At the current state of music business, nothing is more symptomatic of the perception of music by a certain audience than the lineup of the big festivals, talking about European context at least. It comes down to these events to set the annual offer of live music. But even more, it comes down to the announcements before these regular appointments to orchestrate the debate about the state of music.
We are talking about some kind of historical references like Primavera Sound or Le Guess Who?, along with some new realities, all of them joined by the fact of each one having a different, but immediatly recognizable, target. One can look at the line up of Le Guess Who? to know about who to listen in avant garde scene, or at the Sziget’ one to take a look in a more commercial/pop proposal, in a scheme of identification ramificating even more through smaller festivals around Europe.
Of course, it becomes an ambitious aim to intercept the taste of (and even be taste maker for) a wide and mutating audience like the generic alt guy who is always updated on the cool bands around, even more challenging in a time when cool bands around are so few, and that guy is bored of the same new white-male-retro-rock-band too.
At the end of the decade, maybe Primavera Sound seemed to respond too cautiusly to the dusk of rock music, in a sort of hesitation state in taking the risk of including expressions of black music, internet culture and the raising of new pop tendencies in the line up, unless having them as guests in a place where the landlords were always that pale and male rock bands alternately year after year. But finally the revolution is taking over the stages in one of the biggest oasis for music lovers in a strong way, with all its load of new colors, new sounds, new generations and new sexual identities.
“We should have done it ages ago. Because, looking back over our previous line ups and despite the progress in the last few editions, we needed to go further. If half of our audience is female, why shouldn’t half of our line up be so too?”
They called it “The New Normal“, and the trick to reach this result is simple: a 50/50 gender split of the live acts. Of course, there was a slight but widespreaded bewilderment at the first read of the announcement. Although we are used to associate the ideas of freedom and equality with festivals, the need of what may seem a made-up quota for women reflects a discouraging music business, unable to receive the change without doing the maths first, in the same way we are used to in politics or in the labour market too, even if anyone could recognize every single act deserving a place on stage. On the other hand, now that the festival of the festivals is about to start, we are already aware that a turning point is set, and that it involves a growing interest about equal gender representation among all festivals which will follow.
In a nutshell, also thanks to the message sent by an organization able to take such risky and powerful choices, what needs to be defined new normal now will really be normal in the future, without any quotas to be necessary. “Remember 2019 was the year that everything changed” they say, and we are glad to believe that, in the next future, anyone under the stage will feel reflected in the line up, just because anyone who sounds good will be able to express on stage.
“We want the new normal. Get on board, this is already moving…”