We’ve been talking about the shrinking pool of festival headliners for what seems like years, but how small is it really? When spreadsheeting out the already confirmed lineup toppers for this year, we accounted for more than 30 artists who qualify to headline a music festival and are being booked. That’s not even including the dozens upon dozens that aren’t being booked because they are off cycle, too expensive, or just off the radar. So why does it still feel like music festival headliners are less impressive year after year?
Maybe it’s the sheer amount of fests. Maybe it’s that reunions have suddenly disappeared from the equation. Maybe it’s that many of the artists that have risen the ranks to become headliners are not being replaced by equally capable acts. Maybe it’s a combination of all of these that has jaded us a bit when lineup posters are released. But on paper, the talent pool is as vast as ever.
Don’t believe us? Take a look at who didn’t make our list. First of all, there’s Beyonce, who would have topped the group if she didn’t pull out of her Coachella set last week. Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon, System of a Down, and Green Day will all be bringing rock to the biggest stages of the world. Classic rock fans have the likes of Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, and Tom Petty to look forward to. Rising stars bumped up to headliner status include Solange, Bon Iver, The xx, and Childish Gambino. And everything in between? We’re talking Muse, Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell Williams, and M.I.A..
So who did make the list? Check out our top 10 below and tune in later in the year as we revise our list.