By Taylor Galla '18
Opinion Poll Columnist
This year, another group of tens of thousands of teenagers and young adults from across the country are making the annual pilgrimage out into the hot, dry Indio desert just outside of Palm Springs for Coachella. This music festival is one of an ever-increasing number that happen each year in different spots across the U.S, including Outside Lands in San Francisco, Bonnaroo in Tennessee and Lollapalooza in Chicago. They are a unique musical and cultural experience where, with the hefty purchase of one ticket, you have access to food, art, and most importantly music. Each festival has its own unique personality dictated by the type of music, the location, the weather, the audience, and just plain serendipity. However, Coachella has developed a distinctive pattern over its 17 years, where nearly all of the headliners are male — and the audience predominantly female. Through this, it has obtained the nickname of “Brochella” and has drawn scrutiny from music bloggers.
One article (www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/la-et-ms-coachella-women-problem-20160415-story.html) from the LA times outlines the problem quite clearly. This year every single headliner at the festival is male, and only 16 per cent of the remaining acts are female. In contrast, much of the audience that pays hundreds of dollars to come to the festival, stay nearby, and purchase clothing, is female. Although there is not a precise breakdown of the Coachella audience by gender, a 2015 Nielson report found that among all music festivals, females edge out males in audience attendance. This festival benefits immensely from the female, festival-goer persona that has become so trendy in recent years- however female artists are not showcased or appreciated by the festival in a significant way.
Coachella is also one of the biggest music festivals in the country, and therefore sets the standard for all the others. The article states “Coachella sets the bar for other festivals, and often bands who play there will end up at other festivals around the country… If there aren’t a lot of women at Coachella, there aren’t a lot at other festivals.” Turns out this is largely true — this graphic shows what music festival lineups would look like without men- and the results are very disheartening.
We show up to these festivals and have an amazing time — but are we supporting organizations that discriminate against women in the industry? There is no shortage of female performers who have the success and the music style to headline any number of these festivals- so what’s the problem? Is it that festivals are afraid that ticket sales will dwindle with the addition of more women? Are they just innocent followers of a misogynistic music industry that does not respect nor prioritize female artists?
I’m not quite sure what the answer is here. Female artists largely dominate the music scene at this moment- with Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, as well as singers like Sia and Ariana Grande- just perusing Spotify’s Top US tracks it was not hard to find female artists. At least, not as hard as it is to find them at music festivals. Women are a dynamic and necessary part of the music industry in the United States- as even male artists use them prominently in their lyrics and for musical inspiration- and they should be given credit for what they contribute. Festivals are an extremely important and influential development in the music industry and with women proving themselves on the charts- they should also be given a chance to perform on some of the most popular and trendy stages in the country. What do you think?