What Does FYF’s Cancellation Mean For Women Headlining Music Festivals?

Your sunny summer SoCal plans may have just changed in a big way: this year’s FYF Fest is canceled.

Organizers announced they’re pulling the plug on FYF Fest 2018 in an Instagram post earlier today. The post on the festival’s official feed said organizers “felt unable to promise an experience on par with the expectations of our loyal fans and the Los Angeles music community this year.”

Organizers also said they were planning to announce some live shows by artists on the 2018 lineup soon. Their website, which features a copy of the same announcement, notified ticket buyers they should be receiving an email notification with further ticketing information. No action is needed to get full refunds.

Billboard, which first broke the story, says the cancellation was attributed to low ticket sales. A spokesperson for FYF had not to confirmed which reason was true at press time, or if it is both.

FYF Fest has been around since 2004 and was slated to take place this July in Los Angeles’ Exposition Park. The festival recently had some high-profile turnover after four women came forward last year with accounts of sexual harassment by founder Sean Carlson, who later resigned.

But the festival seemed determined to rebuild and rebrand, with Goldenvoice buying out Carlson’s stake in the festival in February and announcing a female-led lineup in March. Florence + The Machine and Janet Jackson were each set to headline a day of the festival, supported by artists including Future, My Bloody Valentine, The xx, and St. Vincent. This year’s lineup was roughly an even 50/50 split between men and women or nonbinary performers –– compared to Pitchfork’s findings that this year’s festival season overall was only 19% female.

The effort to include more women artists was hailed as an inclusive step forward towards spotlighting women in an overwhelmingly male-dominated industry. Even earlier last month, when asked by Refinery29 if she was worried about the old school idea that people wouldn’t pay to see women artists, FYF artist booker Jenn Yacoubian was confident it’d be a sure bet.

“Geez, I hope that this is not the mindset, or we are all f**ked [ ed.: censorship hers] on multiple levels,” she wrote in an email. “Ticket sales are always on every promoter’s mind, but we never felt that a strong female representation on the lineup would ever impact us negatively sales-wise. I am extremely proud of the lineup and it sounds like a lot of people out there are excited about it as well.”

The reason for low ticket sales is speculative at best, and one of the likeliest candidates is burnout: there are about a dozen festivals planned for the Los Angeles area through September, most of which are pricey, time-consuming, and stacked with their own tailored line-ups (and it’s likely there was some overlap with FYF’s talent). FYF was also planned the same weekend as the San Diego Comic-Con, which, um, already seems like a bad idea, considering the fact that SDCC draws in hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

Still, this is undoubtedly a big blow towards an already-hesitant, slow-moving industry betting on major women-led events. And the thing is: it’s not as if there isn’t an audience out there for female performers. Think of Beyoncé’s recent Coachella set (how can you not?), or of the fact that 51% of festivalgoers are women.

But on top of there being fewer women in music due to systemic harassment and exclusion, rumors that FYF’s cancellation might have anything to do with having women front and center — even if that’s blatantly untrue — might affect decisions going forward with festival planning. And that does no favors for the future of women-led festivals.

A post shared by FYF Fest (@fyffest) on May 6, 2018 at 11:24am PDT

Click HERE to read more from Refinery29


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