Have Mega Music Festivals Become Too Mega?

After years of struggling to get established, European-style music festival culture has taken root in North America. Thanks to events like Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Coachella, North Americans have developed a taste for mega-festivals. And with the change in the economics of the music industry where playing live now takes precedence over releasing CDs, these festivals have helped many a performer make a living.

But how big is too big? Is bigger no longer better? There have been plenty of casualties lately. Bestival. Pemberton. Riot Fest. Have we reached the end of something? The LA Times takes a look.

The American live music scene has become a culture of super festivals. Beyond the massively successful Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, the last two decades have seen a tremendous expansion of events that draw thousands of fans and boast multiple stages with city-sized artworks.

Now some believe that bigger is no longer better. After years of expansive growth, some promoters are starting to think smaller, tailoring their offerings to specific audiences.

On Saturday, Pasadena’s first Arroyo Seco Weekend will pair the likes of Tom Petty with high-end food and kid-focused activities. And in a move reflective of widening festival demographics, parents are encouraged to bring their “tiniest tots.”

Also this weekend, the BET Experience at downtown’s L.A. Live will bring a socially conscious edge to the 5-year-old R&B and hip-hop-driven music festival built around the network’s annual awards show. Saturday afternoon’s “genius” talks will feature activist-filmmaker Ava DuVernay and tackle such topics as the U.S. prison system.

That refined focus is no accident. After high-profile blunders this year, including the collapse of the Fyre Festival in the Bahamas and the Pemberton Music Festival in Vancouver, Canada, some promoters are reassessing the demand for — and their ability to execute — new mega-events on the scale of Coachella.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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