Lady Gaga will make history when she performs at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts festival this weekend, marking a decade since a solo woman has been billed as a headliner on the prestigious stage. Women have always performed at Coachella, which began Friday, since it was launched in 1999. In the last few years, the number of female performers has grown, including acts such as Sia and Tegan & Sara to M.I.A., Janelle Monae, and Santigold, reports the AP. But Bjork was the last solo female to headline Coachella in 2007, so it raises the question: Why has it taken so long? Halsey, who had one of last year's biggest pop hits with "Closer" alongside the Chainsmokers and performed at Coachella last year, speculates that women who perform alternative music are often billed as pop artists because of their sex.
"Festivals like Coachella, they pride themselves on being part of the counterculture, being tastemakers ... and I think one of the problems is that female artists are so often tainted as pop artists even when they don't necessarily intend to be," says Halsey, 22. Gary Bongiovanni, CEO of concert trade publication Pollstar, doesn't see "any sexism," just reality. "We live in a world where a significant majority of the acts are either male or male-fronted bands." In last year's Pollstar chart of the 100 top-grossing North America tours, women made up about 15% of the list; only Beyonce and Adele cracked the Top 10. Along with Gaga, this year's headliners include Radiohead and Kendrick Lamar; female performers include Lorde, Banks, Tove Lo, Kehlani, Nao, Kiiara, and Bishop Briggs.