In 2015, a meme began circulating showing posters advertising some of the world’s biggest festivals with the male acts erased from the lineups. The few female musicians were left floating amid a sea of incriminating blank space. Since then, festivals have been under the scrutiny of people quick to howl down imbalance.
Those conversations mostly happen online, but over the new year, Melbourne trio Camp Cope took the issue onstage. To a packed tent in Lorne, Victoria, at their first show of Falls festival, singer Georgia Maq changed the lyrics to their song The Opener. “It’s another man telling us we can’t fill up a tent / It’s another fucking festival booking only nine women,” she belted out, challenging Australia’s largest touring festival while playing one of its stages.
Seven months earlier, the band had sold out two nights at Sydney Opera House; now they were playing early afternoon in a tent at an event with no main-stage female headliners. “You booked us, and expect us to not call you out?” says Maq.
The band risked alienating not just Australian festivals – vital for musicians in a country so vast that touring costs can be prohibitive – but also Falls’ majority owner, Live Nation, the world’s largest promoter and venue operator, with Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo under its belt, too.
The Opener is the single from Camp Cope’s second album, How to Socialise and Make Friends, released on 2 March. Even without altered lyrics, the song is a searing condemnation of music-industry sexism. It arrives at a time in Australia when attention on the issue – steadily climbing since 2014 – feels as if it is at a peak.