How diverse are Australian music festivals in 2018/2019?

How diverse are Australian music festivals in 2018/2019?

We take a by-the-numbers look into Australia's biggest music festivals, ranking them on their lineup diversity.

Header photo by Charlie Hardy for Splendour In The Grass 2018.

Last year, we took a look at 16 Australian music festivals - Splendour In The Grass, Laneway, Falls and Groovin' The Moo among them - to determine the representation of females, non-binary people (NB), and people of colour playing their stages. In summary, it wasn't great. On average, your standard Australian festival lineup would include roughly 68% all-male-composed acts, 23% all-female and/or non-binary-composed acts and 9% mix-gendered acts (i.e. acts that featured a combination of both males and females/non binary members), held down by festivals such as Splendour In The Grass, Falls Festival and Field Day - major power-players in the festival world who booked lineups overly dominated by male performers (for each of these festivals, their 2017/2018 billings were over 70% male-composed).

Taking a look at the cultural make-up of Australian festival lineups was much worse. On average, an Australian festival lineup would be dominated by white musicians. 80% of the acts would feature only white members while just 16% of acts would be musicians of colour, predominately international solo hip-hop artists in the vein of Schoolboy Q and Vince Staples. In fact, you would only need two hands to count every Australian musician of colour on the 16 festival lineups - A.B Original, Sampa The Great, Ecca Vandal, Midas. Gold, L-FRESH THE LION, Kinder, Miss Blanks and Kuren.

As a result, we turned to a heap of Australian music and industry figures to determine the best course of action and in summary, there was a lot of work to be done. "I’d like to see bands made up of cis white men demand that they play on more diverse line-ups," said Sad Grrrls Club founder/director and non-binary musician Rachel Maria Cox. "Start hiring event and music directors that are women of colour, people of colour and/or LBGTIQ," said Asian-Australian musician Yeo. Papua New Guinea-born musician Ngaiire advised us to take a "look outside of what the 'industry gods' tell us is marketable" while OKENYO, an LGBT+ woman of colour who has played a fair few festivals over the years, says that our festivals should have to show that "they have boosted opportunities for ethnic minority and socially disadvantaged" musicians.

It's been a year since we took a dive on our festival lineups to assess their diversity, meaning there's been a lot of time for festival promoters and bookers to look at their lineups and work on their gender and cultural diversity for 2018/2019. In this time, the general awareness of our festival diversity problem has improved too, thanks to social accounts such as @lineupswithoutmales and @lineupswithoutwhites who visually remove advantaged musicians from festival posters with striking results, sites including Noisey who have broken down lineups at-release to assess their diversity, and out-spoken musicians such as Camp Cope and Julia Jacklin - who have taken festivals on head-first when it comes to their gender imbalance.

So, has any of this impacted the representation of female/non-binary musicians and musicians of colour on our festival lineups? Let's take a look, combing through the lineups of 28 Australian music festivals lineups over 2018/2019 to determine their gender and cultural representation.

gender breakdown pilerats

Kicking off with the gender imbalance, it's evident that there have been some changes in the past year. For one, 39% of our festival lineups now include acts including females and/or non-binary musicians: 27% only featuring females; 12% featuring both female and male performers - that's a rise from 32% in 2017/2018. Furthermore, there's a more substantial proportion of festivals finding almost perfect balance with their 2018/2019 lineups; Meredith, Fairgrounds and Festival of the Sun actually have more female-featuring acts on their lineups than male-featuring, while FOMO, Shakafest and Golden Plains each have perfect 50/50 balance.

Yours & Owls, Party In The Paddock, Falls Festival and Listen Out should also be applauded for getting significantly close to that perfect balance (each of these festivals boast between 45% - 50% female-featuring acts), while Splendour In The Grass, Big Pineapple, The Hills Are Alive and Spilt Milk squeeze in just above the national average of 39%.

On the other side of the spectrum, Bluesfest's male-dominated lineup features 85% male-only acts - something they've already come under fire for - while first announcements from Origin Fields (who do a lot better in cultural diversity), The Grass Is Greener and UNIFY Gathering have come with billings featuring female-including acts representing under 25% of their lineups. Laneway, Groovin' The Moo, Field Day and Beyond The Valley - all long-time or large-scale Australian music events with significant experience in the festival field - also come in under-average with disheartening gender imbalance on their lineups.

In saying that, however, there's been some decent progress from almost every festival we surveyed last year and again for 2018/2019. The representation for female and non-binary featuring acts increased 23% for FOMO Festival, 20% for Yours & Owls, 19% for Falls Festival and 15% for both Origin Fields and Meredith, the latter statistic showing that even if Origin Fields' lineup is still rather male-dominated when it comes to gender, they're definitely improving from years prior, which is a good sign. In fact, for the 2018/2019 festival season, only three festivals have less female/non-binary representation than the year prior - Beyond The Valley (-1%, which is hardly significant), Groovin' The Moo (-8%) and Laneway Festival (-8%).

(Note: During the writing of this piece, Origin Fields announced more acts for their 2018 lineup, including two women - M.I.A. and Tayla Parx - and Rolling Loud, a major international festival expanding into Australia, made an announcement with 0 women on their first announcement, placing them at the bottom of the rankings.)

cultural breakdown pilerats

Moving into the cultural representation of Australian festival lineups, it's evident that there have also been increases across the board here too. In 2017/2018, your average Australian lineup would feature 80% white musicians, with only 20% of the billing expected to include musicians of colour. For 2018/2019, that number has increased to 27%, with 19% of acts being only musicians of colour and 8% of acts having members from a mixture of cultural backgrounds, leaving a total of 73% white musicians.

Festivals such as FOMO and Listen Out are pushing this average up, with lineups that feature almost (or exactly, when it comes to FOMO) 50% musicians of colour when broken down act-by-act. Festival Of The Sun, Spilt Milk and Golden Plains come slightly over 40%, while Laneway, Origin Fields, Meredith, Shakafest, Falls Festival and Field Day each have more musicians of colour than your average Australian music festival.

Contrastingly, Mountain Sounds hold down the national average with a disappointing 9% of their lineup being musicians of colour - meaning that 91% of their lineup are acts composed solely of white musicians. Of the acts playing UNIFY Gathering and Party In The Paddock, only 15% feature musicians of colour, while Yours & Owls, Fairgrounds, Lost Paradise and This That each sit at under 20% - Splendour and The Big Pineapple festival sitting on that number exactly.

While still reasonably dismal, things are looking up. Of the lineups we compared last year and again this year, every single one has improved when it comes to cultural diversity. This year, Listen Out's lineup includes 28% more musicians of colour than last year, while Origin Fields' more hip-hop-centric billing bumps their standing up 25%. FOMO Festival, Laneway, Meredith, UNIFY Gathering, Falls Festival, Let Them Eat Cake and Yours & Owls have each increased their cultural representation by at least 10% too, suggesting that even though many of them come in under the national average, there's still progress being made.

Furthermore, when breaking down the cultural compositions of our festival lineups in 2017/2018, one of the more remarkable findings we discovered was that the vast majority of the musicians of colour on our festival lineups were actually from overseas - Schoolboy Q and Stormzy notably featuring on multiple lineups across the year. While international hip-hop obviously continues to make up a significant part of our festival lineups - justified, considering how dominative it has been popularity-wise in Australia over the past twelve months - Australian musicians of colour are reasonably well represented, across genres other than hip-hop too. Thandi Phoenix, Miss Blanks, Kwame, Arno Faraji, Genesis Owusu, Kira Puru, Carmouflage Rose, Kinder, Manu Crooks, Remi and Thando are dotted across multiple lineups, along with a few others that prove our local scene's strengthening in comparison to last year's international hip-hop dominance.

So, in summary, how do we stack up when it comes to festival diversity?

Pretty average, but there are changes happening and generally speaking, things are improving. Let's hope this continues when we revisit these festivals next year.


For our analysis of Australian music festivals and their respective diversity, the following line-ups were used: Laneway 2019 (full Australian lineup), Falls 2018/2019 (first announcement), Festival Of The Sun (first announcement), Beyond The Valley (first announcement), UNIFY Gathering (first announcement), Field Day (first announcement), Bluesfest (first announcement), FOMO (full lineup; not including FOMO By Night), Let Them Eat Cake (first announcement), Lost Paradise (first announcement), Meredith (first announcement), Splendour In The Grass (full 2018 lineup excluding triple j Unearthed winners), Fairgrounds (first announcement), Spilt Milk (first announcement, not including Childish Gambino replacements), Groovin' The Moo (full national touring lineup), Listen Out (full lineup excluding triple j Unearthed winners), Big Pineapple (first announcement), Origin Fields (first announcement), Yours & Owls (first announcement), Good Things (first announcement), This That (first announcement, including Sticky Fingers), Snowtunes (full lineup), Hills Are Alive (first announcement), Mountain Sounds (full lineup, including locals), The Grass Is Greener (full lineup), Shakafest (first announcement), Golden Plains (first announcement), Party In The Paddock (first announcement).

The inclusion of female/non-binary musicians and musicians of colour was based upon press shots, biography listings and known, notable touring members using public information only.