by Jennifer Maynord | photo by Madi Denton
As a part two continuation to an article Evan and I published yesterday, which addressed the gender issue surrounding the Medicine Stone music festival lineup, I wanted to delve a bit deeper into what Samantha Crain’s initial tweet brought to light. I believe Cellar Door did its job in carrying the conversation further, as a blog is supposed to push the norm, hold feet to the fire, not back away from hard issues. However, I also want to give some additional insight into Cellar Door's collective stance and thoughts, as well as my personal experiences, as this isn’t the first or last festival that will face this kind of criticism. Medicine Stone surfaced an issue I felt was worth writing about (as I have stepped back from blog writing considerably this year) – but was nothing short of difficult, as it’s not my nature to challenge anything Oklahoma music.
After exchanging Twitter comments with some of the Medicine Stone team members, I decided to message one privately, as I felt the conversation was too big for 140 characters. I have pieced together some of my correspondence that I hope might serve its purpose in sharing why Evan and I decided to publish yesterday's article, and how we hope every music festival and/or event might benefit from the situation surrounding Medicine Stone 2016.
As the female founder of Cellar Door Music Group, booking representative, promoter, and music artist myself, our intention is to never patronize but to serve as advocates for ALL artists. There are much larger issues at hand here, too many to ping pong back & forth on Twitter. The CDMG article has apparently struck a chord, yet our intention is to help create a dialogue around the absence of women representation on the [Medicine Stone] bill. I think it's a fair question and isn't about special treatment, but valuing a diverse lineup.
I'm exploring this from a booking end, as I have a hand in booking several of our OKC festivals. If the idea to only book a woman is to just be politically correct, then there's no true value in that artist’s contribution--they are just filling the "P.C. spot". That's when it feels un-authentic & flat out shitty to an artist. Yet, if the booking intention is to bring in a woman because the event or festival values their art, skill, background, experiences, perspectives (because it will inevitably be different than a male's), then that's a genuine experience. It’s setting the intention and tone to value the artist's unique journey, differences & wanting to incorporate their flavor into the festival. So in that case--yes please, book me as a woman because you value my songs about motherhood, or love, or whatever else. But booking someone just to add a female face, and not for true voice, talent, and artistic expression—that’s where the difference lies and where it crosses over into “special treatment”.
On the flipside however, even if a woman is just filling the “P.C. spot” because a festival wants to look like they’re trying to make an effort, it doesn’t mean the audience or fans will feel that. And we all know the people we connect with through our art and music is where the true value lies. That’s why so many women don’t turn down the “P.C. spot”, because it’s about much more than that booking agent, or festival…it’s about the music itself and the people artists reach. So maybe that scenario is still a piece of the progress.
In working with festivals, I know the [Medicine Stone] booking end didn’t intend to exclude. It's not even a thought. But part of my job has been to consult and remind planners that it's important to create a seat at the table for not just one demographic. Most people just book their favorite artists, which end up reflecting on the lineup. But our local music community is challenging that--let's think outside your favorites & consider some other demographics. Let's give that twelve-year-old girl a hero on stage, or a Native American teenager and beyond.
I understand that selling tickets is the bottom line. But fortunately, festivals are like basketball--the lower ring in a stadium are the bulk of your ticket sales, just like your headliners. Because men create the larger pool in music and generally sell more tickets, they often comprise the majority of the first 3-5 spots in a festival. For smaller shows with only a few bands scheduled, they generally are comprised of males, which I also understand and support--we book many of those scenarios. I get all of the above from a business and sustainability perspective. But in a large festival setting, where there's room in the supporting acts to add different artists, I can only encourage to diversify where possible.
So overall, I get the original booking thought process, I work with it regularly & know most people are not coming from sexist or racist place. Evan and I wrote the article not after the lineup release--but after the responses were made. The festival got called out on a gender issue, and instead of a genuine recognition, attitude & rebuttals came out. We're a blog, we're supposed to stir the pot! One Medicine Stone planner immediately took the article as a threat, it's journalism man.
I think Medicine Stone has a specific fan base and demographic, and the festival will probably continue to grow despite this heat. And maybe they’ll do some things differently next year. But on a PR, community (and even sponsor) end, mud slinging around your event isn't ever good. And truthfully—it’s also not good for your artists. There could be headliners that can't risk any bad PR. You just never know.
For CDMG, Medicine Stone is a small piece in a larger puzzle. I've consulted for a festival where they originally wanted all white indie folk males, so it's not limited to even one genre. For us, it's about creating an awareness in the Oklahoma music scene that we should value & appreciate a variety of artists, stories, journeys, and not limit to one pool. Oklahoma is stereotyped for our lack of culture & diversity, so Medicine Stone has to understand that only adding one chick in their 70+ artist mix, doesn’t help the progress that many of us are trying to make within the local music scene.
CDMG strives to support Oklahoma music & fests as a whole, and I felt like it was important to push the hard question in order to bring awareness to our community other festivals & events. And the hard question is why aren't there more women? Just a question...and it's not because they've all moved or were unavailable. The heat in everyone's answers & rebuttals have told there’s more to it, and perhaps no easy answers. But I hope somewhere in the Oklahoma music scene, we can continue the dialogue & grow a scene that can support all artists and festivals that host them.