Music Festival Business Is Good Business

July 17, 2013

We’re halfway through the summer already, so I think it’s about time we take a look at something that has become a staple of the warmest months in recent years: The summer music festival.

A few decades ago, the large music festival was a rare experience. In August 1969, Woodstock changed music history forever as it attracted 400,000 concert-goers to Bethel, New York. But Woodstock wasn’t an annual occurrence. In fact, a second Woodstock festival wasn’t held again for 10 years, and it surely paled in comparison to the original.

In recent years, new music festivals have sprouted up across the globe. And why are these festivals growing so rapidly? Do festival producers just want to provide a place for music fans of different genres to meet and enjoy a weekend of live music? Well, maybe. But there is another big reason as well. Put quite simply, music festivals are good business.

CoachellaLast year, Coachella in Indio, Calif., sold 158,000 tickets and pulled in $47.3 million in revenue. Part of this increase in revenue is because Coachella expanded to two weekends instead of one. While critics initially scoffed at the idea, the longer festival still sold its 2013 allotment of tickets in just 20 minutes. Back in 2007, Coachella only made $17 million. With so much money up for grabs, other festivals are following Coachella’s lead. Sasquatch will be expanding to two weekends as well for its 2014 incarnation.

Festival producers aren’t the only ones that see dollar signs when they look at the open plots of land where so many festivals are held. Click on any sponsor page of any festival website and you will see multiple well-known brands that are battling for the attention of hundreds of thousands of impressionable eyes. Companies are willing to pay large sums of money to be affiliated with the amazing experience the music fan is sure to have.

But not all music festivals that appeared in recent years have experienced success. The Kanrocksas Music Festival, which was scheduled for June 28-29 at the Kansas Speedway, was cancelled this year. Kanrocksas’ inaugural showing in 2011 was headlined by Eminem and Muse, but the promoters still lost a substantial amount of money. They lost so much money that the festival was actually suspended in 2012 so they could create a new strategy for the event. Instead of dropping huge sums of money for all-star headliners, they decided to bring in smaller acts. Apparently the people of Kansas were looking for something more awe-inspiring, as headliners Kendrick Lamar, Tiesto, and the Avett Brothers couldn’t draw in enough interest and ticket sales to sustain the event.

Although there are a staggering number of for-profit festivals, Minnesotans may be most familiar with one very unique festival that occurred this past weekend. The Basilica Block Party has been benefiting the ongoing restoration of the Basilica of St. Mary since 1995.

It’s an open question whether we’ve reached the saturation point for the mega summer music festivals.