cne 2016

This open letter challenges CNE to book more female musicians

"Let's balance these numbers out and inspire a new generation of little girls that yes they too can be rockstars."

- Aug 31, 2016

Across five stages and 82 acts booked to play the 2016 Canadian National Exhibition, there are 7 female solo artists or singer/songwriters, 8 bands featuring one female artist, and only one all-female band. This according to an open letter published Tuesday and addressed to the CNE with the subject line: "**More badass female musicians please**."

The math is simple: it's nowhere near gender parity. The letter, penned by local promoter and booker D.W. Waterson who DJs as hey! dw, asks for "more women please. It's 2016."

"I have booked and worked alongside many incredible bands and performers who are women," Waterson writes, "I would be happy to suggest some acts that will fit the style and brand of the CNE. Let's balance these numbers out and inspire a new generation of little girls that yes they too can be rockstars."

As promoters and bookers it’s our responsibly to be conscious of how we’re shaping and contributing to culture. We are the gatekeepers to which performers get more exposure.

D.W. Waterson
In an email to Chart Attack, Waterson expands on why — from the perspective of a programmer, promoter, and musician herself — representation matters. "Listen, I totally get booking the hottest DJ or the most buzzed about band, but that can include badass women too. As a promoter and booker it’s kind of our responsibly to be conscious of how we’re shaping and contributing to culture. We are the gatekeepers to which performers get more exposure. Do we not want to find and support the next Gwen Stefani? Feist? Lauryn Hill? Florence & the Machine? Joan Jett? Do we not want to inspire all the teenage rocker chicks that in fact YOU CAN have a career standing on stage playing your heart out?"

This isn't the first time someone has pointed out problems with The Ex's programming either.

Waterson encourages those who want change to be vocal. "I can’t say it enough: tweet at the festivals who have 90% male line-ups and ask where all the badass women are! If we are constantly pushing forward the dialogue towards a solution and celebrating the festivals who are conscious change WILL happen."

The Beaches - Loner

CNE's sole all-female band.

CNE general manager Virginia Ludy says that of the 1,000+ performers onsite, "we have a lot of female performers."

At the end of the day gender really doesn't play into it. It's really, what's available and what are the best acts that are out there?

Virginia Ludy, CNE General Manager
"You know the star of our ice skating show is a female, we have females in our dog show, we have females in our waterfront show, we have female performers in the bandshell, we have female performers in the country bar, on our international stage. So when I see a statement like, 'The CNE doesn't have enough female performers,' that concerns me."

When the CNE is booking talent, Ludy explains, it's a matter of "what's available."

"We try to get a broad cross-section of entertainment to meet all the different demographic groups that come down to our event. So we look at who's touring, what fits with our budget, what fits with our promotional partners. We look at our audience. What kind of acts does our audience want to see? And really, what we're looking for is getting the best talent we can get for our customers. We really do try to build a strong package for our customers."

And while Ludy believes the festival has "a great cross-section of representation" amongst its entertainers, "at the end of the day," she says, "gender really doesn't play into it. It's really, what's available and what are the best acts that are out there?"

When asked if it's an issue organizers will address in the future, Ludy says that you always become more cognizant of things when they're brought to your attention, but she's also concerned that a promoter "who wants to make money off of booking acts" has sent a letter like this. She calls it "self-serving."

But, for her part, Waterson says that when an event called the Canadian National Exhibition books so few female musicians, "they're not representing or supporting half of the country."

"Our Prime Minister is a feminist," she writes, "let’s reflect that, ya?"

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