Starting in 2013, the FACTS survey was initiated to address and quantify the deficit in equal opportunity and visibility for female artists in the electronic music scene. The result of the 2013 FACTS survey indicated that barely 10% of artists listed in festival line-ups worldwide are female–and opened up an international discussion about the state of women in electronic music. In 2015, we conducted the survey anew. Although the inequities within the industry had become a popular topic of debate since the 2013 edition, the 2015 FACTS survey demonstrated the continued lack of women on music festival line-ups.
While this phenomenon is receiving more media coverage today than ever before, we believe that measuring trends through the FACTS survey is necessary to understand the true state of inequity in the electronic music scene and to hold decision-makers accountable within the industry.
We embarked on FACTS 2017 with the goal of assessing the female-male-mixed [i.e., acts comprised of both male and female artists] gender proportions among artists performing at music festivals in the years 2015, 2016 and the first half of 2017 with a focus on the year 2016. Even though we included many new festivals for this year’s edition, our emphasis remains on the regions of Europe and North America. In gathering data from these years, we aim to assess both time trends from 2012 to 2017 and country specific female-male-mixed gender proportions. With 229 festival editions, it is the most comprehensive FACTS survey yet.
For this year’s FACTS survey, our team asked each one of the included festivals to participate by submitting their own numbers. Twelve of the 133 festivals responded and filled out our data collection form.
In surveying more festivals in more countries than ever before, we may see the extent to which inequity is a systemic issue. Structural sexism perpetuates inequality by creating barriers and disincentives for women, which limits women’s success in the arts to genres and media aligned with the status quo.
Although progress is certainly being made with respect to the visibility of women in the industry since the 2013 FACTS survey, we are reminded that mere coverage or visibility can not substitute for systematic change. Cultural change is indeed happening, as we see overt sexism and prejudices “called out”, but structural change is necessary to truly addressing underrepresentation. As musicologist Elizabeth Keenan argues, solutions must simultaneously address gaps in education and access for female artists.
Our FACTS survey, like the female:pressure network, is the result of grassroots activism–conducted independently from any for-profit organization and without external funding. The 2017 edition of the survey was undertaken by six core volunteers, nicknamed the “Trouble Makers,” with the aid of seventeen helpers.