How Music Festivals Became a Massive Business in the 50 Years Since Woodstock

Sleeping in a tent for days to catch a glimpse of Beyoncé making history at Coachella. Crowding into a park for a surprise performance that turns out to be Dolly Parton at the Newport Folk Festival. As music festivals have taken off in popularity, these kids of experiences have become a key feature of cultural life in America.

Within the last decade, music festivals have grown into a major moneymaker in a competitive industry that sees hundreds of such events each year in the U.S. There are the big ones—Coachella, Lollapalooza, Outside Lands, Governors Ball—with big-ticket prices, multiple stages, camping options and nearly endless lists of performers. And alongside their rise in popularity, hundreds of smaller, niche or genre-specific festivals have flourished. Look up “music festival near me,” and you’re likely to find one within at least a few hours’ drive.

The origins of music festivals date back to ancient Greece, where such events often involved competitions in music, arts and sports. Modern music festivals in the U.S. grew out of the establishment and ethos of Woodstock. Though it was not the first event of its kind (the Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals, Milwaukee’s Summerfest and the Monterey Pop Festival predate Woodstock), the 1969 event holds a mythical place within American pop-cultural history. Festivals have since evolved from the DIY, communal spirit of Woodstock, growing into mainstream businesses that reap profits and embrace corporate sponsorships, as more than 32 million people attend them each year, according to Billboard. Coachella, one of the most popular festivals in the country, grossed $114.6 million in 2017, setting a major record for the first recurring festival franchise to earn more than $100 million.

“They used to be more of a communion of culture,” says Carlos Chirinos, a professor of clinical music and global health at New York University. “A group of people who were into the same type of music, they would come together. That was the driving force throughout the 1970s and 1980s until it became a profitable format.”

The mechanics that drove music festivals to becoming top earners have a lot to do with the effects of modern life, Chirinos says. People are more likely now to spend money on experiences over material goods, he says, contending that sharing a clip from a Billie Eilish or Cardi B performance with one’s Instagram followers is more gratifying than buying something expensive. That “experiential economy” has grown just as brands have gravitated toward festivals, looking to capitalize on the opportunities that one large group in a singular space presents, he says. A 2019 Deloitte survey of millennials—a group that makes up at least 45% of the 32 million people who attend music festivals—finds that most value experiences: 57% of respondents said they prioritized travel and seeing the world over owning a home.

Music itself has changed, as well, making festivals a bigger attraction for listeners. As streaming becomes one …read more

Source:: Time – Business

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