On this op-ed, leisure information editor Claire Dodson unpacks the information that Ariana Grande is simply Coachella’s fourth feminine headliner within the pageant’s practically 20-year historical past.
Ariana Grande is formally headlining Coachella 2019, which is thrilling information for Arianators and the lots of of tens of millions of people that have streamed “Thank u, subsequent” because it got here out in November. Along with being the youngest artist ever to headline the music pageant, she’s additionally solely the fourth feminine artist to nab the much-coveted slot. And that quantity ought to stick out not essentially as nice progress, however as an indication of a continued, systemic failure on the a part of Coachella, in addition to main music festivals across the nation, to highlight ladies artists with main careers worthy of a headlining spot.
Previous to Ariana, simply three different solo ladies have headlined the Indio, California, music pageant: Björk (who headlined twice), Woman Gaga, and Beyoncé. That is three within the pageant’s practically 20-year historical past. (English band Portishead, which was given headline standing on some 2008 posters, options feminine singer Beth Gibbons together with different male members of the band.)
For context, here is a listing of headliners since 1999: Beck, Device, Rage Towards the Machine, Jane’s Habit, Björk, Oasis, Beastie Boys, Crimson Sizzling Chili Peppers, Radiohead, the Treatment, Coldplay, 9 Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Device once more, Björk once more, Crimson Sizzling Chili Peppers once more, Rage Towards the Machine once more, Prince, Roger Waters, Jack Johnson, Portishead, Paul McCartney, the Killers, the Treatment once more, Jay-Z, Muse, Gorillaz, Kings of Leon, Arcade Fireplace, Kanye West, the Strokes, the Black Keys, Radiohead once more, Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg, Blur, the Stone Roses, Phoenix, Crimson Sizzling Chili Peppers once more, OutKast, Muse once more, Arcade Fireplace once more, AC/DC, Jack White, Drake, LCD Soundsystem, Weapons N’ Roses, Calvin Harris, Radiohead once more, Beyoncé, and Kendrick Lamar.
Wow, that’s loads of males (and loads of them white males).
Ariana’s now-headliner standing throws into aid the ridiculously low numbers of ladies headliners, however individuals have been declaring this drawback with Coachella particularly, in addition to different festivals, for years. In 2013, BuzzFeed discovered that since Coachella’s inception, female-led acts have made up, on common, 16% of a given lineup. As Refinery29 identified in 2015, the hashtag “#brochella” exists for a purpose.
In 2018, Pitchfork tracked the lineups of main music festivals that 12 months within the U.S. and charted the genders of the highest 10 acts billed for every one. Seven out of 10 have been marked as male for Coachella; for Bonnaroo and Boston Calling, the quantity was 9 out of 10; for Lollapalooza and Sasquatch, it was 10 out of 10 for male acts. Pitchfork‘s personal pageant that 12 months was extra equal, with six male acts, one blended group, and three feminine acts.
The numbers are largely dangerous throughout, even contemplating that final 12 months 45 festivals around the globe pledged gender parity of their lineups by 2022. That is solely three years away, however clearly, there’s nonetheless monumental work to be achieved. Notably, Coachella is just not one of many 45.
The explanation why this occurs is, nicely, sexism. However the “why” permeates a traditionally male-dominated music trade, wherein males are nonetheless wield loads of energy all the best way down the chain, together with pageant organizers, bookers, label reps, producers, sound engineers, and so forth. Take three of the largest music festivals within the U.S., for instance: Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza. All three have been based by males — Paul Tollett and Rick Van Santen (Coachella), Ashley Capps and the male-led staff of Superfly Productions (Bonnaroo), and Jane’s Habit singer Perry Farrell (Lollapalooza).
After which there are the artists: Ladies artists, particularly in genres like different rock and nation, simply aren’t given as a lot radio play, which may imply decrease Billboard chart numbers, which may imply extra rationalizations from pageant bookers about why they’re reserving so many extra male acts. All that’s not even to say the pageant environment itself, wherein ladies are particularly in danger for rampant sexual harassment.
There’s quite a bit happening within the music trade proper now, because it struggles to proper the embedded gender imbalances which have existed for a lot too lengthy. And it’ll clearly take loads of work, from quite a lot of completely different individuals in energy, to get to a stage the place all pageant lineups are fully equal and the place males aren’t the defining voices on radio and streaming charts.
In the meantime, historical past is already trying again on these 20 years of missed alternatives for ladies and nonbinary musicians at Coachella. Ariana is a lady with No. 1 singles and is clearly a global pop pressure. However another feminine singers with No. 1s? Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Janet Jackson, Madonna, Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, Cardi B, Jennifer Lopez, Taylor Swift, Alicia Keys.
Certain, not all of these ladies shall be accessible or keen to do festivals in a given 12 months — however within the 2010s, 47% of No. 1 songs have up to now been carried out by ladies as of 2017, in accordance with Billboard. That is a serious chunk of artists who do not make it into main pageant headlining spots.
There is no legitimate excuse for the present degree of inequality in pageant reserving and there is by no means been one. In December, Ariana herself talked about simply this matter. “I’d simply like to see a chart with as many ladies on high as males,” Ariana stated then. “It’s simply so male-dominated. It’s really easy for them. There are such a lot of unbelievable feminine artists on the market that attempt a lot more durable.”
And, actually, who must see Radiohead headline a pageant for the millionth time?
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