The DaBaby Domino Effect: How Lollapalooza Became the Bellwether for Festivals to Follow

·4-min read

On Sunday morning, many observers were surprised when Lollapalooza announced that the evening’s headlining set from embattled rapper DaBaby — who had unleashed a series of homophobic comments over the week, beginning during his performance at the Rolling Loud Miami festival — was canceled.

The surprise was not the cancelation, but rather the fact that it took so long. DaBaby’s inflammatory comments and his unconvincing attempts at an apology had unleashed a firestorm of criticism from fans, executives, other artists — and now, the festival he was supposed to headline.

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“Lollapalooza was founded on diversity, inclusivity, respect, and love,” the announcement read. “With that in mind, DaBaby will no longer be performing at Grant Park tonight.” In his place, Atlanta’s Young Thug, who was scheduled to perform an earlier slot, was asked to top the bill.

Over the following hours and days, DaBaby would see nearly every concert on his itinerary canceled, including headlining slots at several festivals — as if the Lollapalooza announcement set off a domino effect that others followed.

What took so long? According to insiders, the internal debates between Lollapalooza organizers, including C3 Presents and Live Nation, heated up Friday night when festival founder Perry Farrell purportedly got on the phone with DaBaby, but was not swayed by their conversation. (A rep for Farrell did not respond to Variety‘s request for comment.) According to Billboard, DaBaby also promised a video apology to be aired at Lollapalooza and the other festivals in which he apologized more sincerely to the LGBTQ community, but it “never arrived.”

At some point on Saturday, organizers abandoned efforts to allow DaBaby to use the platform to make a positive statement.

At around midnight, Young Thug received the official ask to take DaBaby’s place. The team (Young Thug is managed by Geoff Ogunlesi and booked by Mike G. at UTA) swiftly agreed to the new slot, seeing it as an opportunity to bring his colorful, high-production-value, 30-dancer set to a massive audience of some 100,000.

Key executives at DaBaby’s label, Interscope, as well as top brass at Universal Music Group were also said to be “extremely upset” by the rapper’s remarks. DaBaby’s “Rockstar,” featuring Roddy Ricch, was among the biggest songs of 2020 (it’s moved 7.2 million song units to date, according to Alpha Data Music); complicating matters further, the company is in the process of an IPO that is expected to launch next month.

Following Lollapalooza, New York City music festival Governor’s Ball also dropped the rapper from its lineup, writing in a statement, “Founders Entertainment does not and will not tolerate hate or discrimination of any kind.” Shortly thereafter, Austin City Limits, which is owned by C3 Presents, the same parent company as Lollapalooza, announced that DaBaby would no longer be performing at the Texas festival. And from there, the dominos continued to fall: Day N Vegas, iHeartRadio Music Festival, Can’t Wait Live!, Music Midtown and Parklife Festival have also cut DaBaby out of their lineups. As of Thursday, Kansas’ Hot 103 Jamz Summer Jam and New Jersey’s Hot 97 Summer Jam remain the rapper’s only upcoming festival appearances.

On Wednesday, GLAAD, along with 10 other national LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS organizations, released an open letter to DaBaby requesting a private meeting to discuss the facts about HIV and how it is a preventable and treatable condition, and discuss a long-term opportunity for him to pass on the education to his fanbase. The letter read, “We heard your inaccurate and harmful comments at Rolling Loud and have read your Instagram apology. However, at a time when HIV continues to disproportionately impact Black Americans and queer and transgender people of color, a dialogue is critical. We must address the miseducation about HIV, expressed in your comments, and the impact it has on various communities.”

What remains unclear is whether or not DaBaby will be paid for any of the performances. When it comes to festival contracts, a “morals clause” is not usually a stipulation forced upon an act by organizers. As for payment when an artist is pulled the morning of its headlining slot? It’s likely he kept a deposit, typically 10% of the performance fee, which in DaBaby’s case might have netted around $200,000 based on a rate of $2 million. However, another concert-industry insider speculated that, due to the late cancelation, DaBaby could have gotten 50%. DaBaby is booked in North America by Andrew Lieber at MAC Agency. He is managed by Arnold Taylor of South Coast Music Group.

Reps for the rapper and Lollapalooza did not immediately respond to Variety’s requests for comment. However, one thing is clear from the past 12 days of DaBaby’s career: In the 2021 music world, homophobia is bad for business.

With reporting by Jem Aswad.

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