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Division of diversity

On the discussion of equality within the industry, Access chats to the people who know first hand how this should be tackled

Paul Reed


“I’m confident that the industry has the power to work collectively to break down barriers”

It’s important to acknowledge that diversity is already 
a conversation across the industry, where there are already
 various initiatives. In fact, UK music has an industry wide task force dedicated to looking at such issues.

Looking at the music industry itself, they ran a survey which that found BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) representation in the workforce is 15.6 per cent, which is higher than the figure for the UK population (12.8 per cent).

The overall split of men to women (53.6 per cent to 45.3 per cent) in the music industry showed women are slightly underrepresented in comparison with the UK population (49.3 per cent to 50.7 per cent.)

There is clearly still work to be done.

I’m confident that the industry has the power to work collectively to break down barriers that still exist. We, as an industry, can’t progress without being mindful of diversity and quotas to an extent. However, this isn’t about ticking boxes, but ensuring that the widest range of artists possible are being offered opportunities.

As a promoter, you are ultimately at the mercy of various market forces, audience expectations and available artists and it can be a difficult challenge.

From my personal perspective as someone from AIF, independent festivals are great incubators of emerging talent, for some of our smaller members it is over 85 per cent of the lineup. For even for a large-scale festival like Bestival, it is 35 per cent emerging artists.

Our members aren’t reliant on that increasingly diminished pool of major headliners which let’s face it, are predominantly white and male.


Chris Smith


“WOMAD has had a positive impact on diversity at other festivals”

This topic all depends on which aspect of the industry you’re involved in. The programming of WOMAD is by definition culturally diverse and that has never changed. 
From my observation, the lineup of WOMAD has had positive impact on diversity. Even when it comes to other festivals, as artists previously seldom seen in the UK at event other than WOMAD can now be found across the spectrum, performing at a number of different shows within the festival scene.

For example it is great to see Boomtown Fair programming a number of artists who have previously played at WOMAD Festival.

However, when a recent study found most headline acts to
be all male, it hit the industry as a whole. But again, this is a generalisation for the whole music industry. This is not just the festival industry’s problem to fix it, but more of a problem for the entire music industry to face head on.

Whilst evidence would suggest that ‘mainstream’ festivals have a predominance of male headliners, this is not necessarily reflective of the whole industry. Here at WOMAD, we do not take gender into consideration when programming its festivals and is much more interested in the cultural mix and to ensure there is global balance in the programme.

In the WOMAD spectrum, gender is not an issue unless there is active discrimination against women or men. In a particular culture, we might explore programming female artists from that region and we have done so successfully in the past.

Perhaps this could start developing artists on the basis of artistic ability and musicianship, rather than a perceived audience demand based on an inaccurate demographic analysis posted around the internet.

Maybe it is this that is reducing choices and effecting audiences at festivals and events.