If you missed it, Firefly Festival announced their lineup for 2018 yesterday, and at a brief glance there's a couple of things that jump out at you. For one, Eminem
is headlining, which brings the total number of festivals he's headlining this year to somewhere in the several thousand it seems like (it's five). Additionally, The Arctic Monkeys
are back! After years of being mum on new material and touring, the band is kicking off their 2018 tour by starting at Firefly.
Did I miss anything? Oh yeah, apparently, if you're Halsey
, then you also noticed that Firefly is severely lacking in women artists this year. Of the 95 acts slated to play the festival, only 19 are women or include a woman member.
Replies to Halsey's comment ranged from supportive to telling her to calm down, and to not go off on the Firefly organizers. Halsey, in turn, raised the point that it's up to festival promoters to promote diversity and shine a light on artists that might not get as much attention simply because they are women.
While it's not the most thorough response, Halsey's reply does make a pertinent point. Festival organizers, in a way, are music curators. I've written a bit about how much lineup placement
can affect artist's negotiating power, and in a similar vein, including, or not including artists on a lineup can make or break a musician. Festivals noticeably lacking in women artists aren't just providing a homogenous experience to their attendants, they're projecting a notion into our cultural discourse that women artist simply aren't worth it. This isn't just about hurt feelings, this is hundreds of thousands, potentially millions of dollars that talented and deserving musicians are missing out on. And it's not like there weren't any fem acts to get on the bill, it's that the organizers consciously chose to not include them.
And it's not just the artists that miss out when they're not invited to festivals. Music lovers are deprived of the chance to see and discover artists new and old when women are purposefully left out, and for many, festivals lose a sense of identity when only one group is represented. Representation matters, and when your identity isn't being validated on stage, it likely isn't being validated in the crowd.
Unfortunately, this isn't a new issue, complaints about festivals consistently under-booking women artists and not providing a safe space for women have been around for years, and in general, not much has been done about it. There are a few exceptions here and there, most notably Moogfest's lineup for 2018, which is all fem and non-binary, but in general, music festivals, like the scenes they represent, still largely cater to men. It's an issue that we seem to run into every year, yet when we take a step back, the solution is blatantly obvious, book more women.