Festival Republic launch drive to address music industry's gender imbalance

Reading and Leeds festival
Reading and Leeds festival

The organisers of Reading and Leeds festivals have launched a new campaign aiming to address the gender imbalance at UK festivals and the wider music industry.

ReBalance will offer female-led bands and solo artists professional advice and training as well as an opportunity to perform at some of the UK's biggest festivals.

Launched by Live Nation-owned company Festival Republic, successful candidates will receive studio time and mentor access in an effort to strengthen the talent pipeline for female artists.

It comes months after research by the Press Association found the UK's top music festivals are consistently failing to book headline acts that reflect the diversity of the UK music scene.

Festival Republic, who organise Download, Reading and Leeds and a host of other festivals, have faced heavy criticism in recent years over male-dominated line-ups.

Last year almost one in three of the top-selling artists in the UK were women. At the same time, fewer than one in 10 headline slots were filled by exclusively female artists at 10 of the UK's biggest festivals.

The campaign, based in Leeds, is supported by the PRS Foundation and its Women Make Music programme and will offer different female artists or bands one week's studio recording time each month throughout 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Festival Republic managing director, Melvin Benn, called the lack of gender equality "astonishing" adding it is a "wider issue that involves us".

He said: "I have decided to be proactive in changing and working towards this no longer being an issue in the future, and that's what this project is about.

Mr Benn added that "mainstream pop doesn't seem to but the festival environment caters for all genres, hence this being a wider problem."

At the end of each year, Festival Republic and Live Nation will hand successful acts a slot at one of their events and are also offering studio apprenticeships to women who want to work in engineering or production.

Artists will be chosen by an expert selection panel which includes frontwoman from indie-pop group Fickle Friends, Natti Shiner, who described the industry as "hardwired towards men".

She said: "Even the fact that people often feel they have to refer to our band as being "female-fronted" feels wrong (who ever referred to Arctic Monkeys as a "male-fronted" band?!).

"This imbalance is probably most obvious in the live world. Just looking at the majority of festival line ups will show you just how underrepresented women are, something that's highlighted time and time again in the media."