For The Record: Music Festival Edition

For The Record: Music Festival Edition

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For the record, I am not an industry expert but I do have something to say about todays music industry. This week I am going to talk about music festivals. Music festivals are one of the hottest trends right now. There are different music festivals in different cities popping up every year. And around this time of the year is lineup announcement season. They announce a few months out to give all the festival goers enough time to scrape up every cent they have to venture out to a farm to get dirty for a weekend and jam to their favorite bands under the summer sun. Sounds like a spiritual awakening right? Well for some people it is, and they loyally attend them every year and sometimes a few.

One question many people are asking is, with all of these new and large-scale festivals popping up, will the festival industry continue to grow or will the bubble burst? One aspect of the festival industry that might lead to that bubble bursting is the repetitiveness. If you look past the intriguing graphic design on lineup posters for each festival, you might notice that many artists are featured multiple times. Too many festivals in a short amount of time can also be difficult for booking artists and the market is close to saturation. All of this is due to some festivals being owned by one entity, usually Live Nation or AC Entertainment (who recently merged with Live Nation, so basically just Live Nation). Live Nation has received some heat for doing so, complaints about lineups becoming too mainstream and commercialized. This is because Live Nation makes deals with the festivals and their artists that ultimately makes them money. So basically they have some of the same huge headliners “tour” multiple festivals. On the other side of things, festivals want the biggest names in music to headline. That can be costly to achieve. So making these deals with Live Nation helps them out. And most of their income for a festival is sponsorships anyway. Just to put in perspective, ticket sales only cover the costs to run a festival. The festivals themselves have to make some profit to keep them alive from year to year.

Over time, festivals have evolved to please the target market and make more money. Music Festivals are not just about the performers anymore. People want to get the most bang for their buck. Festivals provide things like silent disco, comedy tents, interactive installments, yoga classes, and 5k races. Another huge trend at these festivals is sustainability. The fact that Bonnaroo basically becomes one of Tennessee’s largest populated cities for a weekend means that the staff must do everything they can to help keep the Festival “green”. Bonnaroo advertises their efforts for sustainability before, during, and after the festival. This is very attractive to the millennial demographic and adds to the list of reasons why people will keep coming back.

There are so many factors that go into whether a festival will succeed or not: competition, failed location, poor money management, or haphazard planning. Frye Festival, for example, was probably the worst planned festival ever. The attendees got there and nothing was ready for them. It got cancelled before it even started. I could write a whole post about the epic fail that is Frye Festival. Anyways, any festival can fail in this industry. In the end, the atmosphere and experience of a music festival will keep attendance high. Festival goers make and share their positive experiences that keep them going back. As a festival goer myself, I do not see the music festival bubble bursting as a whole, but I could understand the market decreasing in size due to the fact that people can only afford so many $300+ festivals per year.


Julianne Plummer

Julianne Plummer

January 18, 2018at 1:17 pm

As a two time Bonnaroo attendee I felt qualified to speak on this subject lol. I do begin to wonder the same thing that you mentioned, ‘How many festivals can there be?’ After attending Rolling Loud in Miami this past May and seeing some of the planning issues that they had and the lack of extra activities that were provided at a festival like Bonnaroo, I also can’t help but wonder what the future of festivals will hold. With more mainstream artists being present on lineups, the indie festival goer is being pushed out and I can’t help but think that this will lead to a rebirth of small, local, and organic festivals that accept the fact that they’re doing it for the art and won’t have amazing profit margins. Art needs somewhere to live, and with Live Nation taking over everything I can’t help but believe that new grassroots festivals will be created for this art to continue.

    Madeline Wellstead

    Madeline Wellstead

    January 18, 2018at 1:36 pm

    I honestly never thought about it that way but I agree! I definitely could also see festivals push towards a more small scale like you said. I guess we will find out eventually!

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