What We Know (So Far) About Music Festivals in 2017

Beyoncé has added another title to her impressive résumé - festival headliner.
Beyoncé has added another title to her impressive résumé - festival headliner.
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The calendar may have just turned over to 2017, but the festival calendar for the spring and summer is already heating up (no pun intended). In fact, three of the nation’s biggest festivals recently announced their lineups for festivals upcoming. Radiohead, Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar will headline Coachella in April; Foo Fighters, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Maroon 5 will headline BottleRock in May; and Governors Ball in June will feature the likes of Tool, Chance the Rapper, Phoenix and Childish Gambino.

Many more festivals — including Texas fests like Free Press Summer Fest, Middlelands and Austin City Limits – will announce their lineups in the coming months, but certain trends have already begun to emerge. If anything, the first few festivals to announce their lineups have taught us a thing or two about the upcoming calendar in 2017.

Beyoncé Has Officially Crossed Over
Need further proof that Queen Bey has arrived as the biggest pop star on the planet? She’s now headlining arguably the most popular music festival in America, one that’s traditionally been reserved for hip-hop and rock headliners (last year was headlined by Guns N’ Roses, LCD Soundsystem and Calvin Harris; the year before featured Jack White, Drake and AC/DC). Coachella was going to sell out anyway, so it’s hard to quantify Beyoncé’s impact on ticket sales. However, booking someone of her caliber solidifies the fest’s pole position among the nation’s biggest festivals. Plus, it pretty much guarantees a Jay-Z cameo at some point.

Festivals Are Embracing Pop
There was a time when some festivals kinda shied away from out-and-out pop types. Sure, artists like Foo Fighters, Drake and the White Stripes — pop types in their own right — have headlined numerous festivals in the past, but these events seemed reticent to feature more traditional pop artists. That has officially changed. In addition to Beyoncé’s aforementioned headlining set at Coachella, other pop types to infiltrate the festival landscape in 2017 are Lorde (Coachella/Governors Ball) and Maroon 5 (BottleRock). Yes, festivals are in the business of showcasing new and emerging acts; they’re also in the business of selling tickets, and artists like these do just that.

For All You Planning on Attending ACL Fest...
ACL Fest likely won’t announce its 2017 lineup until May, but the unveiling of lineups for BottleRock, Coachella and Governors Ball provides a little insight into which artists will be on the festival scene in 2017. Thus, it gives some clues as to which artists may headline ACL Fest 2017, taking place October 6-8 and 13-15 at Zilker Park. Coachella headliners are all likely out — Kendrick Lamar and Radiohead headlined ACL last year, and it’s doubtful we’ll see Beyoncé make more than one festival appearance in 2017. However, others, like Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Childish Gambino and Chance the Rapper (who played ACL in 2015), might very well find their way to Austin this fall. And while Foo Fighters headlined the festival two years ago, no one is going to turn down Dave Grohl and company should they again express interest. Plus, when Foo Fighters headlined ACL Fest in 2015, Grohl was immobilized by a broken leg, so he might be itching for a more proper set this time around.

Hip-Hop Continues Its Festival Ascent
Hip-hop has always had a place at the table of major festivals; it just hasn’t been a very sizable one. Sure, artists like Common and the Roots (the latter of whom is playing BottleRock) have always been welcome on the mid-card, but only recently have festival-goers witnessed a rise in hip-hop headliners. From past festival headliners like Eminem, Drake and Kanye West to current ones like Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper, hip-hop is finally allowed to shine in festival primetime. Other major hip-hop names on the festival circuit in 2017 include Schoolboy Q (Coachella/Governors Ball), Gucci Mane (Coachella), Wu-Tang Clan (Governors Ball) and the Roots (BottleRock).

Depth Remains Key
Headliners like Beyoncé, Tool and Radiohead top the bill and are certainly responsible for a majority of festival ticket sales; however, depth is key to executing an elite festival. Coachella has not only become the nation’s premier festival thanks to its name-brand headliners, but also because it fills out the lineup with a nice mix of established and up-and-coming talent. As much is evident yet again in 2017, when Coachella will feature artists like DJ Khaled, the xx, Travis Scott, Mac Miller and New Order in the mid- and upper-mid card.

Take Note, FPSF
Look, no one is expecting Beyoncé to return home and headline FPSF 2017 — though it would certainly kick ass if she did. But to take that next step to become a major player on the national festival scene, FPSF needs to lure in a noteworthy headliner in 2017. The key is going one step below superstars like Radiohead and Foo Fighters (those guys aren’t coming here) and reaching out to name-brand talent that may actually consider a stop in Houston — folks like Chance the Rapper, Childish Gambino, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals. Can FPSF organizers get an artist of that caliber? It's certainly plausible (two of the three have played the fest before), but we’ll find out in a couple of months when the 2017 lineup is released.

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