Mark Metcalfe / Getty Images – Festivals For The Rest Of Us
Childish Gambino was a force in the world of major festivals this year, with headlining performances at many major events including Australia’s Splendour in the Grass July 20.
Childish Gambino dominated major festival lineups this year, dazzling audiences with his innovative production and natural charisma as a multi-hyphenate performer. The artist also known as Donald Glover, who told fans he would soon be bidding farewell to his alter ego (though he may be reconsidering the decision), headlined Coachella, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza and Outside Lands fests.
The production at Coachella included seven pods, with 18 lasers around the outside and four points of automation “so they could shift, change and create a sort of architecture on stage,” tour director Christian Coffey explained.
POLLSTAR 2019 YEAR END SPECIAL
Lizzo and Billie Eilish were also major fixtures on the festival scene, though they played smaller stages at some events that had been booked long before the pop stars enjoyed their breakouts. A month or so ahead of the previously sold-out festival, Coachella announced it teamed with Eilish to release additional passes for both weekends as part of an Eilish merch bundle with a fanny pack and bandana.
“More than ever, artists are beginning to plan their tours and routing further and further out. As a promoter, this forces us to have to bet on an artist earlier and it is harder to gauge what makes the most sense for a festival and its market,” C3 Presents talent buyer Margaret Galton told Pollstar earlier in the year. C3 saw this firsthand with Austin City Limits Music Festival in October as tens of thousands of fans crowded around the Miller Lite stage the first weekend to see Lizzo’s set.
While it was too late to change the schedule to move Lizzo to a bigger stage, C3 responded to the star’s suddenly massive fanbase with a new approach the second weekend by broadcasting her performance onto the Honda stage screen ahead of Robyn’s set, giving more fans a chance to enjoy the show.
Like any other year, 2019 saw the cancelation of a handful of festivals, most notably Woodstock 50, which made headlines for months as organizers struggled to keep the star-crossed event going as they lost financial backing, a location and artists dropped off the lineup. Michael Lang finally had to admit defeat in late July, roughly two weeks before the festival was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “three days of peace, love and music.”
Other festivals that got called off included Superfly’s Grandoozy, Metarama Gaming + Music Festival, Live Nation’s End of the Rainbow, Miami Beach Pop, Panorama Festival and Doctor Music Festival in Spain.
Another Planet Entertainment also announced that the Bay Area’s Treasure Island Music Festival is going on indefinite hiatus. Meanwhile, boutique independent festival promoter Synergy Global Entertainment filed for bankruptcy after a rough year, a major blow to what had been a strong independent trailblazer for the last decade.
The trend of artist-curated festivals continued going strong in 2019 with the return of events like Travis Scott’s Astroworld, Post Malone’s Posty Fest, and Dierks Bentley’s Seven Peaks, as well as the debut of new fests from artists across a range of genres including Umphrey’s McGee’s Woodlands Fall Music & Arts Festival, H.E.R.’s Lights On Festival, Porter Robinson’s Second Sky Music Festival, and The Cure’s Pasadena Daydream Festival.
“I feel like the increase of boutique and artist-based festivals is actually a result of the festival glut,” Brandy Blaylock, SVP Event Management at Danny Wimmer Presents, said. “When every primary and secondary market in the country has a city festival, how do you stand out? How do make your lineup and your experience stand out in the crowd? In the current market, I think the more specialized model is a natural and smart pivot.”
Whatever happens in 2020, it’s sure to be full of twists and turns and big moments, including Glastonbury’s 50th anniversary.
DWP has announced Metallica as the headliner for all five of its rock festivals it will produce in 2020, with two different sets for each festival.