Music festivals have become the blockbuster summer entertainment around the world. There are over 100 festivals in production right now, but the one on everyone's lips is this weekend's Coachella music festival in Indio. Though only six years old, the weekend event attracts over 100,000 attendees and has quickly become one of the leading rock and electronic music festivals in America. Coachella is strictly rock and roll business at work. The two day event focuses almost exclusively on music.
The US may have built the festival machine with Woodstock in the late 60's, but the UK has perfected the craft with their unrivaled schedule of over 40 music festivals around the British Isles.
Perhaps the most notorious and beloved festival is Glastonbury, a three-day concert and camping extravaganza that's been celebrating music, art and the spirit of adventure for 35 years. The event brings 150,000 people together, and this year it sold out in less than three hours.
It's an extraordinary achievement, with whole families in attendance and generations of attendees returning.
What makes Glastonbury the prize of all music festivals is its ethos.
In addition to presenting music from around the world in all forms, it also presents theater, drama, circus, poetry, films and many other creative forms of expression including painting and sculpture.
The festival is situation on 900 acres of green farmland and certain areas of the site are set aside for children's programs, environmental presentations, and forums for debating social and moral issues. There's even a "Green; Police" squad, which helps educate the overwhelming crowds on recycling and waste management.
Next year Glastonbury will pause. Every few years, Festival organizer Michael Eavis gives the land a break to regenerate and the cows a chance to feast through the summer.
From a music-business standpoint, one of the great hat tricks is to get your band to play both Glastonbury and Coachella. It's not easy to do it, but this year, Coldplay, The Chemical Brothers, Keane, The Doves, Bloc Party, Spoon, The Secret Machines, Razorlight, British Sea Power, Kasabian, The Dresden Dolls, MIA and The Bravery will all perform on both stages in the UK and US.
What that means is these bands have a chance to penetrate the American and UK media markets in a highly focused way, with hundreds of thousands of attendees watching simultaneously, while still millions more read about it. With radio airplay becoming a hugely expensive and unstable marketing objective to depend on, grabbing marquee status in a festival insures an important level of visibility that's needed.
When I worked on the Woodstock '94 project, we weren't clear on just what the impact that Festival would have on the careers of the performers. History has shown us that most of the artists continued on to have their most successful years, with that concert being a linchpin for success.
In today's music business, it's all about building awareness.
This is Celia Hirschman for On the Beat for KCRW.