The Stage Is Set: Summer Concert Series by the Numbers


By , dealnews contributor

It's been more than 40 years since a pair of California music festivals changed the way we celebrate summer. The KFRC Fantasy Fair & Magic Mountain Music Festival and the Monterey International Pop Festival, held on consecutive weekends in June 1967, gave birth to outdoor rock festivals as we know them today.

Since then, countless musicians have performed countless songs, but there's more scoring to be done: that is, tallying the stats behind this summer's festival season and recalling the numbers of festivals past. For Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bonnaroo, and the like exist as small cities unto themselves for a few short days. Think of all the bands! The cars! The porta potties! Then again, maybe you'd rather not think of the porta potties in the aftermath of rock concert crush...

Here's a better idea for an encore: Festival facts and figures. Here's the rundown on stats, spending, and some fun trivia surrounding the summer concert season.

Glastonbury Attendees: 180,000

The venerable English rock event has come a long way from its founding in 1970, when attendance was 1,500 and entry was about $2 and included free milk from the hosting farm. This year, thousands of acts performed on more than 50 stages in what had become the UK's biggest music festival. It's no exaggeration to say that everyone who was anyone either played or attended: the Rolling Stones rocked Glastonbury for the first time ever, Nile Rogers (of Chic fame) played an electrifying set, and Prince Harry danced while Radiohead's Thom Yorke anchored a deejay set.

Bonnaroo Attendees: More Than 100,000

With the 100,000+ "Bonnaroovians" comes a whole lot of work for the Tennessee Highway Patrol: almost 6,000 combined patrol hours were needed to cover the fest's 6-day span. But it's doubtful that anyone working or attending the festival know other origin of the festival's name. In fact, it's a Dr. John song called, "Decidedly Bonnaroo," and is said to be Cajun parlance for "great time."

Largest Outdoor Rock Concert Attendance: 1.6 Million

Beavis and Butt-Head may love their hard rock, but not as much as the Russians did in 1991. That year, 1.6 million people saw AC/DC, The Black Crowes, Metallica, and Pantera on the Moscow stop of the Monsters of Rock tour. Huge numbers, you say? Yes, but that's only one third of the tally for the largest outdoor concert of all time. An estimated 4.8 million showed up in Punjab, India in 2010 to see the one, the only Babbu Mann!

Lollapalooza Gross: $22.5 Million

It's been estimated that the 2011 undertaking of Lolla raked in $22.5 million; and it's expected to gross that much or more in 2013, though Lolla has not been without controversy in the Chicago. A sweetheart deal under the auspices of former Mayor Richard M. Daley allowed the festival to dodge city and county amusement taxes, along with state liquor taxes, so long as it made a lump-sum payment to the Parkways Foundation (a favorite cause of the then mayor's wife). Those tax perks are gone with a new mayor, but Lolla still gets red carpet treatment: It's co-owned by William Morris Endeavor, a company run by Ari Emanuel. His brother? Current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Number of Female-Fronted Acts at Coachella: 11%

In its founding year, Coachella was fronted by about 10% female acts; in 2013, it had 11%. And in the midst, in 2006, the lineup was only 25% female. So what's up, Coachella dudes? Do you not like the ladies? BuzzFeed itself acknowledges that "most other festivals are no better in this regard." But still, given that women represent more than half the general population, the numbers of female-fronted acts could be higher.

Number of Woodstock Attendees: Between 400,000 and 500,000

There's no reliable nor exact headcount for this festival, though one thing's for sure: At least 2 million ex-hippies and current senior citizens claim to have attended the 1969 show, which wasn't in Woodstock, NY but in Bethel, a town about 40 miles away. The UK's Daily Mail notes that "the organizers played down the numbers they anticipated, telling the authorities they expected 50,000, while selling 186,000 tickets in advance (costing $6 for each day) and planning for 200,000. In the end 500,000 attended. Another million had to turn back because of traffic."

Longest Set Played at an Outdoor Festival: About 3+ Hours

This one will always be subject to debate, as no one claims to hold the mantle in any official sort of way. Stories abound about jam bands astrally projecting into the nether regions of time, though it might surprise you to learn that the Grateful Dead's Woodstock set (originally scheduled for 90 minutes) was cut short when stage amplifiers overheated. At Bonnaroo this year, Paul McCartney played for a solid 2 1/2 hours, not bad for a 70-year-old rocker who can look back on "When I'm 64" as a ballad about his younger days. We're fairly certain that in some cornfield somewhere, some band has played longer. But with a lineup that includes beloved Beatles classics and "Live and Let Die," could anyone possibly play stronger?

Bonnaroo, Coachella, and Glastonbury may be behind us, but the festival season is far from over. Lollapalooza and Pitchfork (the descendant of the late, great Intonation festival) still remain in Chicago, with countless other options for those with a full tank of gas and rock and roll hearts. Just remember to bring all the necessaries you'll need to stay healthy and happy; hydrating is, was, and will always be a must. And if you need to use one of those questionable porta potties, remember that with every great reward in life comes a little risk. Just hold your nose, get your business done, and get back to the memories unfolding onstage. Summer's here, but like a great song, it fades all too soon.

Lou Carlozo is a dealnews contributing writer. He covers personal finance for Reuters Wealth. Prior to that he was the managing editor of, and a veteran columnist at the Chicago Tribune.

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Longest set played by a band at an outdoor festival would be Phish on the Millennium NYE in Florida. At 7.5 hours straight.