With the summer in full effect and music lovers of all ages itching for a good dose of outdoor entertainment the question arises… Is the hot sweaty allure of summer music festivals enough to draw attendees in an time of over-priced tickets and under-employed fans? Well, in a word – yes. As the classic adage goes; escapism sells in times of challenge. And with current music festivals tailor-cut to embrace nearly every sect of musicophiles there’s sure to be opportunity a-plenty for those looking for a respite from today’s financial and political woes.
Conforming to the zeitgeist of mixing varied cultural elements for an increasingly multi-faceted and curious populace, organizers of music festivals have begun to construct more interesting lineups in terms of variety. At Lollapalooza seemingly disparate acts like pop-diva-monster Lady Gaga and grunge kings Soundgarden have come to share the same stage. A trend that is popping up at nearly every music fest on this season’s bill.
The Lilith Fair has dropped the “fair” aspect and re-emerged as a forum for successful female singers of all genres, incorporating pop and R&B into its once acoustic only line-up. Kevin Lyman, founder and organizer of the Vans Warped Tour has made a concerted effort to maintain diversity in the line-up, combining ska, emo, metal, and punk while keeping the tour’s image as a home for alternative genres. “I think if you really tear apart (this year’s) Warped lineup, it’s appealing to a lot of different kids. It’s appealing to the music fan,” Lyman said.
Of course the opportunity that music festivals hold for non-profits and environmental proponents to reach out to young people has not been lost on this years gatherings. Greenpeace and other like-minded agencies held muddy court at Bonnaroo, and BP oil spill backlash was notable on the landscape written large in graffiti and on banners.
Despite an unstable economy and record low employment levels, fans have continued to dish out big bucks to attend live music festivals. In many cases attendance has actually risen this past year. The Coachella Valley Music Festival held in the desert community of Indio saw a ticket sales rise of nearly 15,000 over last year’s daily average. The famed South by Southwest Music Festival in Texas experienced a whopping 11% increase in overall attendance this year. This is a trend that has some festival organizers planning and hoping for the best. After selling out all three days last year, Lollapalooza has expanded its concert terrain in the spirit of “if you build it they will come”. The festival area now includes an extra 35 acres, upping the fan capacity from 75,000 to 95,000.
For those who just really cannot afford the price of a ticket there are alternatives. Organizations like the Work Exchange Team (WET) give participants a full weekend pass in exchange for a commitment of set hours working the festival. These scenarios help festival organizers to ensure the younger high-energy crowd, who may not be quite as affluent, feel desired as attendees of the music festivals. This year’s festivals are showcasing a strong line of classic musicians as well such as Carly Simon and Stevie Wonder.
Warped has remained a top draw over the years – it’s usually one of the country’s 20 best attended tours – because it’s so consistently able to plug into the wants of its largely youthful audience. It pays for it with an onslaught of inexpensive merchandise, socially conscious messages and constant marketing of the bands and their labels, including lots of opportunities to meet the bands and get their John Hancocks.
With the live music festival world still much imbued with lively energy and awesome acts, music fans everywhere have a lot of opportunity to get out there and sweat it out in the sun this season. However, a trend of insistence upon involving every genre of music at each festival might leave some fans missing the days of unapologetic festival celebrations catering to particular tastes.
For right now though. it seems the summer music festival is still holding strong.
Link to this article:
– Amanda Decker