Festival Lineup Season Begins! What The Major Fest Announcements Tell Us About 2019

Childish Gambino
Rich Fury / Getty Images / iHeartMedia
– Childish Gambino
This Is Festival Season: Childish Gambino, who already had some high-profile festival slots in 2018 such as the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas, is now headlining Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Broccoli City festivals.

With Coachella being the semi-official start of festival season, its post-New Year’s lineup announcement acts as somewhat of the beginning of the beginning. Knowing the lineup for what is often considered the premier live music fest in the United States gives fans an idea of who to keep an eye out for in 2019, which artists and genres are trending as well as provides an overview of the live business. 
The always-varied lineup has something for just about everyone, from newly minted headliners like Childish Gambino (also co-headlining Bonnaroo) and Ariana Grande to experimental artists like Yves Tumor and rapper JPEGMAFIA among its dozens of slots on multiple stages and dual weekends April 12-14 and 19-21. 
Grande’s desert appearance would seem to portend a pop trend at the festival, as she follows in the footsteps of Lady Gaga (2017) and Beyoncé (2018). Others in the pop realm topping or near the top of major festival lineups include Imagine Dragons (Bottlerock) SZA (Governors Ball) and Twenty One Pilots (Boston Calling), to name a few.  
“It’s interesting to see more pop acts looking like headliners on festivals, or at least acts that are on Top 40 radio,” Paradigm’s Matt Galle told Pollstar, adding that he sees clients Shawn Mendes and Halsey headlining major events in the coming years. 
The Grande booking also appears to be a win for gender diversity, as prior to Gaga’s 2017 performance, no woman had headlined Coachella since Björk in 2007. However, more power playing women are near the top of this year’s bill, including Janelle Monae, Solange, and the quickly rising Billie Eilish on the second line, with Kacey Musgraves, H.E.R., Ella Mai and others close behind, before the print starts to resemble that from the optometrist’s office. 
United Talent Agency’s David Strunk, one of UTA’s staff dedicated to festivals, agrees with the pop trend.
“Recently, the marketplace has been dominated by hip-hop and is opening up to pop artists,” Strunk told Pollstar. “Ticket buyers are skewing younger and promoters are open to curating lineups for those audiences. There’s also an absence of consistent headliners, allowing for acts to reach the top of the billing faster.“ 
Post Malone may be the artist who has successfully blurred the lines between pop and hip-hop more than anyone else. With just under $21 million grossed on tour in 2018, the rapper-singer-hitmaker has now attained festival headliner status. Conversely, just in 2016 he was opening for Fetty Wap’s club tour.  
Galle can attest to rap bleeding into pop, with his 10-year-old twin boys coming home from school singing Juice WRLD. “Hip-hop seems like it’s the new pop for a lot of the younger kids,” he said, adding that events like Rolling Loud in Miami are giving fans more choice as trends shift and tastes change. 
Tyler The Creator
Kevin Mazur / Getty Images / Coachella
– Tyler The Creator
Festivals Go Pop, And Pop Goes Rap: Tyler The Creator, playing last year’s Coachella, this year headlines Friday night at Governors Ball in New York.
Further down the billings, however, the lineups showcase a range of genres. 
“I like that there’s Latin now mixed in, some K-Pop on Coachella, that’s exciting to me how they’re mixing in those two genres,” Galle added. “I like that Coachella is moving in that direction – less of the guitar, Brit-pop, DJs and more pop, hip-hop, Latin, K-pop and still keeping some of those other elements and the alternative stuff too. It’s a well-rounded mix.”
As any festival promoter will testify, another challenge is navigating the billing and the always important font size on the poster, which factors in to finding the right festival slot for an artist.  
“We always aim to provide the best opportunities for our clients, which is well beyond just confirming them on a marquee festival,” Strunk added. “Billing, placement and slotting are all pivotal factors, as well as which other artists are booked, the audience demographic and the festival brand overall.” 
Galle added, “It’s exciting to see the undercard and who’s placed in what spots and what reasoning is given” such as hard-ticket sales, streaming (which different festivals give different weight) and other factors. “I think that is important to people these days.” 
The Coachella poster this year even made a little news in announcing the rap trio supergroup of Lil Pump, Gucci Mane and Smokepurpp, the latter two of which are Paradigm clients. The Coachella poster displayed simply “Gucci Gang,” the name of rapper Lil Pump’s infectious hit track, leading to some confusion as to who in fact was playing. “All of us kind of hoped that all three of their names would be next to it,” Galle said, “but Coachella kind of announces on their own terms, and isn’t known for giving too much of a heads up. It just kind of came ahead of us and everyone had to just do a little recon,” he said, laughing. 
Mega-events continue to unveil lineups as this article went to press, with New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival being topped by The Rolling Stones for its 50th anniversary edition to go along with a phalanx of amazing artists, proclaiming the biggest artists on the biggest stages of 2019.  

 “It’ll be exciting to see Lollapalooza’s lineup when they put that out, because I feel that they always have their finger on the pulse of what’s going to be breaking come August and which acts are going to be exploding,” Galle said of the Chicago event that has drawn up to 300,000 per year. 
While many see the biggest fests as a barometer for popular music as a whole, every event has an identity, with maybe no better example than Jazz Fest.
“We start out by asking who are our core people that have been with us – who have been the most woven-in with us over the years?” Jazz Fest director and producer Quint Davis told Pollstar. “That’s Jimmy Buffett, Dave Matthews Band, Van Morrison, Santana, Earth Wind & Fire, even Pitbull – and then we want the greatest living of everything,” Davis added, naming artists like Logic, Chris Stapleton, J Balvin and others. 
Davis says that the “Heritage” part of Jazz & Heritage means looking out the window rather than in the rear-view mirror.  
As for booking the Stones, Davis credited Jazz Fest’s 15-year partnership with AEG Presents, which helped land both Mick & Co. as well as Katy Perry – both AEG touring artists. “Let’s say you’re used to hiking big sand dunes in Brazil, and relatively speaking you then book Mount Everest,” Davis said, laughing. “The Rolling Stones at Jazz Fest is a biblical prophecy. If there’s anything constant in all 50 years, it’s ‘we want the Stones at Jazz Fest.’ It’s been uttered millions of times. 
“Sometimes our audience is struck by lightning. I think, in this case, they’re going to explode. People are going to be exploding,” Davis added. 
As the largest slots on the largest festivals may give clues to the greater concert landscape, increasingly curated and niche events give fans and artists even more options.
“Genre-driven festivals like Rolling Loud, Cali Roots and Desert Daze as well as artist- driven events like Posty Fest and Excision’s Lost Lands [both UTA clients] are attracting sold-out crowds while catering directly to the fans,” Strunk said. “Slightly more adult leaning festivals are also shaping the space with festivals like BottleRock, KAABOO, Arroyo Seco and Innings.”