For context, Coachella has been around for a very long time. The festival first took shape in 1993 as a Pearl Jam rock concert at the Empire Polo Club, and years later, it was officially launched in 1999 with Beck, Tool, and Rage Against the Machine headlining the three day-event. In the years that followed, the festival evolved to include a wider range of genres like EDM, pop, hip hop, and soul. However, as more and more acts were introduced to Coachella, the men still nabbed the top spots
Bjork’s 2002 Coachella performance marked the festival’s first ever female headlining act, and she would later return to the main stage in 2007. A decade later, Beyoncé became Coachella's second solo female headliner — and the first ever black woman to headline the Indio, California-based festival — and her two high powered weekend performances spawned the gifts that are Netflix's Homecoming and an accompanying live album of the same name. And most recently, 2019 saw Ariana Grande join the exclusive club with her Thank U, Next-themed performances.
Despite the success of its high profile female headliners its most recent years (according to a YouTube spokesperson, Beychella was the festival's most-viewed Coachella performance ever), Coachella seems to be regressing with its latest lineup by not booking any women to take the main stage. Its 2020 headliners include Rage Against the Machine, Travis Scott, and Frank Ocean.
For many of the female artists who have been granted second headliner status, 2019 was their biggest year yet, and their music had a huge impact on pop culture. Houston rapper Megan thee Stallion dominated the charts, the club, and the internet, inspiring hotties around the world to be on their "real hot girl shit." Ari Lennox's Shea Butter Baby album shone a light on the often overlooked genre of soul music, and Lana del Rey...is Lana del Rey! City Girls, FKA Twigs, Charli XCX — there's so much talent that deserves to be brought to the forefront.
While it's likely that many of the women performing at Coachella are honoured to be included in the lineup, as fans, we need to make sure that they're getting the opportunities that they deserve. Lineup placement matters; when and where artists perform during the festival affects how much money they're paid and sets the stage for future appearances at other major venues.
By relegating women to the smaller stages, Coachella is effectively limiting their opportunities. Disappointing, but not surprising.