Festival lineups, Repeated Headliners and Lad Culture

Look at some of the recently announced festival line-ups coming out of the UK right now, taking extra notice of the mid-level festivals such as Y Not, Kendal Calling, Isle Of Wight, and Tramlines. Now take another look at them, this time without paying attention to which is which – can you distinguish between them? Probably not. Why is this? Well, it’s easy to see why. They all have the same headliners, or at least from the same pool. It feels like a discussion that gets bought up every year, and it seems to get more infuriating with every year that passes. Why are festivals in the UK so scared to diversify their line-ups?


Although achieving a more gender-diverse split would be nice, it is not just about gender. Festivals should strive to attain gender-diverse line-ups, and this can be made possible by following the PRS’ KeyChange movement that aims to increase gender balance in the music industry. What is important is for people to feel inspired when they look at these line-ups. However, can festivals achieve this when they are so focused on making their events a nostalgia trip? I don’t think so.

It’s disheartening to look at these line-ups to be greeted by a Gallagher brother – past his sell-by date and riding on the success of albums almost 10 years older than the average YNot Festival attendee (with the Derbyshire-based festival being quite widely known in the Midlands for being the one that teenagers go to post GCSEs) with most throwing in The Kooks, who haven’t had a relevant release since 2006, and, more often than not, The Vaccines, who peaked with their 2011 debut, for good measure. But, why is this the way forward for most of these mid-level festivals?

The answer lies with lad culture. Festivals are almost certain to make more money from nostalgia acts, as these are the crowd that they attract. Festivals look to the one-time-a-year festival goer and accommodate them, knowing that these people will rock up with their cans of Strongbow Dark Fruits, flares in one hand, bucket hats in the other, and they will do so with a large group of mates that will spend hundreds of pounds on the bar, ultimately resulting in more profit for the promoters involved.

But if this is what is believed to be the ‘way forward’, then who will be headlining these festivals in five years time? Who will be there to sell the tickets if festivals today aren’t helping to promote the next big thing? Here is where festivals like Truck Festival, Deer Shed, and Bearded Theory excel – as they often break away from the norm and offer new, not-seen-before headliners a chance to show attendees what they’ve got. This year’s Truck Festival sees Isle of Wight sensations Wet Leg step up to the challenge, receiving their first major headline slot, marking their festival season comeback off the success of their self-titled debut album, not only doing something different, but something exciting too.


Festivals need to diversify their headliners by inviting new acts to fill the stage. It may be more of a risk for them financially, it may result in a change of demographic, but it will inspire more festivals to take the same risk. If festivals want to have a crowd that is more representative of the population, they need to pay attention to the full-time gig-goers who are continuously pushing new artists to the forefront, it’s time to give the Wolf Alices, the Fontaines D.Cs, the Young Fathers and the Amyl & The Sniffers of the industry a chance to prove themselves. It’s the only way to save the industry from caving in on itself.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.