Music Festival Deathwatch 2010


Throwing a major music festival — especially during times like these — is a risky proposition. With high-profile ventures like All Points West tanking after only two years, we’re always worrying that our favorite event or tour won’t be back for another summer. So, now that most of the year’s biggest festivals have come and gone, we’re taking a look at how a handful of standbys fared in 2010 to predict whether we should start saving cash for 2011 tickets or get to work planning their funeral. Spoiler alert: In most cases, the prospects are less bleak than you’d expect.

Coachella Despite the continued economic gloom and doom, this spring’s Coachella festival fared better than ever. In fact, at 75,000 people a day, the sellout crowd surpassed 2009’s audience by a daily average of 15,000. In fact, as of July, it was the year’s top-grossing festival, at $21.7 million.

Photo by Natasha Blank. Read our Coachella coverage here.Will Coachella be back in 2011? Absolutely. In fact, you can already mark your calendars, because the folks at Coachella have announced the dates for next year: April 15-17.

Rock the Bells Hip-hop heads may be nervous about the future of Chang Weisberg’s beloved traveling festival, after it was chopped to only four dates this year. Luckily, by halving the number of cities this year’s line-up — which features Snoop Dogg, A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan, and “very special guest” Lauryn Hill — it looks like Weisberg may have prevented a collapse. The LA Times reports that “ticket sales have already exceeded expectations with more than 20,000 tickets pre-sold in each of the major markets Rock the Bells will reach.” And the tour doesn’t even kick off until Saturday!

.Nas at Rock the Bells 2009. Image via WonderWyze on FlickrWill Rock the Bells be back in 2011? It sure looks like it! We’ll keep our fingers crossed.

Electric Daisy Carnival Tragedy struck this year’s Electric Daisy Carnival, to the horror of electronic music fans around the world who have flocked to the now multi-city festival for a decade. At June’s Los Angeles date, 15-year-old Sasha Rodriguez died of an apparent drug overdose. Now, the city has banned minor from attending any raves currently scheduled for 2010 and put a moratorium on any of the festival’s 2011 events until Electric Daisy overhauls its safety plan.

Electric Daisy 2010. Image via Caesar Sebastian on FlickrWill Electric Daisy be back in 2011? While the LA event did draw a crowd of over 180,000 and featured talent including Moby, Basement Jaxx, and, it’s clear that many things will need to change if the festival is to return next year.

Lilith Fair Sarah McLachlan’s Lilith Fair stepped into the 21st century this year — sort of. While the ladies-only music festival lined up an ambitious 36-date tour, underwhelming ticket sales forced the cancellation of roughly a third of them. Plus, some of the tour’s biggest and most relevant names, including Rihanna, La Roux, the Go-Go’s, and Norah Jones, dropped out. In the end, it sounds like only the ’90s standbys (hi, Indigo Girls!), their obvious heirs (hello, Sara Bareilles), and a notoriously erratic Cat Power were left standing.

Sarah McLachlan at Lilith Fair 2010. Image via Patcave on FlickrWill Lilith Fair be back in 2011? Just after Lilith Fair 2010 wrapped earlier this month, McLachlan announced plans to tour again next year. If she keeps her promise (and we haven’t ruled out the possibility that she’ll be unable to), we imagine some Rock the Bells-style cutbacks are in store.

Bonnaroo As far as we can tell, this year’s festival didn’t quite sell out — but it did draw nearly 80,000 fans, its best turnout since 2007. And we imagine the Bonnaroo crew raked in some extra cash with high-visibility deals to stream the event on YouTube and NPR.

A “Brohemian” at Bonnaroo 2010. Photo by Margaret Eby, from our Field Guide to Bros at BonnarooWill Bonnaroo be back in 2011? Looks like it. They’re already hyping next year’s 10th anniversary.

Pitchfork Music Festival Always economical and, um, bro-tastic, Pitchfork saw its three-day passes sell out in under a week. Individual day passes for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday had also disappeared by the time the festival started. As the festival’s director told the Chicago Sun-Times, “There’s been no slowdown for us at all… we’ve seen an increase in demand.” Lightning Bolt at Pitchfork 2010. Photo by Stephen Gossett. Read more of our festival coverage here.Will Pitchfork Fest be back in 2011? We have no doubt. The only question in our mind is, will witch house be the new chillwave on next year’s line-up?

Vans Warped Tour Over a decade and a half in, the Warped Tour has become a pop-punk institution, beloved by hoodie-wearing teenage skateboarders across the country. But is it still as hot a ticket as it was when we begged our parents to let us attend back in the ’90s? Not quite. As organizer Kevin Lyman confirmed to Rolling Stone, “ticket sales are slightly down this year, and that some markets that have proven unsuccessful in the past were skipped over for this year’s trek, reducing the Warped Tour by two weeks.”

Andrew W.K. at Warped Tour 2010. Photo credit: Shawn Anderson and Victor Palagano, Phoenix NewTimesWill Warped Tour be back in 2011? We’re thinking yes. The setbacks, while worrisome, sound minor. We imagine that, if anything, it will continue to scale back without folding.

Lollapalooza Pop-hating snobs may have scoffed at the addition of Lady Gaga to this year’s festival, but it looks like organizer/Jane’s Addiction legend Perry Farrell got the last laugh: 80,000 tickets sold for the night she headlined, besting recent years by roughly five grand. Good thing 2009’s sellout crowd inspired Lolla to make more room for 2010’s event.

Lady Gaga at Lollapalooza 2010. Image via paty.marone on FlickrWill Lollapalooza be back in 2011? According to this NY Times profile, promoters C3 are doing great, between ticket sales and sponsorships. In fact, they’ve got a contract with the city of Chicago to keep producing Lolla there until 2017. The only possible cause for concern? C3 “now faces an investigation by the Illinois attorney general into its business practices.”

Ozzfest Ozzfest has existed in various forms since 1996, although the last few years have been touch and go: Ozzy scheduled only one date in 2008 and skipped 2009 entirely. Now, the metal hoedown is back, but only for six dates nationwide. Since the tour is still in progress, it’s hard to estimate whether it’s been sustainable. According to an audio news brief on the opening date, August 14th in San Bernadino, “Ozzfest 2010 brought out a huge crowd of metal fans, although perhaps not as massive as past years, as the entire touring industry is taking a hit.”

Ozzy Osbourne at Ozzfest 2010. Image via Ticket Analyst on FlickrWill Ozzfest be back in 2011? Since this entire festival hinges on one Ozzy Osbourne, hardly the most predictable or consistent person in the music industry, and give its varied incarnations over the years, your guess is as good as ours.