Is Gender Bias at Music Festivals Detrimental to Profits?

A thought provoking commentary on how gender bias may be detrimental to your music festival's profitability. This is not to suggest that an established festival should change its format to be a so-called "festival for women." At issue is making the men-to-women ratio less disparate through event policies, marketing and the overall purchase experience as seen in the festival ticketing software.poster announcing an upcoming music festival

Are Music Festivals Really A Man's World?

On strictly business level, operators may be missing out on higher profits by unwittingly allowing gender bias to manifest itself at their music festivals. A review of event policies, as well as ticket and concession sales, may show that an effort is needed to make the men-to-women ratio less disparate.

Last week, Angelica Leicht wrote Music Festivals Remain a Man's, Man's, Man's World a rather scathing indictment of gender bias at the recent Free Press Summer Music Festival (FPSF). The triple redundancy in the title infers not only a male gender bias in the performers booked, but of the audience in attendance and the overall nature of the experience.

Leicht doesn't mince words, to the reader's delight, when she describes her subjective experience at FPSF:

It's not just the quantity of female performers, but the type of female performer, booked at FPSF and other big festivals, that makes me wonder if the guys booking these dude-centric events still just don't get it. It's not enough to just throw some females on your lineup to quell the whining about equality and call it a day...Before you say I'm grasping at straws, let's look at the realities of the rest of the musicians on that lineup. The guys -- whether they be short, fat, old, bald, or totally goblin-like -- were all booked on their musical validity.

In her critic of FPSF's booking gender bias, Leicht also cites the fact that both ACL and Coachella have predominantly, if not exclusively, all male headlining acts. It is Leicht's opinion that these booking practices operate on the false pretense that there are no female musical acts other than "sexed-up dolls" to use her words. This suggests that gender bias in bookings may equate to gender bias in the ratio of men to women ratio in attendance at the event. But before allowing the skewed booking practices to become a 'correlation does not imply causation' argument, Leicht tempers her position, speaking directly to music festival operators:

It's not about finding a perfect 50/50 ratio. It should be about the musicality of the festival first and foremost...festivals like FSPF [are] reinforcing the wrong-headed stereotype that women can't play music with the big boys.

Ms. Leicht is not the only person calling for a review of potential gender bias at music festivals. An organization called female:pressure, a network of women working in the music industry, is calling for increased female representation at electronic music festivals. Citing many of the same issues that Angelica Leicht wrote of, female:pressure points to gender bias at music events being detrimental - both sociologically and fiscally - to the live event industry.

We have looked into statistics regarding festival line-ups, record label releases and the appearance of women in several top 100 lists. Nowadays, a 10% proportion of female artists can be considered above average. We feel it is unacceptable in the 21st century that we can still end up being the only woman performing at a large festival.

Banking on "what works" is a common response from operators who are under pressure to generate revenue and cover ever increasing overhead costs. However those business conditions (profitability and recuperating costs) exist in all industries, far removed from the music festival industry.

Most notably, back in the early 1990s NASCAR found its profits flat. At that time, NASCAR reviewed its event policies, marketing practices and gate receipts to see what could be changed in order to make more money at each race. There was a realization that the gender bias of the races was keeping women disinterested, and thus not in attendance or watching on TV.

After making changes to event policy, marketing practices as well as widening the types of sponsors, the current version of NASCAR now has an audience that is 42% women - as well as record profit levels, second only to those seen by professional football.

Women Spend More Money

If music festival operators are to take an objective look at their event policies, the same way NASCAR did, in order to realize higher profits, a good first step is to accumulate objective data.

Last year, The Economist looked at a study published by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business on the way in which women earn and spend money. Even though the Economist's particular focus was on women breaking through the corporate world's "glass ceiling", the Booth School of Business data is highly relevant in the context of detecting gender bias and its effects on profits.

Women make consumer purchases less frequently than men, but the purchases made are for a higher dollar amount. Be it tangible goods, or event the tickets, the data shows that the higher dollar purchase offset the lower frequency, and in some cases like entertainment, women's purchases exceed men's. Something to consider when booking the line-up for your next festival.

When reviewing past ticket sales data should festival operators see a disproportionate number of men (ratio of 5:1 to 20:1) that should be considered gender bias, however unintentional it may have been. Using the NASCAR results, and founded on the Booth data, there be several adjustments that can be made to the festival's booking practices, marketing methods and event concessions that will lessen gender bias - and thus increase profits.

ThunderTix Music Festival Ticketing Software

Sell Products With TicketsWhat if instead of only selling domestic beer at your festival, you also offered a more upscale wine? How can you find out if such a change in the concessions at your music festival will equate to higher profits? One option is to use festival ticketing software that features custom surveys.

The ThunderTix plan for music festivals has the ability to for you to asks questions to your buyers about their personal tastes with custom surveys. You can also ask ticket buyers to state their preference in concessions to help you order just the right amount of food and drink, or souvenir items, keeping waste to minimum.

A speaking of souvenir items, our new Products feature let's you sell lucrative, high mark-up items right along side tickets, and all that extra revenue is deposited nightly, well ahead of the event date. When combined with our no-per ticket fees, ThunderTix online ticketing software can help your music festival achieve profitability faster than ever before.

Interested in making the switch to ThunderTix?  Be sure to take a look at our other features and sign up for a free trial today!