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Strawberry Fields Festival Responds After Copping Flack For All-Male Lineup

New South Wales’ boutique electronic music festival Strawberry Fields has responded to the concerns of local punters after it copped some serious flack for the all-male lineup announcement it made last week.

Responding to Facebook user Kate Pern, who posted to the Strawberry Fields Facebook page saying “cool all-male lineup so far bros”, event organisers say the debate centres partly around the quality of artists’ music, not their gender.

Strawberry Fields Director and head booker, Tara Benney, shared the following statement with Ms Pern:

“When we were booking the first round this year we looked a bunch of major female talent – in the end all of them were either unavailable, outside our budget, or not the best musical fit given what else we had confirmed.

“When we were looking at those acts though, the inspiration wasn’t their gender, it was their music. That’s what I find really interesting about this debate, I mean, I’m female and I’m not about to discriminate against my own gender but is this really about gender or about music?

“Behind the scenes putting together the bill each year takes months and months, and there are so many factors that go into it, and so often we don’t get our first choices, but as soon as we start trying to focus on how many men there are versus women, aren’t we losing sight of the point? IE delivering great music for people to enjoy.

“I think it’s great that people are finally vibing more on female talent, and there a lot more out there these days, but as soon as we start acting like we need to fill a gender quota, the music comes second. Anyway, I’m not sure that will help answer the Facebook post but maybe give some perspective.”

In a separate statement posted from her personal Facebook account, Ms Benney writes about her experience of working in the music industry, as well as how she feels about accusations “that we deliberately ignored females ‘because it’s too hard’ to do otherwise, or that we deliberately booked only men”.

“In fact, to be told that I am now part of the problem, is probably the biggest insult I have ever received in my career,” Ms Benney says. Catch her full personal statement, below.

15 acts have so far been announced for Strawberry Fields 2016, with organisers promising the final roster will feature heaps more local and international talent.

Strawberry Fields’ response to the reaction which followed its first lineup announcement comes after Canberra music festival Spilt Milk attempted to reassure punters after it also made a 100 per cent male lineup announcement last week.

The three-day 2016 edition of Strawberry Fields is taking place in the NSW town of Tocumwal this November. Catch the festival’s first lineup announcement in full, below.

Watch: Strawberry Fields 2015 After Movie

Tara Benney (Strawberry Fields Director) Personal Statement (Via Facebook)

Hi guys. My name’s Tara and I’m a director at SF, and with the help of an amazing team, book the lineup every year. I’m also the one that provided the comment to our Facebook moderator above.

I have been a part of the electronic music scene for ten years and worn many hats in that time. I’ve been a DJ, producer, event manager, touring agent, and festival director. Yes, there are more men in this industry than women – it’s something I have been coming face to face with on a daily basis for years. More often than not, I sit in meetings where I am the only woman. I have even had the pleasure of enjoying moment’s where artists I have booked to play figure I must be backstage because I’m “some dude’s girlfriend”.

So am I surprised that there are people here that are concerned about gender balance in the music industry? No way. What I have a serious problem with is the immediate accusation that we deliberately ignored females ‘because it’s too hard’ to do otherwise, or that we deliberately booked only men. If that were the truth or even close to it, I’d have so much trouble sleeping at night I’d have quit this game a long time ago.

In fact, to be told that I am now part of the problem, is probably the biggest insult I have ever received in my career.

What’s our selection process in choosing acts? Pretty simple. We like their music, they are available and interested to play at the festival, and we can afford to make that happen on their terms.

It would be nice if booking a line-up was as simple as emailing everyone you wanted to be on it, them saying “Hells Yeah!” and then jumping on a plane. The reality, is just a touch different. We spend months working well beyond your average working week exploring options, enquiring, pursuing, negotiating, adjusting offers and to be completely blunt being rejected much of the time. The competition to book acts in this country is beyond fierce, and there are many factors that can quash a desire to book someone. Physical distance from the rest of the world, the fact that many acts either don’t want to make such a long trip or will do so only once a year, the fact that it will often only be viable if you can organise a national tour which is obviously dependent on venues and promoters in other cities, the size of the group the artist is in, and all the associated visas, accounting, and accommodation fees associated with catering to that. If you didn’t realise that, fair enough, now you know.

If we were the despicable biased organization you seem to believe we are, we would have just deleted your post and blocked you. We wouldn’t have taken the time to write a first response, and I sure as hell wouldn’t be exposing all my personal details on Facebook to write to you now. The truth is that GENDER BIAS PLAYED ABSOLUTELY NO PART in the decisions made. When I picked it, I was using all the means available to us to try and share music I enjoy with others. To apologize for that is to disregard the hard work and honest passion that myself and others put into every single day.

I’m not asking you to know everything about booking acts or running a festival, but next time, it would be pretty dope if you could air your feelings as a question or concern for us to answer, rather than a series of brutal accusations in a public forum against someone you probably didn’t realise is just another female trying to make it in this industry.

This debate could go forever, so now that I’ve cleared up our motivations from the source, I’m going to go back to trying to put on an amazing event for you all – peace.

Strawberry Fields 2016 First Round Lineup

George Fitzgerald

Henry Saiz *Full Live Band*

Kuniyuki & DJ So

Leftfield *DJ Set*

Marcel Fengler

Move D

Patrick Topping

Petar Dundov

Radio Slave

Stephan Bodzin

Super Flu

Tom Trago

UR DJ Assault Squad

Victor Ruiz

Strawberry Fields 2016

Thursday, 17th November – Sunday, 20th November

Tocumwal, NSW

Tickets: Strawberry Fields

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