Is Lack of Diversity Ruining Music Festivals?

by Ayanna Jacobs-El

Pitchfork online magazine published an article last month that analyzed the biggest music festivals of 2017. The goal of the article was to determine which acts were most in demand and to also look into which festivals were the most unique and diverse. The way that the information was collected was by compiling the artist names from 23 multi-genre festival posters. I found this study to be very interesting and the way in which the data was collected seemed very practical. The data was represented through a variety of colorful charts that clearly illustrated the findings.

The way that the most popular artists were determined was how frequently their name appeared on posters from the selected festivals and also based on how close to the top the band name appeared. This ranking system was called the OMNI score and the top artist in this category was Lorde followed by Chance the Rapper, Glass Animals, and Phantogram. This means that these artists overlapped at many festivals, which ultimately contributes to the uniqueness of multiple festivals featuring similar artists being very low. I think that this is, unfortunately, something that is becoming more common each year and will most likely continue to happen in following years.

The study also ranked artists based on their location on posters, uniqueness, shared bands between Lollapalooza, Coachella, and Bonnaroo, and the overall gender balance of the festivals. The gender imbalance was very striking with male performers making up 74%, while females made up a mere 14%, and mixed gender even less at 12%. This shows just how the music industry is still very much male dominated and that a need for reform in this area is well overdue and much needed.

Unfortunately, the study left out some very popular music festivals such as the Afropunk Fest and the Essence Music Festival. Leaving out festivals such as these most likely added to the lack of diversity found in the overall festival lineup analysis and it also added to the huge disparity between male and female performers. I believe festivals like Afropunk and Essence are frequently overlooked due to their lineups featuring predominately African-American artists, which challenges the traditional American festival standard. In the future, I hope that Pitchfork includes festivals like these in research articles because they represent unique artists that often don’t get a chance to perform at festivals like Coachella or Lollapalooza.

For those of you that are huge festival-goers, the recently announced Live Nation Festival Passport might be something you would want to purchase in the future. The passport allows ticketholders to attend any of the over 90 worldwide festivals that are put on by Live Nation. Some of the festivals included are Bonnaroo, Lollaplooza, Governor’s Ball, EDC, and much more. The pass even grants access to sold out festivals. Unfortunately, this year the Festival Passport cost $799, and has already sold out! That is a huge sum of money but if you are a frequent festivalgoer then you should keep an eye out for a sale announcement in 2018.


About the Author

Ayanna Jacobs-El
Ayanna Jacobs-El is a composer, producer, songwriter, singer, alto and baritone saxophonist, and DJ dual majoring in Contemporary Writing and Production and Professional Music with a minor in Writing for TV and New Media. You can learn more about Ayanna and hear her music by visiting