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“It can be done”: Primavera Sound talks gender-balanced 2019

Primavera Sound has said this year’s mould-breaking, gender-balanced line-up, which included headline performances by the likes of Janelle Monáe, Miley Cyrus, Solange and Christine and the Queens, received “so much love” from fans – and proved that a 50/50 gender split on festival bills “can be done, and should be done”.

Speaking to IQ, the Barcelona festival’s head of international press, Marta Pallarès, says the decision to book an equal number of male and female acts was “not about shoehorning or quotas”, but rather a reflection of the quality of talent on offer across all genders, as well as a challenge to “classist attitudes towards who is a headliner”.

“We released our lineup in the first days of December, and as the ‘best of 2018’ lists were appeared, all the names we had booked were there,” explains Pallarès, also a spokesperson for Primavera’s ‘the New Normal’ initiative. “This wasn’t a bold move made on a whim – this is about quality and about the music we are passionate about.”

Other female talent performing at Primavera Sound 2019, which took place from 30 May to 1 June at Barcelona’s Parc del Fòrum, included Erykah Badu, FKA Twigs, Robyn, Rosalía, Liz Phair, Courtney Barnett and Charli XCX.

Initially, ticket sales were “slow but steady”, continues Pallarès, “but sales kept increasing, and on Saturday 1 June we beat our historical attendance record [63,000]. And taking a look at all the reviews of this past festival, both attendees and media professionals praised the mind-blowing shows by our female headliners…”

Male headliners, meanwhile, were Tame Impala, Interpol, Future and Latin star J Balvin.

“We need to change the ‘pale, male and stale’ paradigm”

While many other events have also signed up to the Keychange pledge to achieve gender parity by 2022, only a handful, including Primavera Sound and Iceland Airwaves, have so far hit the target. Pallarès says while it’s “not her call to say” how important that milestone is, she says it was “important to us because, although it’s only a first step, we know our position in the music business and the [role] we play as one of the main festivals in Europe. And we need to change the ‘pale, male and stale’ paradigm…”

IQ earlier this week asked several European festivals for their view on gender-equal line-ups, with bookers divided on the merits or necessity of balanced male/female bills. For example, Roskilde Festival, Tomorrowland and – interestingly – Iceland Airwaves said they don’t book based on gender, while the UK’s Bluedot said it is working towards the “new normal” of a Primavera-style gender balance.

For Primavera Sound, though, there was never any doubt, says Pallarès: “We never had any other thing in our minds but to make it happen. The ‘new normal’ would happen, because we would make it happen. We started thinking about it back in 2018, when we realised that for that edition we were already booking more female acts than ever, and that we were slowly moving towards this ‘normality’. We didn’t have a 50/50 line-up split back then, but we had as many headliners as small acts who were female, we had women on every stage and every hour, one of the main stages on Saturday was 100% female…

“So we decided to make this happen, and we worked towards it since the very beginning of the booking process for this edition. We didn’t have any alternatives in mind, and this proves that if you want to do this in 2019, it can be done. There are no excuses.”

Pallarès says the changing perception of the headliner – with festivals moving towards spreading their talent budget throughout the line-up, and focusing more on the experience (many events are getting out of the headliner “arms race” altogether, the AIF’s Paul Reed told IQ recently – made the festival’s job easier.

“A black female R&B singer deserves to be a headliner as much as a white male guitar band”

“There is as much good music made by women as that made by men nowadays, and when you understand that the concept of a headliner is not the same today as it was in 2008, it’s easier to be convinced about what you are doing,” she says. “A black female R&B singer deserves to be a headliner as much as a white male guitar band…

“Our line-up is proof that whoever says this can’t be done, they are wrong. It can be done, it can be done now, and it should be done now.”

Alongside the positive press and strong ticket sales, the reaction from fans has been equally gratifying, according to Pallarès. “We received so much love,” she says. “We had very young people telling us that they finally found a line-up that represented them, because we booked many artists who speak out regarding body positivity and gender. And obviously because we believe it has been an amazing line-up – and thousands of people seem to think that as well.”

“Gender bias is a problem that affects the entire music industry,” she concludes. “We are working really hard to achieve something similar to equality, but there is still tons of work to do. Female artists are more visible now, and I believe our work environment is better for everybody – there are more women in charge of press and marketing departments, more agents – but, especially in technical jobs and in management, it’s still tough.

“Our challenge right now is keeping up the good work. We are aware that from now on, we’ll have more eyes on us – but when you make a commitment you have to stay true to yourself, and be aware that this is not something that can be done for one edition and then be forgotten.”

Primavera Sound will return in 2020, alongside a new event in Los Angeles.

 


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APE overcomes sound issues for successful first weekend

AEG Presents’ All Points East returned to London’s Victoria Park over the weekend, following up on the success of its inaugural edition last year, despite sound issues tainting performances for some.

The first weekend of All Points East took place from Friday 24 to Sunday 26 May in the east London park with headline performances from the Chemical Brothers, the Strokes and Christine and the Queens.

The festival is held over two consecutive weekends, with four days of free, community events held on the site in between. This year marks the second outing of the AEG Presents/ Goldenvoice event, which had a “highly successful” first year in 2018.

The Strokes made their first UK appearance in four years, heading up the bill on the festival’s second day, alongside the Raconteurs, Interpol and Johnny Marr. However, festivalgoers claimed the set was marred by poor sound quality.

Fans also complained about the sound quality during Johnny Marr and Interpol performances.

All Points East organisers released the following statement in response to the complaints:

“The sound quality at our shows has been of a consistently high standard since we started All Points East in 2018”

“Thank you to the Strokes for joining us last night for a truly incredible show. The sound quality at our shows has been of a consistently high standard since we started All Points East in 2018 and we were disappointed to learn that there was a sound issue in some areas of the site during the Strokes’ set.

“The sound engineers worked hard to address the problem as quickly as possible and, whilst it improved, we regret that a section of the audience didn’t have the audio experience that we expect for them. We will be responding to individual customers in the next few days.”

No sound issues were reported the following night. Christine and the Queens closed the first weekend of the festival on Sunday evening with a well-received debut headline performance.

Ten-day All Points East continues throughout the week with four days of free-to-access offerings including outdoor cinema viewings, live music, dance workshops, sporting activities, yoga sessions, children’s theatre and street food and pop-up bars.

Weekend two kicks off on Friday 31 May with headliners Bring me the Horizon, followed by Mumford and Sons and Bon Iver on Saturday and Sunday.

AEG Presents/ Goldenvoice have a five-year contact with Victoria Park owner Tower Hamlets Council, for exclusive use of the park for events.

 


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Is 2018 the year of French pop?

“Things gonna be alright, things gonna be just fine,” sings 26-year-old French pop star Jain on the first single from her second album, Souldier, which was released worldwide at the end of August.

Debut album Zanaka (meaning ‘children’ in Malagasy, the language of Madagascar, where her mother was born) came out in 2015 and quickly went multi-platinum in France, where she has already played hundreds of gigs to huge crowds of fans who sing along to every word.

In the UK, it’s quite a different story. Despite quite a few late-to-the-party but complimentary articles in the UK press, as well as some radio play and a few festival slots, Jain hasn’t quite managed to break into the mainstream on this side of the channel. But this new release could well be the one that takes the UK by storm.

I feel positive about it. I mean, if we can win the World Cup twice, who’s to say we can’t have more than one French act topping the UK chart in the same decade? And, as I sit in my local pub in London where French pop royalty Christine and the Queens’ new single is playing on repeat, I tell you, 2018 is a grand cru for French music, and not just in France.

Six years ago, after earning my figurative stripes (in addition to my Breton jersey) in the UK music business, working for various promoters, venues, and record labels in Paris and London, I was offered a job at le Bureau Export, the French music export office, to help promote French artists in the UK and Ireland. There, I discovered the world of music export, where there is no straight path to success, and no formula for helping artists that works the same way twice. From dragging amps to the Oui Love showcases we organise in London to partnering with respected festivals worldwide; from connecting with leading tastemakers and bookers or small venues across France to helping out with visa and immigration issues; from funding international tours to organising trade missions, and songwriting camps, and creating networking opportunities for music professionals… we do it all.

And, as Le Bureau Export this year celebrates 25 years of championing French music around the world, the future has never looked so brilliant.

If we can win the World Cup twice, who’s to say we can’t have more than one French act topping the UK chart in the same decade?

Back in June, we published a report on the international reach of the French music industry, examining the key trends in three branches of the industry: music publishing, recorded music, and the live sector. According to our findings, French acts are winning over more international listeners, concert-goers, and professionals than ever, with constant growth recorded.

In 2017, the French music industry’s international revenues accounted for €283 million, of which €72.8m come from the live sector (+26% since 2014), making it the second source of revenues abroad after copyright and music publishing. The report also highlights the effect of streaming as the main method of music consumption, with streaming representing 58% of the sales of recorded music outside France last year. And there’s no denying that music’s worldwide availability, thanks to streaming, has also made a mark on French acts touring the world’s stages.

In the report, we also introduced a new tool for analysing the live industry: the Live Charts. Each Live Chart highlights French artists that have made an impact through tours and live performances. And in 2017, many did. While established artists such as Justice regularly appear on festival line-ups abroad, newcomers such as rapper MHD, whose Afro-trap (a genre he created himself) videos first found fame on YouTube, and electronic groups such as the Blaze and Her have also appeared on line-ups at iconic festivals such as Coachella, Roskilde, Glastonbury, Sziget, Sónar and more.

And let’s not forget DJ and producer Petit Biscuit – now selling out venues in Europe and across the US, after debut Sunset Lover was released in 2015, when he was just 16 years old. A track that has since racked up more than 277 million plays on Spotify alone.

So perhaps it’s time to brush up your French on DuoLingo, as it looks like music ‘made in France’ will be seeing La Vie En Rose for the foreseeable future.

 


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