The summer music festivals movement that gained popularity in the U.S. in the 1990s has blossomed into a mega industry, with fans hard-pressed to track the numerous events happening each summer.
Seasonal staples Lollapalooza and SXSW have been joined by a number of other multi-day festivals over recent years, such as SnowBall, with the mountainous backdrop of Vail, Colorado, and alternative rock’s Pitchfork in Chicago.
The boom has inspired a new website, Cultivora.com, which aims to celebrate and explore the cultural elements of each event and expose fans to unfamiliar festivals. Currently listing 12 festivals in North America and abroad, the website plans to have upwards of 30 such events listed by the end of 2012.
“It is amazing how festivals have exploded, especially techno and country and how they are all over the U.S.!” says Mike Janes, General Manager of Event Ticketing at ticket search engine Fansnap.com. “Fans do have a staggering choice of events to attend.”
And demand seems to be keeping up with the vast supply. According to FanSnap, ticket sales on the secondary market have been brisk for the likes of May’s indie rock Sasquatch! Festival in Quincy, WA, the RockyGrass Bluegrass Festival in Lyons, Colorado in July, and August’s Hard Summer Music Festival in Los Angeles, featuring alternative rock and electronic acts.
Why are festivals enjoying this wave of popularity now? Janes suggests, “Festivals are a great way for fans to discover new live acts whose shows they may attend in the future.” And in the face of a still-sluggish economy, these events may present fans with their most cost-effective option to sample many acts at once.
As for older, more established festivals, fans seem just as eager to attend as in past years. Manchester, Tennessee’s Bonnaroo Festival, which features rock bands and comedy acts, has seen a surge in demand and price over the past week, topping out at around $460 for the four-day festival.
In fact, high demand has led some festivals to experience major ticketing fiascos this year.
In the wake of last year’s first ever sell-out, the Burning Man Festival near Black Rock City, Nevada, decided to hold a lottery for tickets this year, limiting each registrant to two tickets priced between $240 and $390. The plan backfired massively when on Feb. 1, a majority of regular festivalgoers found they were locked out of purchase on the 40,000 available tickets. Organizers believe these problems were caused by scalpers grabbing these tickets during the registration period, in addition to fans getting friends and family to claim additional ticket pairs.
Following the debacle, organizers rushed to design a ticket exchange program scheduled to open on March 28, 2012 with a four-ticket-per-person maximum.
Even festival stalwart Bonnaroo was not immune to problems related to high ticket demand. Fans effectively shut down the festival’s ticketing site within hours of launch on Feb. 18 due to high demand combined with technical problems. Currently, the festival’s site is announcing a restart of sales on Feb. 25 with additional tickets available at one of the price tiers that sold out quickly the first day.
Despite occasional ticketing glitches, the fan base for summer festivals is clearly growing and is sure to be there waiting as long as organizers can find a way to sell tickets.