Festivals have transformed the business of live music and become a vital source of revenue for the music industry, transforming live entertainment into an economic engine for growth and commerce, while challenging the humanity to live according to its best principles, celebrating both the individual and the power of the masses.
Ranking the festivals that have come to dominate the current festive scene is a difficult task that will undoubtedly generate strong emotions, disagreements and debate.
Ten people could attend the same festival one year and have 10 totally different experiences.
A lot of what makes a festival great is entirely subjective, but most fans who enjoy and attend festivals have had a part of their life affected by the experience.
With that in mind, Billboard has ranked its inaugural list of the top 10 festivals based on influence both within the live music ecosystem and part of the larger music and cultural community.
10. BottleRock Napa Valley
Dave Graham and his partners at Latitude 38 have completely changed the way the world views the festival-going experience with this Napa, California festival built around food, wine, and the real rock stars of the world. culinary world: award-winning chefs.
9. Stagecoach Festival Best Country Music Festival
This annual Palm Springs festival takes place the week after Coachella on the same site and is widely considered the biggest country music celebration on the planet.
With major Nashville acts headlining the main stage and alternative country, Americana, bluegrass and roots music groups performing on the smaller stages, Stagecoach has something for every fan of western living, including plentiful steakhouses, trendy boutiques ” hillbilly chic ” and a full scale replica of the old Palomino bar in North Hollywood.
8. Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
What started as a jam band festival on a 700-acre farm in an effort to attract and emulate the fan communities that attended Phish and Grateful Dead shows , Bonnaroo has grown into one of the leading contemporary music festivals. in the world’s largest camps with visitors packing truckloads of gear for the long weekend.
The festival has become more popular since Live Nation bought the Superfly property from Bonnaroo in 2020.
For many, the Roo is both a rite of passage and an annual tradition for attendees seeking a festival that places positivity and kindness as its highest values.
Few cities spend summer like Chicago, where every neighborhood, block and brownstone comes alive in June and July to celebrate the music, food and park system of the Windy City .
The jewel in the crown is Grant Park in downtown Chicago, which sits along the Chicago skyline and the shores of Lake Michigan and is home to the Lollapalooza festival with 170 rock, pop, dance and EDM artists spread across nine stages.
This long-running Belgian festival is often celebrated as the world’s biggest dance music party in one of the world’s biggest venues: a space known as the Tomorrowland Holy Grounds , which is infused with mythical imagery featuring waterways, sprawling greens and destinations like the Rave Cave, the Garden of Folly and the famous Mouse Bar.
Attendees say that Tomorrowland is the most mystical and imagination-defying experience one can have without leaving planet Earth.
5. South by Southwest
Even when it launched in 1987 with just 700 attendees, South by Southwest was already too crowded for the 15 venues it hosted in its first year (150 were initially expected to attend).
Today, SXSW is a global platform for film and television projects, music artists and technology companies who want to be discovered by the event’s 80,000 registered attendees and 150,000 fans who flock to Austin for their barbecues, parties and free shows.
4. Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival
San Francisco’s annual festival might be one of the younger festivals in the top 10, but the credentials of its founders and its location inside Golden Gate Park, just blocks from the Pacific Ocean, give Outside Lands a level of instant credibility within of the live music space.
Known for its consistently well-curated programming, a long-standing commitment to high-end food and wine from area restaurants and chefs, and a willingness to take risks in everything from comedy to cannabis, Outside Lands is discovered every year by thousands of new fans looking for a unique experience that is both believable and authentic.
3. Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas
Held each summer “under electric skies,” Pasquale Rotella’s annual dance festival has grown from a quasi-legal Los Angeles rave to a major Las Vegas economic engine, with tens of thousands of rooms reserved hotel and nightclubs bustling with activity every year.
The world of dance music takes over the Las Vegas Strip each May for North America’s ultimate sound and light show featuring the biggest names in house, techno, drum’n’bass and other genres.
2. Glastonbury Festival
No other festival or event has done more to nurture, develop and celebrate the idealistic quirks and cultural eccentricities of modern festival culture than the merry men and women of Glastonbury.
Launched by dairy farmer Michael Eavis as the Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival just 13 months after the original Woodstock festival, Glastonbury would serve as ground zero for nearly every counterculture movement of the 1970s and 1980s, and is one of the few festivals to take a ‘fallow’ year every five years to give the land and locals a break.
1. Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
The granddaddy of them all, Coachella is the busiest, most relevant, and highest-grossing music festival in the world.
Broadcast live each year to millions of fans around the world, no other festival transcends culture or has as much influence on the music industry and music fans as this annual rite of passage in the desert.