Why Wireless Is Wrong To Overlook Women

Photo by James Bridle.

The under-representation of women in the music industry is something which has been the centre of recent debate. Strong female musicians are constantly fighting for the appreciation they deserve. Just this week, Halsey’s moving poem at the anniversary of the Women’s March in New York sent out a clear message that women should not be overlooked in any aspect of life. Despite this, the release of the Wireless festival line up has illustrated that female artists are still being swept under the rug.

Lilly Allen took to twitter to criticise the festival, creating her own new version of the line-up, which removed all of the male artists. The results were shocking, as just three female artists feature on the list of 39 acts: Mabel on the Friday, Cardi B and Lisa Mercedez on the Sunday, and none on the Saturday. The disappointing representation sadly mirrors last year’s first announcement, where out of the 42 acts announced, just 5 of them were female: Zara Larsson, Noname, Stefflon Don, Yuna and Daniella Thomas in The Age of L.U.N.A Fans; musicians alike have taken to social media to articulate their frustration with the line-up for its lack of diversity.

Photo taken from Lily Allen’s Twitter account.

A common counter-argument floating around is: Perhaps female artists in the R&B and Hip-Hop genre have not had the same relative success experienced by males in 2017.

But it is easy to find a plethora of female artists who would be worthy of a slot at Wireless, and who are all absolutely killing it with their music right now. These include, SZA, Jorja Smith, H.E.R, Kehlani, NAO, Stefflon Don and Ray BLK to name a few. The latter of whom was awarded BBC Music’s Sound of 2017; and was the first unsigned artist to do so. There are women making waves throughout the industry, across all genres, who deserve the recognition and exposure which comes from playing major festivals. The lack of diversity therefore points to a wider problem across festivals, rather than the underachievement or lack of female artists, or a specific festival.

Earlier in January, Halsey took to Twitter to criticise Firefly festival, Delaware, USA. She rightly slammed the festival for not including more female acts on its line-up: “This was one of my favourite festivals I’ve ever played and it’s a shame there’s not more females on the bill. With the exception of (the amazing) SZA, the first like 20 acts on the bill are men. It’s 2018, do better!!!” She spoke about her wishes to play festivals such as Firefly, but articulated that women just aren’t being approached by festivals to play. This, it seems, is experienced by many female artists and from many festivals, not just Wireless.

Halsey is an extraordinary example of a strong woman in the industry. Her incredibly emotive poem at the Women’s March was an inspiring message to all women. “A Story Like Mine” included moving anecdotes of continual sexual assault, and the harrowing experience of her miscarriage in Chicago. What was perhaps most striking about it, was the determination: “There is work to be done, there are songs to be sung, Lord knows there’s a war to be won.” Her rallying cry at the end of the poem is evidence of her positive message, and proves that the continual fight for equality, in all aspects of life, should be respected.

Many positive and influential ambassadors like Halsey are not equally represented in such festival line-ups as Wireless and Firefly. The lack of diversity continues with the popular rock festival Download. The UK version of the festival features a disappointing number of just three female acts on the main stage in this year’s line-up. It’s easy to see a pattern emerging across all genres, which is frustrating because there are so many women, in bands or solo artists, that are working their hardest to gain exposure. Many of them include important and empowering messages that link to the wider goal of equality.

Although there are just three music festivals mentioned here, it is clear that women are being ignored by music festivals. The example set by Wireless is reflected in many genres and festivals across the country and beyond. The strong, passionate, and hard-working female talent in the industry is not being equally represented at the level it should be. Just three female artists does not illustrate the talent which is going on in the R&B and hip-hop genre, in the same way that the lack of diversity in other festivals and other genres is something to be questioned.

It is important that we constantly support female musicisians, and in the future we can hope to see more inclusive festival line-ups.

Some of my favourite female solo artists/bands:

Marmozets, Black Honey, Wolf Alice, Paramore, Fickle Friends, Jorja Smith, Dream Wife, Dua Lipa, Lorde, Halsey, Haim, Honey Blood and Pale Waves.

Also, check out the Girls Against playlist featuring a small selection of the artists we believe are deserving of a slot at Wireless:


Written by Emily Sweeney (@emily_sweeney28 on Twitter).