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Ariana Grande has made headlines with her single "Thank u, next" streamed by millions since it was released in November and now she will be the fourth female to ever headline Coachella 2019. And this number itself is somewhat of a systematic issue on Coachella's part, along with other major music festivals all around the world that spotlight more female artists that are worthy of having a headlining spot.
Prior to Grande, three solo female artists have headlined the Indio, California music festival: Bjork, Lady Gaga, and The Queen Bee, Beyonce. Only three in this musical festival in almost 20 years. After doing a bit of research dating back to 1999, many artists that have made headlines for Coachella include:
- The Chemical Brothers
- Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Nine Inch Nails
- Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg
- Guns N' Roses
- Calvin Harris
- Arcade Fire
- Lady Gaga
- Kanye West
If you haven't noticed the pattern, the headliners are mainly revolved around men (especially white men). Now that Ariana is headlining this musical festival, it brings a sigh of relief for the low number of female headliners for Coachella, as well as other big-time music festivals for eons to come.
The main reason why this is a problem, easy, sexism. But the question of why is due to the predominantly male music industry, in which men are still wielding a sense of power all the way down to the wire, including bookings, music festivals, labels, producers, and so on. The top music festivals in the U.S for instance: Coachella, Lollapalooza, and Bonnaroo were all founded by men; Paul Tollett and Rick V. Santen (Coachella), Ashley Capps along with the male leads of Superfly Productions (Bonnaroo), and Perry Farrell from Jane's Addiction (Lollapalooza).
When it comes to the artists; female artists, mostly in alternative rock and country genres, are not given as much radio credit, which could result in being at the bottom of the Billboard charts, which also means that festival bookings would go for any and possibly all-male acts. All of this, as well as the atmosphere of the festival, puts women at risk of many situations like sexual harassment or rape.
There is a lot going on in the music industry right now, as far as the gender imbalance that is still going on, which means there is still work that needs to be done by many people in power to get to a point where every festival headline is completely equal and men are not dominating the radios and on the Billboard charts.
On the other hand, most Coachella lovers take a look back at the history of the 20 years of all closed doors for women and non-binary musicians for Coachella. Ariana, with multiple No. 1 singles and is obviously a pop force to be reckoned with. Who else was also No.1? Madonna, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, Kelly Clarkson, Rihanna, Diana Ross, and even Alicia Keys.
Of course, not all of these female artists are willing or available to do the festival this year, but many No.1 songs have been performed by women since 2017, according to Billboard. That is a major chunk of female artists who have not made it into major headlining slots. There is no plausible explanation for the prevailing levels of variation of bookings and never having one. In December, Grande herself talked about this topic. "It's just so male-dominated. There are so many female artists out there that try so much harder."
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