“Who?” “Never Heard of Them.”

Dear Pride Family,

Every single year, some of the harshest criticism we hear at Pride is people denigrating our entertainment team and our Festival lineup selections. “Who?” “Never heard of them!” While people say these things and worse to our team as a criticism, the reality is that there is a method to our music selection, and I thought we’d take the opportunity to demystify our process.

San Diego Pride’s annual Festival has grown dramatically over the last 12 years from about 12,000 attendees to over 55,000. A huge part of that is our commitment to diverse LGBTQ local and top tiered talent who reflect our community. We prioritize hiring DJs, Drag performers, dancers, vocalists, and musicians from our local community because we should be investing in our own community. There are fiercely talented LGBTQ folks in San Diego who are all too frequently ignored outside of LGBTQ-owned businesses and Pride season. By focusing locally, we’re helping our local economy and exposing these incredible folks to new fans and booking opportunities.

We also prioritize local and top-tiered talent who use their platform to advocate and educate around LGBTQ rights. We frequently work to ensure their efforts are aligned with our year-round programs and or the theme of the year. For example, when we celebrated Stonewall 50, LGBTQ pioneer, legend, and advocate Melissa Ethridge was our closing headliner. That same year, the up and comer King Princess, whose music has a decidedly queer empowerment and educational message was our Saturday headliner.

When booking top tiered talent we also have to look at a ton of data. We have to assess the size, demographics, and geography of their following. We look at the demographics of our line-up. Is the artist in value alignment, or is there a scandal or 5-year-old tweet that’s going to come back to haunt them and us?

The market for the event and music industry has also changed over the last decade. Artist income used to come from record sales, so festivals and concerts were promotional; now it’s inverted. Top headliners now ask for $250-500,000, that if they would even consider a Pride. Many Prides around the country have increased Festival ticket prices to over $100 to keep moving with the market. San Diego Pride has prioritized keeping ticket prices low and finding strong emerging artists or top talent who are willing to work with our budget and value our year-round programs.

Through these efforts, we’ve grown steadily year over year. Our Festival has been full as we’ve hosted  Kesha, Cyndi Lauper, Big Freedia, Kim PetrasTLCRuby RoseSnow Tha Product, Ashnikko, Daya, Baby Tate, and so many more.

You can support our LGBTQ artists by getting your early bird $20 GA or $175 VIP ticket and when we post the full lineup in June please take a moment to follow them on social and learn about them. If you know local LGBTQ artists, please have them apply to perform at our events or point them to our Entertainment Workshop Series for skill building around branding, booking, and contracts. Our community’s performing artists bring us joy, empower our celebrations, help us grieve, tell our stories, and drive the mission of our movement forward. As they invest in us, let’s ensure we invest in them so together we can Thrive!

With Pride,

Fernando Z. López
Pronouns: they/them/theirs
Executive Director
San Diego Pride


About Fernando

Fernando Lopez was the Executive Director of San Diego Pride. Lopez’s years of LGBT advocacy, nonprofit management, public education, diversity consulting, media relations, guest lectures, and organizing have made them a consistent presence ensuring the struggles of the LGBT community are ever visible.