No Shade to Pop Allies, But It’s Time for Pride Festivals to Book More LGBTQ Artists


Even on the festivals created to have a good time the queer expertise, LGBTQ artists are usually not being given the highlight that they deserve. That wants to vary.

Every June, thousands and thousands of LGBTQ individuals throughout the United States have a good time love, inclusivity and their impermeable identities as part of Pride Month. In 2019, Pride Month shall be greater than ever: with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the occasion that started the now-annual Pride Month traditions, queer individuals in all places shall be looking for methods to have a good time the progress now we have made since then.

Along with the virtually at all times current Pride parades, it has grow to be a customized for cities of all sizes to host weekend-long festivals, the place musical acts from all genres come to have a good time LGBTQ love with crowds of 1000’s. And but, heterosexual one-hit wonders far outpace rising queer artists with regards to reserving these occasions. That truth ought to be alarming.

Even on the festivals created to have a good time the queer expertise, LGBTQ artists are usually not being given the highlight that they deserve. Instead, occasion boards habitually favor straight performers, seeing them as being extra marketable over queer artists — a sentiment that echoes via the music business.

The easy fact is that Pride festivals have a duty to characterize for his or her viewers of LGBTQ individuals, not these round them. By permitting a bevy of straight performers to prance round our stage at our occasion, we’re telling the world that this stage of illustration is okay with us. If we gained’t create and uplift our personal celebrities, why ought to anybody else?

Take, for example, rising nation artist Brandon Stansell, an out performer who commonly sings about his expertise as a homosexual man in a style the place that’s nonetheless thought of taboo. Even after being approached as a possible headlining act in a significant metropolis, he was rejected from at the least one Pride competition this 12 months. “A few cities have jumped on board for this 12 months, however we’ve additionally been instructed flat out by different festivals that he ‘isn’t excessive profile sufficient,’” his supervisor Ryan Aceto tells Billboard.

Stansell, thoughts you, isn’t some full unknown, both. His video for “Hometown,” which explicitly tells a homosexual popping out story, was premiered on CMT. The video even landed on Rolling Stone’s list of the ten finest nation music movies of 2018, alongside nation stars like Kacey Musgraves and Brothers Osborne. “He’s pushing right into a style that’s woefully missing in range, so to be instructed that he’s not doing sufficient to be booked at a competition particularly meant to have a good time range feels fairly ridiculous,” Aceto says.

In the age of social media and streaming, indie LGBTQ artists are managing to seek out an viewers. Why not permit them to develop their platforms in a stay setting? Instead of throwing cash at forgotten pop stars of the ‘80s and ‘90s, make an funding in the neighborhood you’re celebrating. Something so simple as a modest reserving charge may very well be the distinction between obscurity and a breakthrough for impartial artists — that charge may fund their subsequent music video, assist pay for studio time and even assist them e book one other gig.

Not certain the place to discover queer expertise? Allow us to briefly help: Want somebody who can rap? Artists like Mykki Blanco, Kodie Shane and Roy Kinsey all produce glorious and utterly totally different sounds throughout the hip-hop style. Perhaps you’re on the lookout for a girl to deliver the pop magic? Consider Kim Petras, Slayyyter, Gia Woods or Fletcher, all of whom fall someplace on the LGBTQ spectrum. Interested in reserving an EDM entertainer? Look no additional than GRiZ and Kandy, who’ve discovered audiences within the dance scene. And in case you’re nonetheless involved about reputation, there’s a laundry checklist of out musicians making waves within the business to select from: Troye Sivan, Halsey, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Janelle Monáe, Tegan & Sara, Adam Lambert, Kehlani, Hayley Kiyoko and dozens of others have discovered mainstream success whereas being out and proud.

Should straight artists be banned altogether from acting at Pride festivals? No. Icons like Madonna and Cher, together with trendy stars like Kacey Musgraves, Ariana Grande and Dua Lipa persistently use their platforms to uplift and enrich our group. Grande, for instance, has been introduced because the headliner for this 12 months’s Manchester Pride Festival. While the competition has been met with controversy on account of a price hike following their announcement of Grande, her inclusion isn’t undeserved; not solely does the star have a historical past with the town, however she has been unwavering in her help for the LGBTQ group since her days as a Nickelodeon star. For their continued activism, stars like Grande ought to be welcomed with open arms to affix within the celebrations.

But in reserving straight allies, the vetting course of ought to be thorough. Any pop star can pander with a fast “Happy Pride Month” shoutout on social media, or wave a rainbow flag on stage. But if they need a spot on the microphone throughout Pride Month festivities, they need to take actual, real actions that bolster the group year-round.

Look to L.A. Pride for example. Last 12 months’s lineup included two queer ladies in each of the coveted headlining slots: Kehlani and Tove Lo. That power actually didn’t finish there: A majority of the remaining acts within the present’s stacked 2018 lineup had been brazenly LGBTQ. (Billboard was hooked up to L.A. Pride as a media sponsor, however had no involvement within the curation of the competition's lineup.) By together with up-and-coming queer artists of their lineup whereas additionally managing reaching most capability, L.A. Pride has confirmed that this reserving mannequin could be each significant and worthwhile.

Gregory Alexander, a board member at L.A. Pride who leads artist programming, stated that having queer expertise at these festivals is significant to the integrity of the occasion. “It’s necessary for our group to really feel represented, so seeing someone like themselves on stage helps to advertise that,” he tells Billboard. “It additionally helps to amplify voices that may communicate to our expertise authentically.”

Popularity can’t be the usual for Pride occasions, because the LGBTQ expertise exists, historially and culturally, outdoors of mainstream tradition. It isn’t about reserving the most important names that you simply probably can. It is about celebrating what it means to be queer within the trendy age. And the very best artists to characterize that have are those who’ve lived it.