Clemens Rehbein and Antonio Greger of Milky Chance perform at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, June 11, 2017 (Credit: AP/Amy Harris)
Even though much of the country was in a deep freeze during the first week of January, there was at least one ray of sunshine: the 2018 Coachella lineup announcement.
Although this year’s crop of acts was polarizing to some — for example, many rock fans grumbled about the lack of bands booked — it’s difficult to quibble with Beyoncé and the Weeknd as headliners, and an eclectic undercard headed by St. Vincent, SZA, HAIM, Odesza, Cardi B, David Byrne and Fleet Foxes.
However, in the ensuing days, as more festival lineups rolled out, things started to feel more homogenous — and male-dominated. That’s nothing new, of course: The Huffington Post conducted analysis of 10 major music festivals in 2016, and found that just 12 percent of acts booked were solo female performers or groups featuring all women, and 10 percent of groups were of mixed gender. Pitchfork’s analysis of 23 2017 festival lineups (which added up to 996 acts) wasn’t much better: 14 percent of these acts were female, while 12 percent were groups comprised of male and female (or non-binary) members. The interactive data map of 2017 festival lineups Pitchfork produced underscores just how imbalanced things were.
The lack of festival gender parity has been even more striking in 2018. Of the first 20 announced acts for New York’s Governors Ball, which is headlined by Eminem and Jack White, 15 acts are men or male-fronted. Only Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Halsey, Chvrches, Sylvan Esso and Maggie Rogers buck this trend. Alabama’s Hangout Festival has three male headliners — Kendrick Lamar, the Killers and the Chainsmokers — and just two women (SZA and Halsey) represented in the next 11 acts.
Things came to a head when Bonnaroo’s lineup emerged. Of the acts listed in the first 10 rows of the poster — representing more than 40 performers, including (male) headliners Eminem, Muse and the Killers — there are only seven women-identifying artists or women-led groups listed: Paramore, Dua Lipa, Sheryl Crow, Alison Wonderland, First Aid Kit, Billie Eilish and Tash Sultana. (Several acts within these rows, including Broken Social Scene, Sylvan Esso and Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, do have a mix of genders, however.)
That 2018’s festival lineups feel stale and uninspired certainly hasn’t escaped notice — although, to be clear, it’s a problem with the cumulative booking choices, and not a comment on the quality of any individual acts. Kendrick Lamar is one of the most riveting live performers of today and deserves to be a headliner, while Muse and the Killers have the kind of ambitious execution necessary to close a show.
Still, it’s impossible to ignore how obvious it is that festivals are neglecting non-male acts. Earlier this week, several journalists started circulating the Twitter hashtag #letwomenheadline to draw attention to the imbalance. And upon seeing the Jan. 11 lineup reveal for …read more