Boxoffice Insider: Pollstar’s Top 20 Festivals Over Half A Decade

Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival
Amy Harris/Invision/AP, file
– Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival

With the 30th International Live Music Conference in London upon us, Pollstar examined the Top 20 International Festivals for the past six years with an eye toward quantifying trends.

When reading these numbers, keep in mind that the Top 20 Festivals chart is based on reports submitted to Pollstar and does not include estimates, meaning many festivals [like the Live Nation-controlled, AC Entertainment/Superfly-promoted Bonnaroo] may be doing business at a scale large enough to merit a spot in the Top 20, but when they have not submitted reports, they are not ranked on the chart.

We have already written about the behemoth that is Coachella in Southern California, which has reported an increase in gross every year since 2012 and ranked No. 1 on this chart each of those years except 2016, when it was supplanted by another AEG Presents/Goldenvoice project, the monstrous Desert Trip, featuring The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Roger Waters, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and The Who. Desert Trip grossed an astonishing $160.1 million, the largest event report in Pollstar history.

The highest-grossing year for the Top 20 festivals was 2016 with a total of $477.7 million. Those numbers were largely inflated by Coachella and Desert Trip, but that year also saw respectable showings from AEG Presents’ Barclaycard British Summer Time in London with $30.8 million grossed, Another Planet/Superfly’s Outside Lands in San Francisco with $25.9 million grossed, and AEG Presents/Goldenvoice’s Stagecoach country music festival in Southern California with $25.4 million grossed.

The next-highest grossing year in our records was 2014, which, besides Coachella, saw ID&T/SFX’s Mysteryland in Bethel, N.Y.; C3 Presents’ Austin City Limits in Texas and Lollapalooza in Chicago; and Marek Lieberberg Konzertagentur’s Rock am Ring in Germany all reporting more than $20 million grossed. Mysteryland didn’t take place in 2017, but the event is scheduled to happen near Amsterdam Aug. 24-26 this year.

We’ve talked about the highs, but 2012, 2013, and 2015 all saw less than $300 million total reported from the Top 20. In 2015, the chart totaled nearly $276 million; in 2013 the Top 20 festivals earned $287.7 million; and in 2012 the sum was more than $2229 million.

In general, the overall gross through the years has increased. The sharp spike in reported grosses in 2014 was followed by a letdown, but the 2017 total of more than $338 million shows sizeable growth from most previous years, even if a big chunk of that is from Coachella and it is below some of the high points.

In Australia, Bluesfest was undoubtedly the highest-grossing festival, appearing on the chart nearly every year. The festival came in at No. 11 in 2017 with $10.1 million grossed.

Festivals are big business in Europe, and shindigs like

Rock am Ring 2015
Rock am Ring
– Rock am Ring 2015

Promoter FKP Scorpio Konzertproduktionen is making its mark overseas, as the company appeared in the Top 20 four times in 2017 for Hurricane, Southside and Deichbrand Rock festivals in Germany and

Latin festivals are also making quite the splash, with Vive Latino and Corona Capital both representing for Mexico; and the various Latin Lollapaloozas appearing multiple times, most notably Lollapalooza Brazil, which came in at No. 7 overall in 2017 with more than $13.2 million.

In terms of the acts actually playing the festivals, the trend seems to be toward eclecticism. Bills stacked with big classic rock acts like Sao Paulo Trip, Classic West and Classic East in 2017 and Desert Trip in 2016 stand out as big draws that really have no comparison.

Pinkpop gives a good demonstration of the increasingly popular “something for everyone” approach. Last year the Dutch festival had Justin Bieber for the pop fans; Martin Garrix for the EDM-heads; Green Day, Kings Of Leon, and Imagine Dragons for rockers; System Of A Down and Five Finger Death Punch for metalheads; and even Sean Paul to bring some dancehall vibes.

Many festivals are following that trend of combining rock, EDM, pop, R&B and hip-hop at the top of the bills, the most obvious example being Coachella, which was headlined by Radiohead, Lady Gaga, and Kendrick Lamar in 2017. This year’s Coachella lists Beyoncé, Eminem, and The Weeknd as headliners, with SZA, Haim, and Odesza each given second billing on its lineup poster.

Country music can still exist as its own world, with the two leading festivals in that genre being Stagecoach (No. 5 in 2016 with nearly $25.4 million grossed) and country-leaning Tortuga (No. 18 in 2016 with more than $6.6 million grossed) according to the chart.

Comparing the totals of the Top 20 Worldwide Festivals, and noting that they are decidedly on the rise, does not address the increasing number of festivals over the years, many of which might be grossing less than $10 million individually but doing great business. AEG Presents/Danny Wimmer Presents’ World’s Loudest Month festival series is a prime example of this, with six concerts planned through the U.S. in late April and May this year and a seventh, “River City Rockfest” booked for San Antonio late this summer.With the 30th International Live Music Conference in London upon us, Pollstar examined the Top 20 International Festivals for the past six years with an eye toward quantifying trends.