Critics Perceive Lack of Diversity Among Riverbend Headliners

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – Riverbend Festival organizers say the lineup selection process is complex but involves community input. “We sent out a survey to around 30,000 people and just ask them straight up, who would you want to see,” says Mitchell Hall, Director of Operations for Friends of the Festival.

Hall says spreadsheets are used to narrow that list of artists down. And then, bookings are made. This year’s line up includes 25 acts. The headliners, who are the main draw, are three bands.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Cage the Elephant, and The Brothers Osborne. These bands are all white and all male.

“Unfortunately with the type of music we want, our budget and who’s available this is just how it fell this year,” says Hall. “We would like to have more diversity with the headliners but it’s just what’s out there. What’s available is what we got.”

One Hamilton County Commissioner says it isn’t clear who selects the performers. Riverbend has branded itself a music festival for all people for decades.

“Is there even diversity and inclusion at the committee level on who gets to decide what is the right representation for a music festival for Chattanooga?” asks Hamilton County Commissioner Katherlyn Geter. “Chattanooga is, again, if we’re talking about uniting us and one Chattanooga, it needs to be representative of all of us, not just of one community or one set of people.” Geter says she’s choosing not to attend the festival this year.

“I’m choosing not to go and the reason is because I think for me I want to make a stand that again I was not included. I am all for uniting us as a city and a county and I want to move forward in that direction and I want to, whoever sits on that committee, be willing to have those necessary conversations but it’s not an environment that I feel represents me,” Geter says.

The festival is now only three days long and the cost is $95. Twenty years ago, Riverbend was nine days long, and about $20 for the entire festival. Only 15,000 wristbands are being sold for the festival. Head on over to for your tickets.

UPDATE: A Riverbend spokesperson reached out to News 12, asking us to clarify that 30 percent of the main lineup acts include people of color and women.

Categories: Chattanooga, Entertainment, Featured, Hamilton County, Local News

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