On Wednesday, USC Concerts Committee announced the highly anticipated performers for Springfest 2018, which will include rappers Playboi Carti and Sheck Wes as its openers and indie rock band Glass Animals as its headliner. Although the committee has a reputation for booking some of the most popular up-and-coming artists, it’s worth noting that in the past eight years Springfest has been held, there have been few female performers and no female headliners.
At a time when the national conversation has shifted to demand gender parity in the entertainment and music industries, it’s necessary for USC and its student organizations to reflect a mindset of inclusivity on campus as well.
The Concerts Committee has traditionally based its lineup selection on various factors, including talent, name recognition and musical diversity. This year, the decision to headline Glass Animals — a four-member, all-male group — came after the committee received student feedback calling for a band rather than solo performers.
Glass Animals has made a name for itself in the indie rock scene, playing on prominent stages like Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo. The group also appeals to audiences who gravitate to the rock scene, creating a diverse set alongside rappers Playboi Carti and Sheck Wes. But the Springfest stage could be better utilized in future years to amplify female artists who offer similar musical qualities and genres that appeal to students.
Failure to represent female musicians is not just a USC issue. Underrepresentation of women is systemic and allows for the underpayment and devaluation of women and their talents in entertainment. A 2018 report by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative reveals that women are still underrepresented in music rankings, Grammy nominees and the songwriting and production processes.
The report found that female performers, songwriters and producers are all “egregiously outnumbered,” with 2017 marking a six-year low for female representation in popular music; women comprised just 16.8 percent of chart-topping artists. It concluded that the “ecosystem of entertainment” largely excludes women or relegates women to the periphery.
This seems surprising, since female voices appear ubiquitous on the radio, in popular collaborations and the backdrops of electronic remixes. However, this underrepresentation occurs on large stages. Last year, Lady Gaga made history as the first female headliner in a decade at Coachella, and Lollapalooza’s 2018 lineup received backlash for not headlining any female musicians or even listing them until the fourth line in its poster.
The absence of female performers from major stages is just a symptom of the aforementioned entertainment “ecosystem” in which men dominate content production and women’s voices are minimized as a result. Of the 651 music producers in the Annenberg study, 98 percent were men. A major reason many women are unable to find a platform in this industry is that men — who hold the keys to entry — cannot fully understand the obstacles women must overcome to ascend the professional ladder. Put simply, representation matters on every level.
The exclusion of a female artist from the Springfest lineup may not have been intentional or egregious. Representation might not have been at the forefront of the committee’s mindset, and after all, a college concert is not a large enough stage to set an example for the greater industry. But looking back at Springfest’s history of performers and the importance of diversity, it’s time for USC to make a conscious effort to consider and recognize female artists.
In the past year, our collective national consciousness has shifted to the topic of gender representation, buttressed by the advent of the #MeToo movement. The music arena is no exception as an industry in which popular discourse is predominantly driven by men and male voices.
Through expanding the occupational opportunities and agency of women in music, women are granted an equal voice in the industry and public sphere at large. As a hugely influential institution in the entertainment world and as the host of an annual musical event as large as Springfest, USC and its student organizations have a stake in this fight, and a responsibility to open our stages to female artists.
Daily Trojan spring 2018 Editorial Board