A Music Festival in Iceland Somehow Managed to Book a Lineup That's 50 Percent Women


In February, the heads of 109 music festivals and conferences promised to develop and maintain a 50/50 gender balance on their lineups by 2022. Why would this take four years to realize? Good question. There’s one festival that’s ahead of the curve, though: Iceland Airwaves, which will feature a lineup of 50 percent women.

The New York Times describes the festival, which takes place from November 7-10, as “the country’s answer to South by Southwest.” Will Larnach-Jones, Iceland Airwaves’ head of operations, told the Times it was easy to book, because, it turns out, women musicians are great. “We still have another round of acts to announce, but we’ll be over 50 percent,” he said. “It was almost back to front. We looked at people we really liked, and then in meetings said, ‘Do we have enough?’ Happily we always did. That shows you don’t have to try hard—there’s so many inspiring women around.”

Before you get too excited, the Times also spoke to Alexander Schulz, director of Germany’s Reeperbahn festival, and gathered this choice observation:

“There is a great deal of restraint against booking as many female acts as male acts. Even female bookers tell me that they are frightened of an economic failure for their festival if they would do so, because popular and well-selling acts out there in the market are mainly male…The reasons for excuses are getting shorter year by year.”

Hmm. It does, however, seem like European music festivals on the whole might try to do better—Sweden’s Statement festival claims to be “the world’s first major music festival completely free from cis men,” an event created after a slew of sexual assaults at Swedish festivals.

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