When the Spring Fling lineup featuring Flo Rida, Cheat Codes and Charlie Curtis-Beard was announced earlier this month, one thing was notably lacking: women.
The underrepresentation of women and nonbinary artists is not atypical in the music industry. Across the globe, music festivals feature unequal gender representation. A 2017 report from the Women’s Media Center found women were systemically underrepresented in U.S. music festivals.
The organization #BookMoreWomen has documented gender representation at music festivals and advocated for increased representation of women and nonbinary performers in lineups since its founding in 2018. According to #BookMoreWomen’s 2022 report, women and nonbinary individuals made up only 39.8% of performers in the nation’s eight largest multi-genre music festivals. This is a 46% increase from the same festivals’ 2018 lineups.
But women and nonbinary individuals — who make up roughly 50% of the nation’s population and festival attendees — were only featured in 25% of headlining acts in 2022.
Women and gender minorities face additional difficulties within the broader music industry: ranging from the underrepresentation of women and nonbinary people in music production roles, the lack of nonbinary performers in the Billboard charts, and gendered award categories.
Tufts can play a role in the broader effort to reduce gender inequality in the music industry by booking women and nonbinary performers for Spring Fling. In fact, it has done so in the past.
In 2015, students circulated a petition calling on the Tufts University Social Collective’s Concert Board to book a female headliner after 20 years without a woman gracing the stage. The Daily wrote an editorial endorsing the petition and calling on TUSC’s Concert Board to book a female headliner and encourage gender diversity moving forward.
The Concert Board listened, seeking out an all-female lineup — landing on Kesha, Lion Babe and MisterWives. According to that year’s Concert Board Co-Chair Matt Marber, this was intentional. The Board “set out from the beginning, not just to have a female headliner, but … [a] powerhouse female lineup,” Marber said.
Since the “powerhouse female lineup” of 2015, Tufts has continued to bring women to center stage. These include Kim Schifino of Matt and Kim in 2016; Tinashe in 2017, who headlined when T-Pain canceled his appearance due to personal obligations; Dutch ReBelle and Princess Nokia in 2018; Rico Nasty and Marcelo Cruz in 2019; and, of course, Bia and Ella Jane last year.
But this year, we have reverted to the ways of the past.
We recognize that multiple factors go into booking talent for Spring Fling — including student demand and the price of talent. But as Tufts has proven in the past, and our peer institutions have confirmed in their lineups for this year, booking women and gender minorities can be done.
The majority of performances at Brown’s Spring Weekend this year are women, with Remi Wolf, Alice Longyu Gao, Ethel Cain, 070 Shake and Doechii joined by rapper JID. Hayden Anhedönia, whose stage name is Ethel Cain, is a transgender woman whose debut album “Preacher’s Daughter” (2022) explores queer and trans identity in a deeply religious, Southern, evangelical family through the story of the fictional character of Ethel Cain. In this form, Cain brings her gender identity to Brown’s center stage through her performance of one of the most innovative concept albums of 2022.
As Tufts has shown in the past, and as Brown has done this year, it is possible to have a Spring Fling lineup that features gender diversity, but doing so requires prioritizing booking women and nonbinary performers.
We, as a Board, are excited for this year’s lineup and thank TUSC and the Concert Board for their efforts. But moving forward, we implore TUSC to prioritize crafting lineups that are gender inclusive, doing their part to not only ensure representation for over half of the Tufts community, but also to help combat gender inequality in music festivals and the broader music industry.