Weaving the Festival Fabric: Meet Book More Women

In an industry where the spotlight often falls disproportionately on the male artist, Book More Women emerges as an instigator of change, challenging the entrenched gender imbalances that pervade music festivals worldwide. Founded in March 2018, initially on Twitter and later expanding to Instagram, this grassroots movement has meticulously curated over 375 festival lineups, igniting crucial conversations and driving tangible progress towards inclusivity and representation.

At the heart of Book More Women’s mission lies a commitment to visualizing the stark reality of gender disparity in festival lineups. By meticulously dissecting each roster, the initiative provides a compelling visual representation of the problem while fostering dialogue and accountability within the industry. Every band, group, or solo artist featuring at least one woman or nonbinary musician as an “official” permanent member earns their rightful place on the poster, underscoring the importance of diverse talent representation.

Crucially, Book More Women does not rest on the laurels of mere observation. The initiative actively tracks progress, setting ambitious goals to reshape the landscape of future festival lineups and beyond. Through rigorous data analysis and transparency, each individual “official” musician is categorized into distinct groups: women, nonbinary, and men. By sharing these percentages on social media platforms, Book More Women ensures accountability and fosters a culture of inclusivity rooted in respect for diverse gender identities.

Central to the ethos of Book More Women is the recognition of gender identity. Trans women are unequivocally celebrated as women, trans men as men, and nonbinary individuals as nonbinary, irrespective of assigned gender at birth. Assumptions are rigorously avoided reinforcing the commitment to respecting and affirming the identities of all musicians.

The evolution of Book More Women reflects a dynamic approach to progress. While legacy data, based on pre-2023 methodologies, offers insight into historical trends, the initative has adapted its metrics to reflect changing standards of inclusivity. With a keen eye on the future, Book More Women continues to push boundaries, advocating for systematic change within the music industry.

As the cultural landscape evolves, Book More Women stands as a testament to the power of grassroots activism in driving meaningful change. With each lineup scrutinized, conversation sparked, and progress tracked, the initiative paves the way for a more equitable and divers musical landscape, where talent knows no gender boundaries.

We had the opportunity to ask the genius behind Book More Women a few fun questions on behalf of their personal festival experience:

How long have you been around and what inspired you to start BMW?

I was inspired to start Book More Women because of conversations (and arguments) I had on social media after the 2018 Firefly lineup was released. So it will actually be 6 years next week! I had gone to Firefly previously and really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to the lineup. When it came out, there was only 1 woman in the first 23 billed acts. I remembered the viral Reading/Leeds edited poster from a few years prior and thought that was such an effective way to actually illustrate and show the imbalance. The hope was that if I could present a bunch of lineups together in this way to show that the problem isn’t just one festival, company, region, or genre it might inspire some of those same conversations I was having on social media to happen in more of the places where decisions are being made.

What do you hope for the future of music on the basis of what BMW strives to accomplish?

I hope to become completely irrelevant! I hope women, nonbinary and trans folks, and people of color feel comfortable in, and are given the tools needed to thrive in any music spaces they want to pursue. I hope roles like producer, engineer, A&R, and executive become much more accessible to anyone, and more value given to new and different views and ideas. I hope these and any other barriers to entry and success disappear, resulting in a music industry that reflects the community at large. I hope then, that rosters of labels and agencies naturally follow and that festivals become even more vibrant, inclusive community gatherings without much of a conscious effort needed to be given to diversity.

What is your favorite festival and why?

My favorite festival is Newport Folk Festival. The sense of community on and off stage is unlike anywhere else. Especially in the last decade, they have presented a more diverse and inclusive definition of the word and genre “folk” to welcome artists of wider sounds and backgrounds into the fold. And given that tickets are sold out before a single artist is announced, the audience tends to be one that is open to the new and unexpected. The highlight though, is the collaborative spirit of the artists. The weekend is always filled with tribute sets, surprise guests, and artists hopping on and off stage to sing with old friends or new. Dolly Parton, Chaka Khan, John Prine, Joni Mitchell, a Jon Batiste/Chris Thile piano/mandolin duel, Animal drumming for My Morning Jacket… Every year I have attended I’ve seen something I never thought I’d get to see, and something that could only ever happen in that magical place.

What is one of your favorite case stories of a festival lineup’s progression in inclusivity?

It has been great to watch Outside Lands, because they actually increased their representation every single year since 2018. Starting at 28% (% of groups with at least 1 woman or nonbinary musician) and consistently improving each year until hitting 51% in 2023, they have answered the call of “do better,” which was all I have been asking since the beginning. Last year, they introduced a dance club celebrating the queer and trans communities and the DIY spaces that are vital to San Francisco nightlife and culture.

What is something important that music lovers should know to continue thriving in the festival community?

Just keep going to see live music! Some have asked if I am suggesting to boycott festivals that aren’t doing the most for diversity, and that could not be further from the truth. If a festival is interesting to you, you should absolutely go! Music in communion is one of the most profound experiences; it’s why I love music festivals and why I want them to do better. To show support to the artists of underrepresented communities at festivals, check out the lineup beforehand, listen to the smaller acts, and get there early to see them! Be open to different sounds and unafraid to step out of your comfort zone.

Check out Book More Women on their website and Instagram

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