We owe a lot to the Monterey Pop Festival, a three day concert held the summer of 1967 in Monterey, CA two years before Woodstock.
It was the first widely promoted and heavily attended music festival (90,000 people). Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Ravi Shankar and Janis Joplin performed. It was a game-changer for Otis Redding as he was inspired to write "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" afterwards. Robert Moog demonstrated his synthesizer to The Doors, The Rolling Stones, and Simon & Garfunkel at the concert.
"Monterey was also the first high-profile event to mix acts from major regional music centers in the U.S.A. — San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Memphis and New York City — and it was the first time many of these bands had met each other in person."
Music festivals have continued to generate big business. 1991 brought us Lollapalooza which toured the country for the first 6 or 7 years; it has since taken up permanent residence in Chicago with offshoots in Chile and Brazil.
The Ultra Music Festival in Miami, FL had the Miami Downtown Development authority happily scraping away 1500+ stickers. The extra expense for clean-up shouldn't have taken up too much of the $79 million the concert brought to south Florida last year.
I would be remiss if I did not mention SXSW. Started in 1987 by the Austin Chronicle as a music festival but has evolved to include film and interactive offerings as well. The first year had 700 attendees; 2012 estimates 302,700. The juggernaut has launched diverse properties such as Hansen, Fred Armisen, John Mayer, Twitter, Foursquare and the Cabin in the Woods. In 2012 the festival brought an estimated $190.3 million and has been instrumental in defining Austin as a creative capital of the world.
This past weekend as I purchased tickets for Hopscotch and debated purchasing tickets for the newly configured Moogfest, now called Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit, I reflected on the importance of music festivals.
Economic development for a city. To be distinctive, each festival takes on a personality. That personality is informed by the location, but also helps define the personality of a city or town for those who live in the town or those tourists who visit for the event.
Exposure for bands. When a smaller band plays a festival they get the opportunity to network with other bands and the exposure to thousands of fans who may not have seen the band otherwise.
Making memories. Many of my favorite memories have happened at festivals and I believe they have helped defined who I am as a person. The first time I visited NYC was for CMJ. I moved to Brooklyn a year later. It seems every day brings a new music festival to my attention and I desperately want to go to each of them.
I encourage you to pick a festival, or two this year. It seems indulgent to spend $100-$400 on a ticket, but when you do, you're helping to spark the economy and creating memories that will last a lifetime. All of a sudden the cost of the ticket seems like a bargain.