What do most people think of when they hear the words “music festival”? Typically their minds are drawn to the image of Woodstock and a muddy field invaded by hippies selling tie-dye shirts and grilled cheese sandwiches, among other things, out of their VW Micro Bus. Though there still are a number of festivals that are reminiscent of the 1960s counter-culture, there are many music festivals today that are nothing like it.
Recently, music festivals have become an extremely popular vacation. This is probably because of the rising price of concert tickets. One can either pay between $50 and $100 to see their favorite band at a local venue, or they can load up their camping equipment and pay the same amount or just a little bit more to go see a number of bands over the course of a weekend. The latter just seems to make more sense to the majority of music fans. The rise in popularity of these types of concerts has lead to the rise of the “major” music festival.
Music festivals occur everywhere. Most are just small-time local events that take place on someone’s land. The organizers gather up a couple of the bands they know and invite their friends for a weekend of camping and music. However, some music festivals are huge. Some draw in attendance numbers in the tens or even the hundreds of thousands. These music festivals typically started out small, but the concert promoters quickly became millionaires.
10. Ultra – Miami, Florida – 330,000 Attendees in 2014
Ultra is the biggest electronic music festival in the United States. It takes place every year in Miami, Florida. Since 1999, Ultra has grown from a small underground weekend festival to an annual gathering of hundreds of thousands of people. Last year, the festival was attended by 330,000 concert goers. It is scheduled to take place from March 27th to the 29th this year and will feature performances by artists like Afrojack, Avicii and David Guetta, among others.
9. Tomorrowland – Boom, Belgium – 360,000 Attendees in 2014
Tomorrowland began in 2005 and has since become one of the most recognized music festivals in the world. The festival has won the International Dance Music Award for “Best Electronic Music Event” every year since 2012. It is organized by the Dutch entertainment company ID&T and takes place in Belgium. Last year the concert saw 360,000 fans flock through its gates. Tickets are already sold out for this year’s edition which will take place from
8. Electric Daisy Carnival – Puerto Rico, Mexico, New York City, Las Vegas – 375,000 Attendees in 2014
The Electric Daisy Carnival is the third electronic music festival to make the list. This particular one has been scheduled to take place in four different locations this year. In years gone by, the Electric Daisy Carnival was held in Puerto Rico, Mexico and New York City. This year they are adding Las Vegas, Nevada to this list of locations. The event was started by Insomniac Event in 1997 and hosted just over 375,000 fans last year. The addition of a fourth location in the Western United States is assured to bring in a much larger crowd this year. This festival rose out of the underground and right into the public’s eye due to the 2014 Sundance Film Festival documentary EDC 2013: Under The Electric Sky, which was based on the event.
7. New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival – 435,000 Attendees in 2014
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is the oldest music festival to make the list. This particular festival has become one of the city of New Orleans’ all-time biggest tourist attractions. Not only does it attract hundreds of thousands of people, but it also brings in about $300,000 in revenue for the city annually. It is estimated over 435,000 people attended this event in 2014. “Jazz Fest” as it is often called, is scheduled to take place from April 24th to May 3rd this year. It is being headlined by such big name artists as Elton John, The Who, and Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band.
6. Essence – New Orleans, Louisiana – 550,000 Attendees in 2014
Believe it or not, The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is not the largest music festival to take place in New Orleans. That title actually belongs to the event known as Essence. Essence is an indoor festival that takes place inside of the Superdome. Since its first year, it has earned itself the nickname “A Party With A Purpose.” Last year’s party was attended by over 550,000 people. It is an annual celebration of African American music, art, and culture, scheduled for July 2nd through July 5th this year. A band lineup has not been released yet, but in 2014 Essence brought in such artists as Prince, Mary J. Blige, and Lionel Richie.
5. Coachella – Indio, California – 675,000 Attendees in 2014
The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is probably the best known festival on this list. In fact, it is pretty much exactly what people think of when they talk about a large-scale modern music festival. Coachella has been held every year since 1999 in Indio, California. Last year, over 675,000 people attended the event. This year’s lineup includes AC/DC, David Guetta, Drake, Jack White, and Steely Dan. After starting as a small festival of only a couple thousand people, Coachella is now the world’s most profitable music festival, grossing $78.3 million in 2014 alone.
4. Rock In Rio – Rio de Janeiro – 700,000 Attendees in 2014
First held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1985, Rock in Rio became one of the largest music festivals of its kind in the world. Aside from its Brazilian location, it is held in three other cities; Madrid, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal and, for the first time this year, Las Vegas, Nevada. “Rock In Rio USA” is scheduled for May 8th through May 16th of 2015. Its band lineup was just recently release and includes such major touring acts as Metallica, No Doubt, Linkin Park, and Taylor Swift.
3. Summerfest – Milwaukee, Wisconsin – 850,000 Attendees in 2014
Though it may not be as well-known as Coachella, Summerfest is the largest music festival held in the United States. In fact, it is the largest music festival held in the Western Hemisphere. Summerfest takes place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in Henry Maier Festival Park. Since being created in 1968, Summerfest has grown into a very big deal. It is referred to by bands as “The Big Gig”. The week-long event features over 700 artists ranging in popularity from some of the biggest names in the music industry to small local bands who have just begun putting out material.
The biggest draw for Summerfest is the price. Unlike many of the other major festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo and Ultra, Summerfest is highly affordable. Last year, a day pass was only $15. Some festivals will charge an entrance fee at the gate and then charge another entrance price for shows. Not Summerfest. The lineup for this year has not been released yet, but 2014 saw artists like Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Kansas, George Thorogood, and Ziggy Marley grace the stage. It even held a 25th anniversary memorial concert for jazz legend Buddy Rich, which saw his big band perform with a number of top notch drummers in his place.
2. Mawazine – Rabat, Morocco – 2.6 million Attendees in 2014
Mawazine is one of the two music festivals in the world that were attended by over one million people last year. In 2014, 2.6 million people went to this festival which takes place each year in Rabat, Morocco. Mawazine is a celebration of Moroccan culture and arts started by Mounis Majidi, the personal secretary to King Mohammad IV. Majidi is also the founder of the group “Moroc Culture” which organized various cultural events in the country, the biggest of which is Mawazine. The festival is set to take place from May 29th to June 6th this year and will feature many international and local artists. Last year it was headlined by Justin Timberlake. This year the headlining act is Maroon 5.
1. Donauinselfest – Vienna, Austria – 3.1 million Attendees in 2014
Donauinselfest is the largest music festival in the world. Period. It takes place in Vienna, Austria and its name translates to the “Danube River Festival”. The music festival actually takes place on an island in the middle of the Danube River. Ferries must be taken in order to get to the gates. Last year 3.1 million people traveled to the island to hear a number of international and local musicians perform. Donauinselfest was headlined by Macy Gray in 2014. The date for this year’s festival is June 26th through the 28th. The band lineup has not yet been announced.