In all the ways the music industry has changed over the last ten years - remember those "store" things that sold "CDs"? - the rise of the music festival is one of the most important. If it seems like you can't turn around anymore without crossing paths with a drunken college girl wearing a flower crown on her way to a festival, you're right.
Where once the music festival was an annual affair, last year 32 million people in the U.S. alone attended a festival and companies and brands invested $1.17 billion (that's billion, like "million" but with a "b") in festival sponsorships, and that's not even counting ticket and concession sales. So while we're parsing the fractions of a penny earned from streaming services, the real money is flowing through festivals. Some people are getting very, very rich, but who?
A new study by Billboard averaged out the results from festivals across the world and breaks down the answer to that question nicely.
- Festival Promoter: $5 million to $25 million
- Headliner: $1 million to $4 million
- Small Stage Act: $500 to $1,500
You really think Drake is sweating album sales when he can step onstage at Coachella and walk off with a few million? Artists used to play festivals so fans would go buy their album, now they put out albums so they can get to play festivals.
In other words, music festivals work just like the larger music industry, with people on top you wouldn't recognize if they were spilling over-priced beer on you at SXSW bringing home the real money, superstar artists accounting for the most of the draw and most of the revenue and smaller artists toiling away for the vague promise of "exposure."
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Music festivals may have lost their soul, but they've found your wallet, and if you're an artist looking to make at least a living in 2016, that's where you'll head too.