Will Coachella Set The Stage For A More Woman-Friendly Festival Culture In 2019?

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images.
In 2018, nearly every major music festival was blasted for their lack of gender equity. There were objections to their lineup announcements, which failed to highlight women artists, and in their actual lineups, which felt like man-dominated throwbacks following the explosion of support for women around the #MeToo movement.
Coachella, which is the trendsetter for all other festivals, caught a lot of the negative reaction. Despite having record-setting numbers of female performers on their bill, they still failed to meet the mark of 50/50 gender parity. And, based on the 2019 lineup announcement, it looks like they heard the feedback from their attendees and from women. Ariana Grande is the Sunday headliner, making her only the fifth-ever woman to headline a day at Coachella and the youngest in the festival’s 19-year history. The fest was also careful to place a healthy number of women in the top three lines of their promotion for each day, granting second-headliner status to Janelle Monáe and Solange, while also putting Billie Eilish, Chvrches, Kacey Musgraves, Ella Mai, Maggie Rogers, Christine and the Queens, and H.E.R. in big font territory.
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Book More Women, the anonymous Twitter account dedicated to noting which festivals were deficient in booking women artists, notes that the number of actual women booked at Coachella makes up 35% of their lineup, which is in step with 2018. The big difference for the festival is their representation on the lineup announcement. And that is important: promoters, who have a huge amount of say in how the lineup is presented, place artists, and getting that higher placement for Coachella, on the second or third line, can translate to more money, higher placement from other festivals, and more prominent time slots.
Additionally, Coachella announced it is taking steps to fight sexual assault and harassment with an initiative called Every One. “Coachella will NOT tolerate any form of assault or harassment, be it sexual, physical or verbal,” the festival said in a statement. Coachella further promised to remove perpetrators from the festival grounds immediately, revoking their wristband with no refund, and involving law enforcement as needed. Coachella laid out a plan to “deploy Trained Safety Ambassadors throughout the festival grounds” and create Every One tents (without specifying a number) “staffed with trained counselors for anyone that needs extra support or a quiet moment away.” The fest also asks attendees to “do your part” by holding fellow attendees accountable, asking for consent, knowing where the nearest safe space or Every One tent is, and to report misconduct. This initiative follows a Teen Vogue report from 2018 that highlighted a rampant culture of sexual harassment and abuse at the festival, which was unequipped to accept reports or protect victims.
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Primavera Sound, a Barcelona-based festival, sent out their 2019 lineup accompanied by a mission statement that embraces gender and racial equality. In addition to booking a 50/50 gender balanced lineup for the year, Primavera insists ”equality between female and male artists should be normal.”
Book More Women also noted that this year’s Tumbleweed Festival, which bills itself as “America’s Real Country Music Festival,” has seen an increase in women performers, from 13% to 23%. It’s not equality, but it’s progress. Unfortunately, they didn’t manage to fit any of those women anywhere near the top of the bill.
While all eyes are on Coachella, other major festivals including Governor’s Ball, Lollapalooza, and Bonnaroo will make their lineup announcements in the next month. However, one festival just doesn’t seem to get it.
Firefly Festival managed to book yet another lineup with no women headliners or second headliners, even after being called out in 2018 by former performer Halsey for their lack of gender balance.
According to Book More Women, Firefly is at least up to 22% in 2019, from 20% in 2018...but it’s hardly an improvement.
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