One of the biggest things that gets put under the microscope when a festival’s lineup drops is who’s locked in to grace the stage before us. Beyond the routine comments about acts that were forgotten entirely, diverse representation is a real bone of contention. This year’s Splendour In The Grass has served up a lineup that’s nearly a 50/50 split with acts that feature at least one woman or non-binary members, which is great news, but it’s still very top-heavy with male headliners, so we have to ask; where are the women?
The Splendour lineup for 2020 has gotten plenty of attention – it’s the 20th year of the festival, they’ve locked in huge acts like Midnight Oil, the newly-returned Strokes, and Flume‘s only Australian show – but it’s also not locked in any real gender diversity in the slots that close the main stage across the three nights.
Combing through the bill, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, King Princess, Sampha The Great and Cub Sport are the four acts with non-male members in the first 25 listed. That’s a whole 12% of the top end of the bill. It also means that the last time we saw a woman close out the main amphitheatre stage was Lorde back in 2018.
It’s not just the punters that have been openly critical of the gender imbalance in the headline acts, with key figures from music media like Triple J’s Good Nights host Bridget Hustwaite tweeting their confusion and dismay about the top-heavy lineup, and sharing some suggestions of who could be included.
Maybe expectations were too high, but this Splendour line-up is really lacking the wow factor for me.— Alister Newstead (@AlNewstead) February 18, 2020
Flume and Strokes both from 2016 and where’s the female headliner?!
Also how hard is it to find a female headliner?— Bridget Hustwaite (@BHustwaite) February 18, 2020
Billie Eilish, Lizzo, FKA twigs.
Wildcards like Janelle Monáe, Solange, Rosalía, Cardi B, Christine and the Queens
Go historic and get Sia, Björk, MIA, Lorde again.
Heck, get Halsey, Chvrches, Charli XCX back…
— Alister Newstead (@AlNewstead) February 18, 2020
Particularly considering I don’t think Tyler is truly at headliner level yet. There are just so, so many women on the same tier as The Strokes & Flume. Feels like they exhausted the wishlist (ie. Lana) and gave up https://t.co/L7Ik42p8EB— Nic Kelly (@nicwkelly) February 18, 2020
I’ll admit; I’m not a festival booker, but I know it’s a tough job that involves a lot of navigating schedules and demands. Kind of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces could shift and change shape at any given moment. So there’s very little doubt in my mind that the Splendour team who worked out the lineup truly did try and land at least one woman in the top-billed acts for 2020.
I’d like to hope they shot for those who had a massive 2019 like Lana Del Rey, Lizzo, or Billie Eilish, or even attempted to land Tones And I who sits perfectly in the Venn Diagram of Australian and Having A Belter Of A Run.
Also considering it was just last week when The 1975‘s Matty Healy publicly committed to only accepting slots at festivals that feature a greater gender balance, is it now an expectation of other all-male acts to use their influence and power to demand a shift in representation?
Or are we destined to have the rallying cries of Camp Cope singer Georgia Maq‘s “yeah just get a female opener, that’ll fill the quota” playing on a near-constant loop in our minds?
For the most part, Australian festivals have been learning from the conversation that comes from punters, industry, and critics whenever another male-dominated festival gets announced, and that’s evident through fact-checking collectives like @lineupswithoutwomen on Instagram.
So let’s just cross our fingers and hope that a second announcement for the Splendour lineup gifts us some more powerful women at the top. Please, just give me Lana Del Rey, it’s been YEARS.
UPDATE: Splendour In The Grass co-director and producer Jessica Ducrou made the following statement to PEDESTRIAN.TV about how this year’s festival lineup worked out.
We spend the best part of a year booking Splendour’s headliners and having a female show closer is a priority for us. Unfortunately, all the obvious choices that have been mentioned, along with some others, were unavailable for a variety of reasons – recording schedules, touring commitments internationally or generally off the road, the list goes on.
It’s not about money or desire. We try our best and we always want to profile a diverse and well-balanced lineup. 43% of our acts this year are fronted by or include women.