On Wednesday, Lollapalooza announced the lineup for 2018. The only female headliner in all of festival season so far this year is Beyoncé at Coachella, but Lollapalooza went one step further: it has no women in the first three lines of their lineup announcement poster.
If you want to know about women performing at Lollapalooza, you'll have to go down to the fourth line of the poster, where you'll find the female-fronted Chvrches, St. Vincent (who is on the second line of Coachella's Friday lineup), and Dua Lipa. Somehow 2018's breakout artist, who has over a billion streams on Spotify alone, and the woman with the longest run at pop radio's No. 1 spot in five years, Camila Cabello, got placed on the fifth row.
Lollapalooza seems to have tweaked the lineup poster for their website, bumping Chvrches up to the third row. It begs the question: at a time when the conversation about representation for women is at a high in the music industry, how does a lineup poster with so few women at the top of it get made?
A part of Lollapalooza's problem is that they're still doing the full lineup in a poster, but not breaking it out by day. St. Vincent is a second-line artist on Coachella's lineup for their Friday artists, while Dua Lipa is on the first line of Bonnaroo's Sunday lineup (and, it should be noted, the third line of their overall lineup).
The other major summer festivals, along with Governor's Ball, which has the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Halsey as second headliners, managed to think about representation of female artists when it came to their lineup posters and not bury women so far down the line. As posters of announcement often have little to do, outside of the headliners, with what time of day or stage an artist is playing, there is truly no excuse for not putting some of the very deserving women on their bill higher up. But, there may be some rationale behind why some of these bookings happened, and their influence on placement.
"Looking at the artists on top of the lineup, Bruno Mars is a performing act as much as he is a recording act," explains Cherie Hu, a journalist who covers the intersection of music and tech for Billboard and Forbes. "There's an interesting case around Portugal, The Man., who cultivated their entire audience through live shows, playing almost 300 in a year. They have a proven live show that their manager and themselves can argue give them the right to command these headliner spots."
As Hu mentions, a good portion of where a band is in the lineup announcement and which slot they play is determined by negotiations between festival bookers, artists, and their management as well as an assessment of various factors like their sales history, touring history and gross, streaming numbers, awards, and radio play. Each festival has its own special recipe that is targeted to their attendees, but these top-level negotiations are a major factor. That makes a strong case for more female musicians caring about where they are in the lineup, demanding higher placement, and being represented by female managers who are sensitive to issues of gender representation.
Another possible explanation, Hu says, is one of aesthetics. "Looking at the first three lines of Lollapalooza's lineup, there are a lot of rock bands and hip-hop acts. The only solo acts, besides Jack White, who is a legacy artist, lean towards hip-hop, so the organisers might have clustered them together." It makes sense, then, that women are clustered together on the fourth and fifth lines of the lineup, as well as the seventh line.
As for Cabello's seemingly strange placement on the fifth line, Hu says we might chalk it up to a missing link in her statistics. "I haven't seen Camila Cabello on other festival lineups, but the lack of history may be driving the decision," she says. It's true: despite all her other accomplishments, buzz is still building on Cabello, and her ability to command an audience or drive ticket sales as a solo artist is still unproven. It strikes me as not being different from fun.'s booking at Lolla in 2012 when their popularity grew immensely from the time of their booking to the actual festival, and they played an overpacked day stage slot.
Women are still getting the short end of the stick at all festivals, however, because of the vicious cycle in which women are underrepresented in the music industry in general. "I think the gender imbalance still exists," Hu says. "In general, with festival lineups, and especially headliners, in my research I found that most of the headliners mostly play one or two festivals, while a lot of indie acts, which includes a lot of women and mixed-gender groups, will play a lot. So many of those groups end up at the bottom of the lineup."
We reached out to a press representative for Lollapalooza to ask for an explanation for the ordering of their lineup announcement but received no reply.
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