Girls Rock at Bristol Rhythm ‘18 - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Girls Rock at Bristol Rhythm ‘18

Though I choose to protect the identities of the severely misguided, I have been told – on more than one occasion – that female headliners don’t sell tickets (imagine me rolling my eyes so hard they nearly fall out of their sockets). Really?! I don’t think Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood or Queen Dolly would agree. Adele, Madonna, J-Lo, and Beyoncé may also have something to say about that.

People Magazine online article about Jennifer Lopez's Las Vegas ticket sales of $100 million showing headline and photo of J Lo on stage
BOOM! No need to ask J-Lo why she’s smiling.  From People Magazine. 

The gender gap in the music industry is widely known and bitterly criticized, and music festivals are now facing the same scrutiny. I recently ran across Book More Women on Twitter and Instagram. Book More Women takes lineup posters of big music festivals, digitally edits out all the bands that don’t have women in them, and re-posts the results to show what festivals look like without men. The results are pretty shocking. It’s so bad that some major festivals wouldn’t have a lineup at all if male acts were left out of the equation. According to Book More Women: “In 2017, only 26% of acts playing US music festivals featured at least 1 woman or non-binary musician.” Wow. Just. Wow.

I am proud to report that out of the 144 acts that performed at Bristol Rhythm 2018, 60% of them were bands led by women or acts that included female musicians. We’ve seen great success with headliners like Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, and The Indigo Girls in the past, and I personally hope to see more females of that stature in the upper tier of our lineup every year.

The Bristol Rhythm 2018 rack card showing all the female artists or bands with female members.
We gave ourselves the “Book More Women” treatment with Bristol Rhythm’s 2018 lineup, only including acts led by women or bands that included female musicians. © Birthplace of Country Music

In addition, Bristol Rhythm offered more diversity in the lineup this year than we have likely ever seen before – something I think our music committee should, and will, continue to work on. After all, there are scores of incredible artists out there – and we have 20 stages just waiting to be filled.

Five photographs of female artists on stage performing at Bristol Rhythm 2018.
Just a few of the amazing ladies who rocked Bristol Rhythm 2018! Seen here are Kia Warren of Revel in Dimes, Sierra Hull, Lilly Hiatt, Alison Russell of Birds of Chicago, and Tanya Trotter of The War & Treaty. First four photographs © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Earl Neikirk; last photograph courtesy of Charlene Baker

It’s sad to me that we live in a world where categories and labels seem to divide and define us. Good music is good music, no matter who’s making it. I often wonder, why do we feel the need to classify our music, ourselves and others? Music generally brings people together, right?

Philosophy aside, I’ve created a Spotify playlist of some of the amazing ladies who graced our stages at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion 2018. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

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