Festivals are a staple of the California lifestyle. They’re also proving to be a rather undeniable part of the California economy. The festival economy seems to be growing at such an fast rate, there’s concern that it may overheat and burst. The Coachella Arts and Music Festival recently increased it’s capacity to a bulging 125,000 people. It still managed to sell out in just under three hours. The Stagecoach festival is the country music cousin of Coachella and it’s current capacity is 75,000. These two large festivals continue to sire spin off festivals within the golden state. These festivals only account for big ticket sales. The reality is that a Californian could literally spend their entire year at smaller festivals, regional events, and community events that the weather of California awards us. You could do this, and still not see everything on display.
Monterey Pop brought the summer of love generation together for the counterculture movement, and 1996’s Organic Festival helped to make the rave scene what it is today. Festivals today function much more as promotional tools for California institutions and communities. They provide a willing audience with the means to support local governments with a means of creating traffic to their area and bringing in much needed sales taxes. Festivals bring in thousands of outsiders each year to the California economy.
Festivals also offer a quick, easy, and social way for us to interact with our communities and each other. You set up a festival in a field that is willing to house it, and you don’t have to tie it to a particular building or center. Construction in California is a headache. Festivals require very little in the way of permanent structures. They’re also ready made for the social media age. Hashtags, selfies, geotags, everything that the folks at Google will tell you are important metrics today are encouraged at festivals.
The problem that larger festivals are running up against is a matter of David and Goliath. Coachella might seem untoppleable. Until people realize they can see Lady Gaga at the Staples Center or several other venues. Festivals are competing to get the top acts, which in turn drives the prices up each year. Sure there are 30 artists, but do you really want to see all of them? The lines are too long. A hot dog costs $10.
Add on top of that, the competition is small in size, but large in quantity. Smaller niche festivals are carving their own way into the economy. They aim to offer something unique, that a giant festival can’t offer. They aim to build more tight knit communities. This may also be a lesson that large festivals need to learn. If you can build a community in the area you’re throwing your festival, the people around reap the benefits and are more likely to keep supporting you. For the moment, there seems to be no end in sight for the Festival bubble, but let’s just hope we keep aware of what might happen if it pops.