Everyone knows that it was a great year for women in music. Lorde, HAIM, Charli XCX, London Grammar, Lucius, and Sky Ferreira all dropped incredible debut albums. Janelle Monae, Neko Case, and Laura Marling all released amazing solo records. Beyonce continued to exist, showering the world with both her flawless presence and The Visual Album. Female-fronted electronic groups like Chvrches, AlunaGeorge, MS MR, Glasser, and The Knife released critically acclaimed albums. Girl-punk exploded thanks to bands like Savages, White Lung, and Perfect Pussy. Warpaint, Dum Dum Girls, and Hospitality have already released great albums in 2014. So why do you need to break out the magnifying glass to find the women in this year’s festival lineups, if you can find them at all?
Coachella is probably the most female-friendly lineup released so far, yet of the 40 artists featured in large print on the top two rows, only 8 are female artists or female-fronted bands, with Friday’s lineup accounting for half of those artists. There are top-tier artists who have risen to fame with singles featuring female vocalists, while said vocalists receive no love. Zedd is given a top row listing at Coachella, while collaborators Foxes and Hayley Williams aren’t seen on their lineup, or any other for that matter. London newbies Disclosure recorded songs with festival-absent artists Jessie Ware, London Grammar, and Eliza Doolitle. AlunaGeorge, featured on Disclosure’s song “White Noise”, is buried in the small print while the brothers receive large-print billing in the company of bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and Motorhead.
On the Governor’s Ball lineup, you have to search through the third tier of artists before you find a woman. Once again, AlunaGeorge is buried in the small print while Disclosure shares space with Phoenix and Interpol. At Hang Out fest, Tegan and Sara are the first women in the lineup on the fourth row, while every bro’s favorite bro, Jack Johnson, headlines. In fact, Hang Out Fest’s top 40 artists only feature two female artists, Ingrid Michaelson being the other token female. The talented sisters are also the top-billed female artists at Firefly, but are relegated to the fifth row in that festival, which again features Jack Johnson as a headliner. And I don’t even need to get started on the boy’s club that is every EDM festival ever.
The problem isn’t just the lack of female artists in festivals. There are some excellent festival lineups this year, Governor’s Ball being the current standout. It’s the placement of women in the festival lineups that is problematic. Relegating female artists to third or fourth tier artists in the lineups allow the organizers to pay them less than the male artists higher up on the lineup that probably deserve the money less, and have definitely profited more from the music industry. I’ve been to enough music festivals to know that the crowd is pretty even when it comes to men and women. The women are giving music festivals their money, so why aren’t they giving it back to the female musicians?
I know there are five million other thinkpieces on gender inequality in the music industry. But with festival season coming up, it’s important to realize that the best artists aren’t usually the ones in the largest print. So this summer when you travel out to a giant field, a big city, or a forest to listen to music and take copious amounts of drugs, do what you can to show the organizers that the women deserve better billing. Rage with Sleigh Bells and Warpaint instead of Motorhead or Queens of the Stone Age. Dance with Krewella instead of Skrillex. Pass out drunk to the sweet sounds of Jenny Lewis or Waxahatchee instead of Julian Casablancas or Bryan Ferry. And for the love of all things Beyonce, do not go see Jack Johnson.