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The Saturated Market Of Los Angeles’ Music Festivals

The good old days of the FYF Fest (2013)


The last few years, you may have noticed a trend, there are more and more music festivals happening in LA or in the proximity of the city. Do we need a festival or 2, 3 festivals per month? Where do people find the money? These events are not cheap, but they seem to multiply nevertheless. Are there too many festivals in the LA area? I am starting to think it is the case.

We are barely recovering from Echo Park Rising and this weekend, we have Ohana Festival at Doheny State Beach with Social Distortion, Eddie Vedder, Jack Johnson, Pixies, HAIM, Fiona Apple, Ray Lamontagne, TV on the Radio among others, and Sunstock Solar festival downtown LA with Ra Ra Riot, Robert DeLong, Run River North, Wild Cub among others. Sure there is no comparison with the respective prices, $335 for a GA Ohana weekend pass and 12-50$ for a Sunstock Saturday, and the two festivals are two very different beasts, but they do co-exist. At the end of September, Los Angelinos can also attend Music Taste Good with Ween, Sleater-Kinney, Ride, Charles Bradley, Alvvays, Bomba Estéreo, Los Lobos, Of Montreal and many more in Downtown Long Beach for a GA of $135. There is also Kaboo at Del Mar (only 1 hour and half drive from LA) with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pink, Tom Petty, Muse, Weezer and others happening mid September (GA pass $325). Of course, we have also started the summer with Arroyo Seco Weekend at the end of June (GA pass $225), then we had the FYF fest with NIN, Solange, Iggy Pop, Frank Ocean, Bjork Missy Elliott…. in July (GA pass $320).

This is a lot of music festivals in three months, and also a lot of money. Of course, the FYF-Arroyo Seco-Music Taste Good-Ohana are only the big ones, as there are tons of smaller-sized festivals going on all the time, The Growlers are throwing theirs at the end of October, The GrowlersSix with tons of local bands, and there was Made in LA this past weekend.

Festivals in Southern California are multiplying like everywhere else in the US it seems, and we may reach a point when attendance decreases,… how much can anyone spend on music per month?

Obviously, if music festivals keep growing in number, it’s because they are lucrative, they mean business, big corporations are targeting festivals big and small, and even the small Sunstock is selling something: last year every eco-friendly company that exists had a booth there, since it was the theme of the festival. This is a lot better than Toyota, Vans and various brands of beers sponsoring the FYF fest, or Jet blue and Hendrick’s gin sponsoring Arroyo Seco, but it’s still business. And this is a huge business, billions of dollars are obviously  involved in music festivals.

Meanwhile, a lot of the festivals above are controlled by Goldenvoice (AEG owned) and other promoter giants,… Sean Carlson may have started the small FYF festival, but Goldenvoice has been producing the festival for a few years now. Arroyo Seco? Goldenvoice too, and even Tyler the Creator’s Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival is Goldenvoice owned, while Ohana and the Growlerssix are handled by Live Nation, Money always lands in the same pocket despite the apparent diversity and presentation, the experience feels different, but at the end it’s all the same business.

Big corporations have everything to gain by multiplying festivals, because they are still lucrative – and I haven’t even mentioned all the EDM events, Electric Daisy Carnival and Hard festivals because I don’t care for them. Smaller and still independent festivals have also surge in number and this will certainly continue in this busy festival ecosystem, until a few collapse and disappear by simple natural selection I guess.

Meanwhile Mainfest in Downtown Alhambra and Spaceland Block Party, originally scheduled for September, have been canceled, and they are probably the first victims of this saturated market. The postponed Spaceland Block Party till next year made me sad, not because I thought the lineup was great, but because it was an attempt by a smaller production (Spaceland presents) to launch a new festival. But the big winner this year is Desert Daze, a Moon Block event, still a true independent festival, which managed to get Iggy Pop (one of the biggies of the FYF fest) to headline. How long can they stay in the game? Let’s hope forever.

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