Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Glastogate

Yesterday, during my lunch break, I logged into Facebook and was greeted by this little bundle of joy:


Here are some interesting numbers for you:
  • At time of writing, that 'Cancel Kanye' petition has 36,058 signatories. That's a lot of people, but...

  • ...a quick Google search suggests that the Glastonbury Festival has a maximum capacity of 177,000. Assuming (perhaps generously) that each and every person who signed that petition has a ticket for Glastonbury 2015, that's still only about 20% of the festival's total attendance.

  • According to the Glastonbury website, the festival has "main music stages", as well as 24 other "areas". Let's make a conservative estimate and guess that only 50% of those areas have something happening at any given time during the weekend - this still means that there will be 13 other acts performing at the same time as Kanye West, at least some of which will probably be rock bands.

  • Judging by this Guardian article from last year, Glastonbury 2014 boasted a line-up of well over 2,000 acts. Assuming that Glasto '15 will hit roughly the same mark, Kanye West will constitute less than 0.05% of the total line-up.
Look, I'm not a Kanye West fan - I've only heard a few of his tracks, and most of them did absolutely nothing for me - but actively campaigning to replace him with a "rock band" does not make you a 'true' music fan or whatever you're telling yourself. In fact, given how overwhelmingly white most A-list rock bands are, it may actually make you a borderline racist.

We've seen this before, of course - everybody was similarly up-in-arms when Jay-Z was announced as a headliner for Glastonbury 2008. Do you know who the other two headliners were that year? The Verve and Kings of Leon. Of the 15 bands and artists who have headlined the Pyramid Stage since then, only two (Beyoncé and Stevie Wonder) were non-white. Most of the others - Arctic Monkeys, The Rolling Stones, Metallica, U2, Bruce Springteen, and so forth - were white rock acts.


I feel a little hypocritical writing this; I mean, most of the music I listen to is white rock music. The difference, though, is that I recognise this as a bad thing, just as I recently realised that my library's utter lack of female artists is a bad thing. I'm not proud of my near-total bias towards white dude rock, and I'm certainly not signing petitions in order to force major music festivals to mirror my embarrassingly un-diverse CD collection more closely.

And crucially, Glastonbury is just that: a music festival, not a rock festival. They put on all kinds of talent from all sorts of genres; sure, the headline slots are usually reserved for rock bands because, historically, rock music is the biggest ticket-seller, but pop and hip-hop and R&B are arguably far bigger money-spinners nowadays. Glastonbury have to move with the times, and if they bend to the will of all the wine-quaffing, Clarkson-supporting, middle-aged 'music lovers' who start these petitions every time Glasto put a POC on the Pyramid Stage, the Eavis family are going to be up Shit Creek when those people eventually die and today's hip young Kanye fans have become the fucking gatekeepers.

To be honest, I'm not even sure why I bothered to write this blog - Lauren Laverne already tweeted the perfect response to this whole dickfest, and she did it more eloquently in 140 characters than I've managed in half a dozen paragraphs:


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