wo people, one goal: why musician Kat Frankie and Alexander Schulz, General Manager of the Reeperbahn Festival, champion more gender equality in music – and how they deal with resistance.
Reeperbahn Festival: Kat, you cancelled being the host at a festival in 2016 because you were the only woman in the lineup. Now you’re engaged with Keychange, aiming to increase the share of women at festivals to 50 percent. Why is this issue so important to you?
Kat Frankie: For two reasons: female musicians need better access to jobs. In many cases, they’re not offered work at festivals. So they earn no money, can’t continue their careers. The second reason: a lot of festivals say: “We can’t find any women, it’s desperately difficult!” My answer to that: You just have to do more.
Alexander Schulz: The core idea of Keychange is to increase the number of female musicians and women in the music business. There are also completely egoistic and pragmatic reasons for ensuring equality: music as a whole would improve.
A lot of festivals say: “We can’t find any women, it’s desperately difficult!” My answer to that: You just have to do more.
Reeperbahn Festival: Why?
AS: Because women and men are born into this world with the same musical talent. If that message doesn’t get to the very top, not in business, not with the recipients, then something is being artificially swept under the carpet.
Reeperbahn Festival: Critics say: gender shouldn’t be the deciding factor, it should be quality.
AS: But there’s far more of a chance that a man will be booked for a festival.
KF: ... and the more shows they play, the better they get and the more they earn. Then eventually men reach the point where they’re successful, supported by male-dominated structures. If we distributed the resources more fairly, a lot of female bands would profit. There’s a very simple way: give female musicians work and pay them decently!
Reeperbahn Festival: So who’s to blame for the fact that so few female musicals play festivals? The bookers, who’re mostly men?
KF: I don’t think you can just hand them alone the blame. It’s often an unconscious bias. Often, they don’t think about it at all.
AS: A female booker from the UK once told me that the market is so strongly dominated by men that she risks the financial success of her festival if she books women as headliners for a major event.
KF: For the first five names on the festival poster, okay – the bookers maybe have to put up the big names. But funnily enough, you often find bands consisting of four guy rockers with guitars as the print gets smaller and smaller. Why are there so few women even at that stage?
Reeperbahn Festival: What festivals are role models?
AS: “Way Out West” in Gothenburg is pretty far advanced. The last time, in August 2017, they had a 60 percent share of women among the headliners. Their top booker is female as well.
Reeperbahn Festival: 26 percent – the rate of women who played big festivals in England in 2017 is that low. What’s it like at the Reeperbahn Festival?
AS: We’ve got to get even better! In 2017, we had 38 percent of women in the concert programme. 42 percent of the conference speakers were women. If we keep up the momentum, we’re not that far from our goal: 50 percent.
KF: I would like to see even more bands with female bass players and female drummers. They’re the role models that encourage young girls to learn an instrument. I have faith in the idea “If you can see it, you can be it”. When I was young I thought, Ani DiFranco is the coolest!
I have faith in the idea “If you can see it, you can be it”. When I was young I thought, Ani DiFranco is the coolest!
Reeperbahn Festival: How does your environment react to what you’re doing?
KF: A lot of male colleagues are fairly lukewarm about Keychange (laughs). They think it’s no concern of theirs and if it is, then more in the negative sense, in other words: they’d get fewer jobs. However, there are of course people like Clueso and Olli Schulz as well, who see things differently.
AS: People still keep the idea very much at a distance.
KF: A lot don’t want to take the trouble to change anything.
AS: But I’m optimistic that we can change something on the artists’ side within a generation. It’s different on the impresarios’ side – that will take even longer.