Welcome to Gender Trouble, where we break down the diversity of Australia's major festival lineups. Maths is hard, and we're here to help you keep track of who's representing marginalised communities this festival season.
We're approaching the middle of winter right now, and the only festival that's really any time soon is Splendour in the Grass, which boasts Kendrick Lamar, Lorde and Vampire Weekend on its lineup. But if you're not going all the way to Byron in the middle of winter––and, honestly, who can blame you––then you'll have to wait for later in the year, when things start warming up and more festivals begin to open their gates to punters.
First off the bat every year is Listen Out, the dance music and hip-hop festival that travels around the country every September and October. This year, the lineup includes Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky, boyband Brockhampton and Chicago rapper Noname, among a bunch of big-name EDM producers and DJs. But anyway, you already know that. We're here for one thing and one thing only––to work out how many women, non-binary people and people of colour are represented on this lineup––so let's get into it.
Performer-by-Performer Gender Breakdown
This year's Listen Out festival has 21 artists on the bill, totalling 45 performers. If that number seems low, consider that last year's lineup only featured 27 total performers; around a third of that 45 is just Brockhampton members. Because Listen Out mostly books rappers and DJs, the total headcount is pretty low.
Of those 45 performers, 33 are male, 11 are female and one is non-binary. In other words, 26.6% of this year's performers aren't male, while 73.4% are. That's a slight step back for Listen Out, who were tracking at about 59% male/41% female overall last year, with 16 male performers and 11 female performers. Compared to, say, Splendour––Australia's biggest festival and one that should probably be treated as an industry standard for where we're at in terms of lineup diversity––this is about par for the course. Again, though, you have to account for Brockhampton; their sheer mass means that they make a big dent in the festival's overall numbers, and without them, the split would be closer to 63% male/37% non-male. (That's easily seen when comparing the Performer-by-Performer breakdown to the Artist-by-Artist breakdown, further down in this piece.)
Artist-by-Artist Gender Breakdown
The Artist-by-Artist Gender Breakdown looks very different to the Performer-by-Performer breakdown, because it accounts for how many acts include at least one non-male, compared to how many acts are entirely comprised of men. While this metric is one that a lot of people naturally gravitate to (it makes stats look kinder overall) there is an element of smoke and mirrors at play; a festival with a 50/50 split on the overall artist breakdown could still only feature 10 women and 70 men, for example.
Listen Out's Artist-by-Artist gender breakdown shows a pretty good split––around 47.6% acts with at least one non-man, compared to 52.4% all-male or male solo acts. As noted above, this is probably due to the fact that Brockhampton includes so many members. Based on numbers found in Hack's annual festival lineup gender breakdown, this is around a 10% increase on 2017's numbers, a very significant jump. In fact, Listen Out has something of a track record for increasing on previous diversity efforts: in 2015, only 9% of their lineup included artists that featured non-male performers; that jumped to 35% the next year, and 37% the year after that.
Performer-by-Performer Cultural Diversity Breakdown
What's that? An Australian music festival... booked a lot of people of colour? Am I dreaming? No, I'm not! Look at these numbers! I had to pinch myself many, many times (and go over the numbers many many times) but Listen Out 2018 features 29 performers of colour and 16 white performers, giving a breakdown of around 64.4% artists of colour and 35.6% white. This is basically unheard of for a major festival––even Listen Out 2017 only managed 9 performers of colour, giving a breakdown of 33% PoC/67% white––and while, again, a lot of that number can be put down to Brockhampton, the numbers are still good without them: it'd be a 50/50 split even if the 13-member boyband dropped out of the festival, which is still a literally unheard of (I keep saying 'unheard of' because it's unheard of!) number for a major festival, and especially a touring festival. Compare this to Splendour, who had around 12.2% artists of colour on their lineup.
Artist-by-Artist Cultural Diversity Breakdown
When broken down artist-by-artist, around 47.6% of the lineup is an act featuring at least one person of colour, while 52.4% is all-white groups or solo artists. This is still a vast improvement on 2017, which only had six PoC-featuring artists, or 27% of the overall lineup.
What Does It All Mean?
It means that, well, Listen Out's actually done a really good job of representation this year. One of the festivals that consistently improves on its lineup diversity, Listen Out 2018 promises broad representation of people of colour and women, something that a lot of festivals seem to find quite hard. Obviously there are still things that could be improved upon––booking more women and women of colour, for example––but realistically, Listen Out is head-and-shoulders ahead of its competitors, something they should be congratulated on. Isn't it fun to not complain about something for once?
Notes on methodology: Musicians such as A$AP Rocky and Skepta, who are solo artists but perform with a DJ, were counted as solo artists for the sake of this piece. Best efforts were made to properly account for all genders represented on the Listen Out 2018 lineup.
Shaad D'Souza is Noisey's Australian Editor. Follow him on Twitter.