Why FYF Fest Talent Buyer Booked Women As Headliners: 'This Wasn't Something That We Were Consciously Tallying'

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Janet Jackson performs after the Dubai World Cup at the Meydan Racecourse on March 26, 2016 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  

The lack of women headlining major music festivals is nothing new. This year the topic has become particularly heated, with only a handful -- Beyoncé, Florence and the Machine, Janet Jackson -- sitting at the very top of certain bills.

But Los Angeles’ FYF Fest, which announced its two-day 2018 lineup on March 30 and will take over Exposition Park July 21-22, changed the conversation when it revealed that both its headliners are women: Florence will close out the first night; Jackson the second. Other acts on the diverse lineup include St. Vincent, The Breeders, Lucy Dacus, Future, Glassjaw and many more.

The festival’s forward-thinking bill carries all the way through its 46 acts; 22 are either solo female or gender-fluid artists or groups with at least one female member. But FYF talent buyer Jenn Yacoubian says, “This wasn’t something that we were consciously tallying: ‘We have to have X amount of females or males on here.’ When we laid out everything, this is what made sense for the festival and this is what we thought was going to be the best booking." She adds, “We’re super happy to have so many talented women and men on the festival -- it wasn’t like there was any sort of criteria.”

Yacoubian, who was born and raised in Torrance, Calif., has been with Goldenvoice since 2009. She started bookings clubs and smaller one-off events and has since moved up to book larger venues and now, for the first time, FYF. But for months, FYF’s future was unclear: in November of last year, sexual misconduct allegations surfaced against FYF founder Sean Carlson, prompting Goldenvoice and its parent company AEG to sever ties. In February, AEG bought out Carlson’s 50 percent stake in the festival.

“I just don’t want people to think that the show is changing,” Yacoubian says, noting that co-producer Dave Peterson is still involved in the festival. “We love the show for as many reasons as our fans love the show, and we’re excited to continue to bring that experience to people and really showcase a great experience.”

This year’s all-female headliners aside, what has long separated FYF from other festivals since its inception in 2004 is that it has always been a multi-genre affair -- this year is only further evidence of such. Yacoubian recalls seeing Youth Code -- “They’re one of my favorites, an industrial-goth hardcore band led by this female who just rips it on vocals,” she says -- post the flyer on Instagram with the caption: “Yeah, we’re playing with Janet Jackson. Our minds are blown too.”

“There aren’t too many predetermined ideas of what FYF needs to be, because it’s always been very fluid in its bookings,” Yacoubian explains. “So dealing with the industry on it, there’s not too much convincing, knock on wood, on why [an act] should be on this bill. I think most people look back on previous lineups like, ‘Oh yeah, this totally makes sense.’”

As for reverting to two days after upping the festival to three last year, Yacoubian again points out that “FYF is known for change,” and says had Bjork and Missy Elliott come to her again this year, “I would have made a Wednesday work and called it part of FYF.” She adds, “This year, we presented what we have and what we want to accomplish, [and decided to] just make it a slam dunk two-day festival in LA. This is what felt best.”