Two years on from “step up,” things in the music world seemingly have stepped back in time, from the Recording Academy’s epic diversity failures to the return to male-dominated headliners at many major festivals, including a testosterone-heavy Coachella — as called out by Variety and many others — and Britain’s Reading and Leeds Festivals, the lineups of which feature just 20 female-fronted acts out of 91.
Well, at least one dude has stepped up: In response to a tweet from Guardian writer Laura Snapes calling on male artists to add inclusion riders to their festival contracts, the 1975’s Matty Healy has promised the band will only play gender-balanced music festivals from now on.
“Take this as me signing this contract – I have agreed to some festivals already that may not adhere to this and I would never let fans down who already have tickets,” he wrote. “But from now I will and believe this is how male artist can be true allies.”
While he acknowledged that there may be many devils in the details, his point is clear: “I’m sure my agents are having kittens right now but times up man people need to act and not chat.”
While many large festivals, including Bonnaroo and Spain’s Primavera, have begun to address the gender-balance issue, Coachella and Reading/Leeds are particular offenders. Coachella is the most popular and influential music festival in the entire world, and its headliners this year are Travis Scott, Frank Ocean and Rage Against the Machine. Sure, there are many female-fronted acts performing at the festival, but looking at the 10 top-billed artists on each day, Friday’s is 2/10 female, Saturday’s is 3/10, and Sunday’s rockets the XX-chromosome ratio to 4/10. With no shade to those three headliners, take a look at the world in 2020 and consider the statement and moment a top billing for Lana Del Rey (or an equally empowered and empowering female artist) could have made.
Festival organizers can point to their data and research and gut instincts all they want, but the question bears asking: Which side of history do they really want to be on?