The Future of Music Festivals In the United States

In recent years, the number of music festivals around the United States has steadily increased. It is estimated that over 800 music festivals take place annually nationwide. Some landmark festivals have experienced historic milestones. Coachella, the largest festival in the United States sold out both weekends within minutes of tickets going on sale. Bonnaroo sold out for the first time in over 5 years.

At the same time, some other festivals did not have the same results. The most recent case was the failure of Michael Lang’s Woodstock 50th festival. Through what seemed like insane determination, the production company finally folded the idea of the festival only a couple weeks before the scheduled dates. As news of the Woodstock festival filled mainstream headlines, the ordeal reminded many of the failed Fyre Festival of 2017. Ironically, the Fyre Festival was back in the news last week for the announcement of new litigation against artists that received deposits from Billy McFarland. The list of those artists and Instagram influencers involved can include Blink-182, Pusha T, Migos, Lil Yachty, and Kendall Jenner.

Many thought the Woodstock anniversary would eventually turn into the humanitarian crisis that Fyre Festival played out. Luckily, festival promoters and venues saw the red flags…and those with reasonable concerns of safety and financial success refused to work with Lang. Besides these two popular cases, a number of other festivals have shut their doors. The Panorama Festival was an annual summer music festival held in New York City that folded for 2019. On the heels of the disaster of Fyre Festival, Pennsylvania festival Karoondinha folded merely a couple of weeks before show dates in early July of 2017.

Beyond festivals folding, 2019 saw a particular trend that caught headlines from Billboard and Consequence of Sound. For the first time in its history, Coachella saw resale tickets to the festival drop below the price scalpers had bought them. Basically, even though the festival sold out immediately, the customer demand for tickets plummeted compared to previous years. Delaware’s Firefly festival saw a tough year financially as vendors reported record low revenues.

Since the recession, the summer festival market has exploded. With over 800 major music festivals annually…the options are endless. Instead of attending Firefly for the 4th or 5th time, festival fans have the options to attend more genre-specific events. These smaller festivals have coincidentally been able to increase their annual budgets attracting larger artist names. A primary example is the Moonrise Festival in Baltimore, MD. In 4 short years, the festival has doubled its annual attendance. Electric Forest, possibly the most iconic genre-specific festival in the country, caps annual attendance around 30,000. The festival sells out in minutes every year. I could mention dozens of other smaller festivals that have seen annual growth in the last 5 years..while well-known festivals like Lollapalooza and Firefly have stalled.

With the resurgence of music festival popularity in the 21st century, I believe festival-goers are finally leaning towards the more affordable intimate opportunities. Instead of experiencing a major festival for the third or fourth time, people are beginning to venture to smaller music festivals for a new experience. Eventually, the Coachella idea of music festivals will be a thing of the past, as smaller inclusive opportunities continue to flourish across the country.

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