On Tuesday, famed British festivals Reading & Leeds dropped their 2020 lineups, and it was dismal—only three of the 18 acts on the main stage feature women. Of the total 91 acts revealed, only 20 are women or include non-male performers. (It should also be mentioned that Reading & Leeds are not part of the 45 international music festivals and conferences who signed the 2018 Keychange initiative vowing to establish and maintain a 50/50 gender balance on their lineups by the year 2022.) Like many music fans upset with the unequal booking, The Guardian’s deputy music editor Laura Snapes criticized Reading & Leeds head Melvin Benn on Twitter for not giving “a shit about representation.”
That led to a back-and-forth with Matty Healy, frontman of the 1975, who pledged that his band will only perform at festivals with gender-balanced lineups. Who knew something good could come from Twitter?
After the interaction, Healy told The Guardian that representation at music festivals is important “because the people that go to them feel more included and more represented. It’s as simple as that. All the best art for me made me feel personally addressed.” He continued, “It’s all about action. When it comes to big sociopolitical issues and governments are involved, sometimes action or protest can just be ignored. But when it comes to the music industry, we can change that. It’s not a geopolitical nightmare: it’s the music industry, and it’s something that if everyone gets on board, we can fix.”
Assuming that Healy sticks to his word and isn’t persuaded by booking agents or the 1975's team to backtrack, maybe this will apply pressure to music festival heads to approach their lineups with more care, consideration, and, you know, humanity. (I’m not so sure the group will, but then again, Healy has something of a storied history of calling out misogyny in music, so perhaps my skepticism should actually be replaced with optimism.) Bookers will have to take note if they want the 1975.