Last year was the most profitable in live-music history, with $7.3 billion in tickets sold, twice as much as a decade earlier. This year, expect that number to get even bigger. To fend off competition, festivals and artists are incorporating innovations from virtual reality to marijuana vendors. Recruiting millennials is key: Bonnaroo recently rebounded from a dismal 2016 after doubling down on EDM and hip-hop, moving even further away from its jam-band roots. Here’s more of what to expect.
Cage the Elephant have been touring for a decade, but only lately have they become “the band young people go crazy and sweaty for,” says fan and friend Dan Auerbach. At Governors Ball, frontman Matt Shultz channeled his hero Iggy Pop, howling over a series of garage-blues rave-ups between multiple trips into the audience. “There have been a lot of intense moments,” says Shultz. He isn’t afraid of confrontation, like when he escaped the clutch of a fan last year while crowd-surfing. “The next day, someone wrote, ‘The lead singer bit me and it was the best experience of my life,’?” he says. “At least it was positive.”
In the past year, Bob Dylan fans who tried to
take a photo of him in concert have been either asked by security to delete
them – or kicked out entirely. Dylan is just one artist taking a no-nonsense
policy toward phones: Haim and the Lumineers have enlisted Yondr, a company
that makes tiny pouches that fans place their phones inside upon arrival at a
concert. They stay locked until security unlocks them at a kiosk after the
show. “It’s important fans are participating rather than experiencing it
through a screen,” says Lumineers manager Christen Greene.
You’ll need one item to enter the Cannabis Country Fair in Northern California in July: a doctor-prescribed medical-marijuana card. Once inside, you’ll be able to see bands like Portugal.The Man and test out strains of weed from more than 50 vendors. As more states legalize, the music industry is exploring how to profit off pot sales; companies like Origin Therapeutics are already striking deals between promoters and dispensaries so they can sell pot at concerts after it’s fully legalized in California in January. “It’s coming soon,” says Jonathan “JJ” Jones, who staged Weedmaps Oasis, a private pot event near Coachella that drew celebs like Kendall Jenner. “It’ll rival beer sales.”
In July, Phish will take over Madison Square
Garden for 13 nights. They’re just one act planning extended New York
residencies: By year’s end, LCD Soundsystem will have played a total of 22
shows at Brooklyn Steel, and Bruce Springsteen is reportedly considering a
The rapper was recently arrested for inciting a
riot in Arkansas after fans rushed the stage. It was just another night on his
new tour, which has been full of risky incidents: In New York he told fans, “Don’t
be scared,” urging them to jump off a balcony into the crowd (one did, and
broke his leg). “I came for the chaos,” Scott said at Coachella.
Lady Gaga once said she wanted to be like Iron Maiden, able to tour huge venues without a big hit. Her Joanne tour suggests she’s already there, selling out multinight runs in arenas and stadiums. Credit her Super Bowl performance – and the fanatical devotion of her Little Monsters.
If you go to a fest, expect to see funny goggles. New York’s Panorama is hyping a 360-degree “virtual-reality dome,” and L.A.’s FYF is giving out 3D glasses to wear for Flying Lotus’ set. Some are skeptical of the VR phenomenon. “People don’t like wearing [goggles] for more than 15 minutes,” says LeRoy Bennett, production designer for Beyoncé and others. “I don’t see it as the next big thing.”