This year, one of the hottest music festivals wasn’t in the influencer-studded deserts of Coachella Valley or at a three-day rave in Las Vegas. Instead, it was the 78% female, “sad girl indie” lineup of All Things Go, located just an hour outside of the nation’s capital at the 20,000-person capacity Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland that took fans by storm this fall. Selling out all their tickets in just 30 minutes, the nine-year-old festival’s lineup is a stunning testament to the power of female and queer artists and listeners. In a heavily male-dominated industry, it stands as a model for inclusivity that other festivals would do well to look towards.
Recognizing their image as the “Coachella for people on antidepressants,” the festival promoters leaned into that branding and intentionally designed an indie-heavy lineup with a music-focused atmosphere, recognizing that the fans who attend are there to listen to their favorite artists and enjoy performances. Their headlining acts — Maggie Rogers, boygenius, and Lana Del Rey — were perfect choices, as these are artists who have connected with their fans on a deep emotional level while also pushing the creative boundaries of their genres with uniquely defined aesthetics and sounds.
An artist on a meteoric rise, Maggie Rogers’ career was sparked by the viral video of Pharrell Williams discovering her music while she was a student at NYU. Drawing on her freshly minted master’s degree in Religion and Public Life from Harvard Divinity School, her work is strong and intentional, and her intelligence and creativity shine through her music. Her confidence when performing is palpable, and she oozes cool-girl-next-door energy. With only two studio albums out, the most recent being 2022’s Surrender, Rogers has already developed a distinct style that is resonating with fans, and it’s clear that she has a long and successful career ahead of her.
boygenius, the supergroup composed of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker, three successful solo acts in their own right, was one of the most anticipated acts of the festival. The group, all of whom are openly LGBTQ+, has blown up in popularity in recent years by attracting a devoted fanbase of predominately Gen Z queer women who identify with their beautifully written and emotionally devastating songs that grapple with trauma, identity, friendship, and relationships. It also doesn’t hurt that Bridgers, arguably the most well-known of the three, is a frequent collaborator with superstar musicians like Taylor Swift (who she and her bandmates would open for on the Eras Tour), The 1975, The National, and SZA, among others, and the group has a large social network of other beloved indie figures. With growing mainstream recognition, “the boys” (as they call themselves) are queering and subverting the image of a rock band, with packed shows where concertgoers collectively sob and scream/sing along to ballads with gutwrenching lyrics.
The biggest star on the lineup, Lana Del Rey, meanwhile, is a long-established name in the music world and an indie/alt darling. With an intense fanbase, she's curated a mystifying public image — most recently exemplified in the heavily meme’d photo of what appeared to be her working at a Waffle House. With a deep discography of hits, from her breakout song "Video Games" to “Young And Beautiful” as featured in the movie The Great Gatsby to the critically acclaimed album Norman Fucking Rockwell!, Del Rey was one of the early pioneers of the “sad girl Tumblr indie” aesthetic and sound in the early 2010s. She remains a titan in the genre who has inspired the next generation of female artists from Olivia Rodrigo to Billie Eilish, and likely many others found on the All Things Go lineup.
These artists are fantastic performers with the ability to generate high ticket sales, and the success of this all-women headlining roster sends an important message in an industry that is overwhelmingly dominated by men. For example, a study of 1,000 popular songs from 2012 to 2021 found that women only accounted for 21.8% of artists, 12.7% of songwriters, and 2.8% of producers. The numbers show a staggering disparity by gender across the industry, and the problem is only exacerbated when race is taken into consideration.
This problem extends to live music as well — in 2018, 70% of the lineups at 19 major festivals were male-only acts. This is another reason that All Things Go is so special: their commitment to bridging this gender divide and promoting women artists. Since partnering with Amplify Her Voice, a nonprofit aimed at promoting the careers of women in the music industry, between 52-81% of the acts in their lineups from 2018 onwards have included women and/or non-binary performers, far above the industry standard. Kristina London, the founder and executive director of Amplify Her Voice, says that the overwhelming success of All Things Go “speaks volumes to not only how powerful it is to support women in music, but also showing that women sell tickets, women buy merch, women can make the music industry very, very profitable.”
Chartmetric was honored to partner with All Things Go and Amplify Her Voice to sponsor and fund the All Access program, an educational on-site tour granting aspiring women and non-men live music professionals the unique opportunity to gain firsthand insights into the inner workings of concerts and music festivals. As of 2021, only 13.9% of top music industry executives and just over a quarter of A&R executives were women, so helping women in the early stages of their careers get their foot in the door is crucial. While being shown a behind-the-scenes view of All Things Go, participants were able to ask questions, discuss their own career goals, and get advice from the seasoned industry professionals leading the tours.
The program was a perfect complement to the unique atmosphere fans experienced at All Things Go, which was described by Naomi McPherson of MUNA as “lesbo-palooza” during their set. After taking part in the All Access tour, Leor Clark, a grad student at George Washington University, said she felt safer at this festival than she has at others for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that “the artists promote a better environment for their fans.”
London saw All Access as a priority since “a lot of the work people do in the music industry can't be replicated in a classroom, it has to be hands-on, in person,” and emphasized the value of getting to witness the process firsthand and learn about the numerous different career paths available. One such participant, Laina Pevide, who currently works in freelance PR and event operations, noted how this program was especially meaningful given how male-dominated this space tends to be:
“When you get exposure to the amount of women who are working in the industry, and you see that there are festivals like All Things Go that are prioritizing women — both performing and producing — it allows you to imagine all the possibilities that I definitely didn't think of growing up."
Chartmetric is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in music, and looks forward to supporting similar initiatives in the future. In the meantime, we’ll be counting down to next year’s festival!
Graphics by Nicki Camberg; data as of Nov. 6, 2023.