Americans love catching live entertainment. In fact, Nielsen reports that 52 percent of the U.S. population attends live music events each year. Live music events, including music festivals, bring together some of the leading names in the music industry and also provide a platform to launch new creative projects of those artists making their entry into the music scene. But who are more than half of the U.S. population dancing to at these festivals?
Looking at past year artist lineups for some of the most well-known music festivals, only a quarter of artists booked in some of the biggest festivals were female or groups with at least one female member. However, while these numbers may be surprising, it’s not to say progress isn’t being made. In 2017, female artist bookings represented only 14 percent of lineups, while in 2018 the number rose to 19 percent.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, women make up more than half of the country’s population and are 47 percent of the country’s total workforce, yet it’s well known that they’re underrepresented in high-visible roles throughout various areas of society ranging from behind the office desks to the DJ decks—and everything in between. Doing a simple Google search for the top artists in 2018, of the top 10 only one was a woman. Looking at festival lineups, the divide remains. So, why do female artists still lag behind in the music industry given their majority presence in society?
Some artists, like Swedish electronic singer Lykke Li, are taking matters into their own hands. The performer has organized a brand-new festival called Yola Día, which is happening on Sunday, Aug. 18 at Los Angeles Historic Park in Calif. (Editor's note: Li's fest was originally called YOLA Fest and was slated to run on June 8 but had to postpone due to "unforseen production issues.") Celebrating the arts, culture and music curated by today’s woman, the female-strong lineup presented by Yola Mezcal welcomes a diverse group of female talent ranging from sound and style.
The idea is reminiscent of Lilith Fair music festival, which was famously produced by GRAMMY-winning Canadian singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan back in 1997. While the traveling festival only lasted two summers with an attempt to revive it in 2010, the music and cultural event was McLachlan’s response to the gender imbalance in festival lineups. Lilith Fair brought together an eclectic mix of artists ranging from rap and R&B to pop and country. Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah, Suzanne Vega, India Arie, Dido and Sheryl Crow were among some of the powerhouse ladies who performed throughout the festival’s lifespan.
Now, more than 20 years later, Li is following suit, tapping legendary singers Cat Power and a rare acoustic set from Courtney Love (and the Chateau Band) as well as bold rapper Megan Thee Stallion, who recently signed to 300 Entertainment, making her the first female rapper on the label. Electronic luminary SOPHIE, Kelsey Lu and Empress Of were also recently added to the bill. Li, too, will put in a performance.
So, where does Yola get its name from? Well, music isn’t the only thing on the Swedish singer's mind. Li is also pretty passionate about the Mexican spirit mezcal, so much so that she, along with Yola Jimenez and Gina Correll Aglietti, opened their own brand of distilled alcohol from Mexican agave: Yola Mezcal. Just as the mezcal company is a women-owned business, its approach has trickled into the festival’s inspiration: an all-female festival. Yola Mezcal is "run by women, bottled by women."
Along with a female-powered lineup, social good is at the root of Yola Día, with its host company aiming to promote "the economic independence of the women in Oaxaca." The festival has also partnered with Plus1, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating social change and positive impact in local communities, with a portion of the proceeds from each ticket sold going to the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles (DWC). DWC is the only organization in the L.A. area exclusively focused on serving and empowering women experiencing homelessness as well as former homeless women.
Can't wait until August to hear these powerful voices? Grab your tickets for Yola Día now to support women in music, the arts and the Downtown Women’s Center. General and VIP admission is available. Check out their FAQ for more information on the festival and for a list of acceptable and prohibited items.