Organizers for the all-women Ladybug Music Festival in Wilmington, Delaware say it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to get women onto lineups. Heading into its seventh year, the all-ages festival has managed to fill its lineup with female musicians, women-fronted bands, and artists who identify as women since its inception.
“There are may gloriously talented women out there who are overlooked in the major festival scene,” says Ladybug co-founder Gayle Dillman. “I am doing it local so every other festivals should be able to hold themselves to a higher standard. I am not a rocket scientist. I am just a driven women who wants to see better and more for women in this world, in this country, and specifically in the music scene.”
This year’s Ladybug festival, which has grown from its debut with 35 artists in 2012, will take place from July 20-21 and boasts the title of the largest celebration of women in music. The 2018 edition will feature headlining performances from Nalani & Sarina on Friday night and Lauren Ruth Ward on Saturday. With around 60 female or female-led acts performing, Dillman who co-owns Gable Music Ventures with business partner Jeremy Hebbel can’t comprehend why larger festivals can’t seem to find women for their lineups.
“I could probably do this festival for a week if I had funding for it. I literally turn away hundreds of women because we are limited on space and what our budget can uphold,” Dillman says. “Women are so underrepresented across the board and it is killer when you know it can be so much better. I finally said, I don’t like the way it is, so I’m going to effect the change. Everything starts with the individual.”
The free, all-ages event takes over Market Street in Wilmington for two full days of programming with a wide array of genres across the block party-style festival. Several stages take up indoor and outdoor spaces and are assembled and worked by a 70% female staff.
“I’m trying to make sure, as this festival grows, to find ways to reach out to women across the board. One of the groups I have partnered up with for finding techs is SoundGirls. They put out the word and we put out the word that we were looking for women,” says Dillman, commenting on a common industry issue of lacing women behind the scenes as well as on stage.
One of the many causes for the gender inequality in festival staff and tech, as Dillman sees it, is that organizers don’t seek out women to work in these areas. A common gripe is that there aren’t enough women to handle larger events, but Gable Music Ventures who put on Ladybug believe women haven’t felt welcomed in the male-dominated industry.
“I want women to feel like they can do, like they can step in and they can do it because too many times women aren’t afforded the opportunity, they aren’t given a chance, and they don’t know how to go about finding those opportunities,” Dillman says. “The more I can say ‘Hey, we exist. We’re doing this. Come talk to me,’ I think is very empowering for women.”
She adds: “I think it will teach the Bonnaroos and the Fireflys a couple things about how to make it more inclusive. If I can run a festival of all women and have 70% of my staff be women, why can’t they? They have a lot more money than I do.”
For the past two years, Ladybug Music Festival has been able to expand with the help of larger partners. Chase became a presenting partner in 2017, allowing the festival to increase to two days and include more artists. Promoter Live Nation has also lent their support with the free use of their local venue, The Queen.
“We insist on keeping it free so that everyone can come and experience what we are doing. It is to give people an opportunity to create,” Dillman says. “I firmly believe that when you give kids an opportunity to create you unleash them on the world in a wonderful way. Giving them a place to perform at an early age gives them the understanding that music is valued. I make it a point that I always pay everyone. No matter what. I value their skills.”
Ladybug Music Festival has also been an economic driver in the city of Wilmington, giving the local businesses new revenue, new clients, and a new identity. The festival takes over music venues, coffee shops, pizza parlors, and even beauty salons on Market Street.
“It is people who would not normally be on this block who come down for this event and then they have this whole other understanding and appreciation for the area,” says Dillman.
This year’s event will see performances throughout the street from Kategory 5, Cecilia Grace, McKinley Short, Phoebe Legere, Grace Vonderkuhn, Hoochi Coochi, adn Angela Sheik. Past headliners have included Caroline Rose, Mary Lambert, and Larkin Poe. For the first time, Saturday night will also include 12 female comedians for the No Bro Comedy Show.
“We look for quality. We look for women who are driven, who can fit in the spaces that we have available,” Dillman says. “People love that opportunity to walk around, check out a different genre of music. It is all very, very fluid.”