From big-name events like Electric Zoo in New York to smaller, niche gatherings like Rocklahoma in Pryor, Okla., 55 music festivals (more or less) will be taking place in September across the United States. As people emerge from the pandemic, live, in-person events are making a comeback, prompting a summer (and seasons to come) filled with music festivals new and old.
According to the economic development company AngelouEconomics, Lollapalooza has generated over $2 billion in revenue for Chicago since its inception in 2010, including $305 million in 2021, while last year Austin City Limits Music Festival contributed $369.16 million to the city’s economy.
But it’s not just successful festivals that make money. The Big Ears Festival in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee, which took place in March and was created and produced by AC Entertainment, gave the city and surrounding area a financial boost estimated at $36 million. According to AngelouEconomics findings, the festival supported the equivalent of 377 full-time jobs and more than $2.6 million in new tax revenue for the city, county and state.
“Secondary/tertiary market festivals provide significant opportunities for artists. These events are essential to the tourism ecosystem. They are an essential part of expanding an artist’s fan base and they provide an economic boost to local economies,” said Shannon Caseysenior vice president of fairs and festivals at Wasserman Music, on the importance of hosting a festival in a small market.
As the number of festivals increases, the stalwarts of the industry seem to have lost their identity. The lineups of performers at events like Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza are nearly indistinguishable now. Of course, that’s by design – the more diverse and popular the roster, the wider the appeal, which translates to a larger ticket base and potentially more revenue.
“Big festivals are more impersonal and diffuse in nature and can tend to be similar in many ways, although some stand out in unique ways,” said Michael Nash, festival producer for Sound Summit, which will take place at the historic Mountain Theater, a 4,000-seat natural stone amphitheater located in Mount Tamalpais State Park in Marin County, Calif., on October 22. distinct sense of connection and community that creates a special experience.” While the Sound Summit festival offers eclectic programming that does not focus on any specific genre—this year the war on drugs is in the headlines— the fact that the festival only takes place for one day in a single location adds a feeling of exclusivity and intimacy.
“I think, like a number of my friends and colleagues, that there are too many festivals at the moment. And many tend to have the same acts, year after year. That seems to be the nature of the business” , says Nash. “On the other hand, creating opportunities for people to commune in a concert experience is one of the great joys of cultural life.”
Perhaps in response to this homogeneity, some promoters and producers have begun to introduce more specialized festivals focused on a particular sound or genre, such as the When We Were Young festival, produced by Live Nation, which will feature headliners. My Chemical Romance and Paramore. – appealing to those emo music fans – when the event takes place in October in Las Vegas. Festivals like this could also try to tap into that feeling of nostalgia, providing a sense of comfort during a chaotic time.Photo: Mathieu Bitton
“More than ever, curating a festival’s lineup, no matter the size of the event, seems to be key to demand,” Casey said.
A conscious approach to programming is what the organizers of the first Blue Note Jazz Festival focused on in an effort to carve out a place for themselves in the ever-growing festival landscape.
Inspired by instrumentalist Robert Glasper’s residency at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York, the three-day festival, which took place July 29-31 at Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena, Calif., featured a mix of hip-hop, jazz and comedy shows. “We have worked hard to create a festival that reflects Robert’s iconic annual residency at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York. This residency typically lasts a month and features a wide range of very special collaborations, major artists and high profile projects with Robert Glasper at the center,” explained Alex Kurlanddirector of programming for Blue Note.
Blue Note Entertainment Group already produces concerts at the Krug Winery property, while also operating a jazz club in Napa Valley, which is why St. Helena became the venue for the festival. The event marked the first outdoor, multi-day, multi-stage event for the group.
Kurland explained that a festival like this “usually requires at least a year of advance preparation, booking, etc. We only gave ourselves a few months,” adding that the decision to host the event has been made. end of February this year. He said the festival, which initially lasted just two days, immediately sold out, prompting organizers to add a third date. (This year, the Blue Note Jazz Festival welcomed 6,000 attendees.)
“The intimacy and low capacity of Blue Note Jazz Festival Napa Valley mirrors the experience we present nightly at Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City,” Kurland said. “The programming was largely an extension and result of the musical expression and mood of our Artist-in-Residence Robert Glasper. The culture and atmosphere of our festival was very concentrated but also diverse.
The intimate weekend experience included artists such as Snoop Dogg, Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli, Maxwell, Corinne Bailey Rae, Erykah Badu and Chaka Khan. “Many of the artists programmed at the festival have a deep musical history, relationship and connection. The crossover of artists and the depth of history between them was a top priority for us to recognize from a programming perspective,” explained Kurland, “I believe that programming is often a form of storytelling. This booking approach was integral to the purpose, cultural depth and overall significance of the festival.”