Coachella’s Women Problem

Once again, it’s an incredibly disappointing year for women at Coachella. Sadly, this is nothing new, and Slate has made their thoughts on this matter clear year after year. Below, take a look at their handy infographic erasing all of the male-dominated acts for 2015:


Pretty pitiful lineup without the male acts, no? And, not a single female-fronted band is headlining this year. Slate‘s argument is that since women are dominating the charts, the lack of reflection in major festival lineups is bothersome. Heavy-hitters Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Adele, Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, and Katy Perry among others have reigned over the charts for at least the past four years (if not, longer) so, the lack of female artists at festivals isn’t a so-called “reflection of the state of the music industry.” In fact, it’s the opposite of the state of the music industry. If Coachella were an exact copy of what’s happening on the charts, the festival would be female-dominated. Slate reaches a conclusion: festivals like Coachella were born out of male-dominated, counter cultural movements, so bringing in chart-topping female performers would kind of defeat the point. Ergo, no female performers.

There is a major issue that Slate doesn’t acknowledge, however, in their critique. To a certain extent, they are right, but they completely gloss over the overwhelming wealth of counter-cultural female-fronted bands. Sure, seeing Taylor Swift headline Coachella would be a little weird, but the spectrum of female artists out there doesn’t start at Swift and end at Florence Welch. There are countless groups which are not über pop stars like Swift or Perry, have enough notoriety to draw crowds, and wouldn’t detract from Coachella’s original intention. Where are they on lineups?

Truth be told, some of the female acts on this year’s lineup are exciting to see: Marina and the Diamonds, Azealia Banks, St. Vincent, Jenny Lewis, Lykke Li. But, when there are so many talented women of this exact caliber, why are they omitted from festivals? This isn’t to say that the male-fronted bands chosen aren’t talented, but the fact that they are the overwhelming majority of acts is bothersome. When there are so many options for diversifying the lineup, why would Coachella stick to such a similar note?

In 2013, BuzzFeed released an immensely helpful infographic of the gender breakdown of Coachella since its first date in 1999. What’s alarming about this graphic isn’t just the relative lack of female artists, but the sudden decline in female artists in the past three years. 2010 and 2011 were relative golden years compared to previous years and to now.

Regardless of whether women were overt parts of the movements that developed these festivals, Coachella first and foremost, the fact that sixteen years later they’re still not a predominant part of the festival scene is alarming. It’s not a question of veering away from the chart-toppers or even of these movements being male-dominated, it’s a question of why aren’t the women who participate in these movements included in its manifestation in music festivals? Disturbing, to say the least. It would be a sheer delight to see Nicki Minaj headline next year. Or put Haim in the headlining spot. It’s high time for a change.

Image Demeter Clarc//infographic Derreck Johnson for Slate


  1. Lindsay Burgess

    February 4, 2015 at 11:53 am

    That infographic (via Slate) is just sad to look at. The fact that there are MORE female artists making awesome music these days, makes their decline in the festival scene (at least as far as Coachella is concerned) all the more mind boggling.

  2. Lauren S

    February 4, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    Thank you for this article Katie! It really shines a light on a problematic trend in the music industry/festival circuit. I would have loved to have seen The Pretty Reckless on this billing.

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