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Mass Appeal: Behind Today's Top Music Festivals

WWD offers a glimpse into some of today’s most popular festivals.

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Justin Long and Drew Barrymore at Bonnaroo, 2009.

Photo By Jason Merritt/FilmMagic

Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival

Of all the Stateside music festivals, Bonnaroo’s four-day camping/music/hippie fest comes closest to capturing the Woodstock peace-and-love ethos. Situated on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tenn., Bonnaroo was created by Superfly Productions, a concert promotion company with roots in jazz and jam-band music, and AC Entertainment. Rick Farman, a partner in Superfly, explains: “We started to see bands that were attracting an audience that wanted to travel to see them play and to be at an event where a lot of different music was being presented.” They were right: In 2002, Bonnaroo’s inaugural year, the jam-band-heavy festival grossed $9 million. “[People are] coming for the music and all the activities we have going on,” says Farman. “But a lot of it is about living there for four days, meeting people, going to a farm and camping.”

Sound familiar? “Obviously there were other political factors driving that moment [at Woodstock],” Farman says. “But the [Bonnaroo] concept of trying to get young people to peacefully camp together and build their own sort of city out of nothing has a very similar feeling.” Thus, corporate presence is subtle and potential sponsors, thoroughly vetted. “We always come from the standpoint of, What are you doing for the fan? How is the fan benefiting from that particular company’s presence?” says Farman, noting that Garnier, which has a multiyear deal with Bonnaroo, has upgraded shower facilities on the campgrounds and provides free bath products and a hair salon, where attendees can get blow-outs and cuts — amenities one would have been hard pressed to find at Woodstock.

 

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