With each passing summer comes the dusting off of flower crowns and the deepening of pockets as summer festivals flood the music circuit. Whether you’re a fan of the youthfully energetic Bonnaroo or just prefer to chill out at Summer Camp, music festivals have become the pinnacle of musical variety for over the past two decades since the first Lollapalooza summer festival in 1991. As festivals around the country and the globe release their lineups, festival goers gleam in excitement in catching the best acts in the music scene today.
As of late, the summer circuit has become increasingly saturated with corporatocracy, especially since last year as Live Nation, the world’s second largest global music promoter behind AEG Live, acquired the likes of Bonnaroo and Electric Daisy Carnival. These privately held festivals host upwards of $25 million in revenue per event and under these global music promoters, numbers are expected to skyrocket.
According to the Guardian, the cost of hosting a festival with around 80,000 individuals can soar as high as $1 billion. In accordance with the increasing housekeeping costs, festivals are charging an exorbitant amount of money for festival goers, which has seen the highest uptake on festivals such as Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, who charge a base of $350 per weekend pass.
Music festivals primarily draw an audience between the ages of 18-24 according to the LA Times, which economically causes uncertainty as most college-aged individuals tackle with approximately $30,000 in debt. Essentially, 1.4 million of these festival goers are millennials who attend festivals at least once a year, which breeds competition to garner the best lineups.
Then comes the issue of the 2016 lineups announced thus far, which have been musically panned so far as lackluster compared to previous years in terms of variety and musical endurance. Take Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama, for example, who enlisted the Foo Fighters, Zac Brown Band and Beck in their 2015 iteration, have chosen to dwindle their musical variety in terms of genres by enlisting The Weeknd, Calvin Harris, and Florence + The Machine to headline this year’s festival. This theme of downsizing and simplifying headliners has also hit other festivals across the nation such as Boston Calling, Shaky Knees and Firefly Music Festival.
The largest issue, however, is the sharing of artists, which takes away from the originality of each festival. Musicians such as the aforementioned Florence + The Machine, are slated for 17 festival appearances, the electrically-charged Chvrches, bolstering over 20 summer festival shows and the rising mother folkers Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats, bursting with a whopping 18 festival shows, are causing a vanilla overtone that is making the musical festival an orthodox musical platform of the past.
Some may blame this subjectively bad year in musical festivals to the extremely prosperous year last year which included the likes of The Beatles’ Paul McCartney at Lollapalooza and Firefly, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters at Newport Folk Festival and Elton John at Outside Lands. Ben Kaye of Consequence of Sound even stated “Despite how overwhelmed we may all be feeling about the sheer number of these events, I think 2015 proved there’s plenty of life left in the North American Music Festival experience.”
Fortunately, there is a silver lining to the musical dearth of variety this festival season in independently-owned festivals (Lock’n Festival, Newport Folk Festival) and budding traditions (Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival, Eaux Claires). No matter where one stands on the issue, any music lover can rest assured that the music festival is not going anywhere anytime soon as the sheer number and volume of summer music festivals seems to climb with the passing year.