Monday, 3 July 2017

Return of fever

Following on from the BBC's report on the gender gap at music festivals, and related trends over the past ten years, I've found myself returning to the issue again.

Having had my own response to the report, and to the World Service's coverage of the report, published on The F-Word last week, I've been thinking of ways that I can promote some of the women I mentioned at the very end of my piece.

As I was coming to the end of the piece, I was starting to think about the kind of festival that I would pay to attend. Who would it be comprised of? I used Florence Welch's answer to the 'Which women would you like to see headlining Glastonbury?' question when she was asked it in 2016 as my starting point, as I liked her choices. I then started to think, seriously, about who I would want to see and how I would arrange the bills.

The upshot of this is that I have made lists of 7 possible festival bills that I would happily pay to go and see. These are small bills, 7 or 8 artists a time, for a fictional one day festival that I would call The Fever Festival. I've arranged the bills in terms of smaller, newer artists towards the bottom of the bill, emerging and semi established artists in the middle, and established artists headlining and taking the 2nd, 3rd and (in some cases) 4th place on the bill.

I've tried to mix it up musically, and in terms of age, ethnicity and sexuality. I didn't get very far with being disabled friendly though, and I think the invisibility of disabled artists within the music industry is something that needs tackling on a wider scale anyway, and at this stage, it would be hard to tackle it in any meaningful way by an exercise as frivolous as this.

Needless to say, all of the artists I've included on my fictional festival bills are artists I'd happily pay to see live.

Of the 7 actual headliners I've picked, only 1 of them (and regular readers will be able to guess straight away which one) has headlined a festival in the last 10 years. Given some of the choices I've made, this might surprise you as, in slight deference to the prevalence of what the BBC report describes as 'Heritage acts', I have included two headliners who would fall into that category. This was consciously done, not because I think festivals should be always headlined by artists in their sixties and older, but because I wanted to play the promoters at their own game and also would love to see the two artists in question headline festivals in their own right, having both been second on the bill to male acts over the past couple of years.

Of the other four headliners, I would say that one is very established artist who has been around for nearly thirty years and has played at many festivals, several times, without being offered a headline slot, one is a young singer who is very big in the pop world but not in the festival world, one created a big splash with her debut English language album last year and played some festivals, was not high up the bill, but would do justice to a headline slot, and the third one is an established but not best selling artist who has recently launched a solo career, has never made it to the main stage of a festival, but is an electrifying performer who would be more than up to the job of headlining a festival.

These are, of course, personal choices and readers will no doubt be able to create their own versions of their own fantasy festival bill, just as I have.

I'm going to post a series of live clips between now and the end of August of all the 53 performers I identified in my piece as being festival and/or headliner material. Ideally, I would be posting well filmed clips of the artists playing at festivals, as many of them have put the hours in at innumerable festivals. Unfortunately, this hasn't always been possible because, while many of them have played festivals, their performances either weren't filmed or were filmed badly and, as such, aren't useable. The way I've approached this problem is to use the following criteria;

1) Is there a clip of the artist performing at a festival and is it of useable quality?

2) If not, is there a clip of the artist playing a live gig to an audience, and is it useable?

3) If not, is there a clip of the artist playing a live session somewhere, ideally in almost gig conditions, and is it useable?

4) If not, is there a promo video available, ideally showing the artist simulating a live performance?

Of all the 53 artists I'm including, there was only one where I had to use option 4, and that was because the artist in question is so new that there's very little beyond promo videos available online.

Festival number 1 starts this Friday, and I will be posting a mock poster of the 'bill' later this week, along with an overview of my choices ahead of Friday. In terms of the videos I'll be posting, it would have been possible in a number of a cases to post full, good quality, festival sets in their entirety but I've chosen not to do so because it would widen the gap between my headliners and artists located further down the bill. Where I'm aware of a good quality full set being available online, I'll endeavour to signpost you to it in the blog posts that accompany each video.

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