This Icelandic Music Festival Proves A Gender-Equal Lineup Is Possible

Photo: Adela Loconte/REX/Shutterstock.
Are you so tired of music festivals that are heavy on the dude factor? Could your summer music fest experience use a lot more women on the stage? Iceland Airwaves, a festival in Reykjavík, Iceland, is quietly fighting back against male-dominated lineups, proving that it’s possible to book a fest that treats women like half of the population — and putting a questioning glare on lineups that skimp on equality. Sena, who owns Iceland Airwaves, recently made headlines when they booked a lineup of 50% women, and there are still more acts left to announce.
Iceland Airwaves’s objectively awesome lineup includes such stellar musicians as Fever Ray, Natalie Prass, Nadine Shah, and Stella Donnelly. It takes place November 7-10, when the Icelandic sun rises at 9:30 a.m. and sets before 5 p.m. It’s one of many festivals that signed onto a worldwide Keychange accord to book lineups that are gender-equal by 2022, reports the New York Times, but Icelandic Airwaves is the first one to actually make it happen now. After all, women are half of the population, so why wait to correct this inequality?
Other festivals that signed the accord include the NYC Winter Jazzfest, MUTEK in Canada, and the BBC Music Introducing Stages in the UK. Most, if not all, of the most lauded festivals in the world — like Lollapalooza and Glastonbury — are notably absent from the accord. Iceland Airwaves may not have not worldwide fame of some of these larger festivals, but that’s exactly why their achievement is noticeable. Without the budget of a Coachella-sized fest, they’ve managed to scour the planet, and their home country, for outstanding female talent.
And that hard work has paid off. Music fans are so eager to enjoy a properly egalitarian lineup in a beautiful, darkened country, that VIP packages have already sold out. Large fests, take note: women make great music, and music fans will pay to see them perform.
What does this mean for beloved American music festivals? It means that the pressure is on to book fests that accurately capture the folks making music, and those listening to it. Women have always been in music, and have always created it, but have been excluded from greater markets for a long time. Beyoncé at Coachella was fantastic, but we’ve love to more women and non-gender conforming artists on all the stages. Iceland Airwaves proves that it can happen — it’s now up to everyone else to meet this new standard.

More from Music

R29 Original Series