acts we counted for the UK in 2020. You can see these numbers in Appendix 2: Gender Proportions by Country and Year.
Has COVID had an impact on festivals and the gender distribution of bookings?
Well, we had fewer festivals to count, of course, because many events were cancelled due to the pandemic. I am not sure about the effect of the type of presentation (online, onsite, and hybrid) on the gender distribution. The differences we can see, for example a remarkable increase in mixed acts for hybrid festivals that took place both online and in a physical space onsite, might be due to the limited number of festivals counted.
We see that smaller festivals have better results. Is that because they may be newer and more progressive in their approach, or have more diverse curators do you think?
Usually, smaller festivals have less economic pressure, they can be “riskier” in terms of booking less “safe” acts. And with “safe” I mean very well-known, popular, upscale acts who always draw many people.
What have you observed from your own experience as an artist in the past couple of years?
The pandemic years raised my interest in streaming events, particularly in the COMMON events run by Currents.fm. It was really great to get in touch with so many diverse artists from so many parts of the world. Before that, I was not aware of the incredibly thriving scene in Nairobi, for example. I had great fun playing there, helping to organize the female:pressure room, watching shows and meeting people in the chat rooms COMMON offers. Honestly, I never experienced more diverse lineups than at the COMMON events.
On the other hand, it is not sustainable as an artist to replace regularly paid gigs with voluntary work and some tips you might receive from the audience. It can be great fun, though, and certainly is an interesting experiment!
There’s a great list of action points in the report, for everyone in the electronic music community, and that would be useful for many different genres too. Which group of people are the most important in creating change?
We all have to work together because we need a systemic, societal change.
How is female:pressure helping artists more widely?
We offer a set of tools like the database or the mailing list or the FACTS survey and facilitate access to a multitude of people from 85 countries. The hive mind can help you with advice and suggestions when you are not sure about how to navigate a certain situation. This can involve practical information about gear or techniques, finding collaboration partners for artistic projects, encouragement and feedback, or grassroots activism.
For me, female:pressure is a constant source of inspiration, it’s always evolving and I keep learning in so many regards.