Top 10 of Music Festivals in the USA 2020
2020 isn’t going to change that. That’s why we’re going to talk about the best music festivals in the USA.
We’re going to shower you in facts, lineups, history, and precious information. Therefore, grab your favorite notepad, sharpen your rainbow pencil, and fire up the best music you can get your hands at.
Best Music Festivals in the US
Many think about the modern music festival in the US, as if it fell into the social media personalities' attention spectrum, without really committing to the wide musical grace. Sure, it may be true that many have turned into a social gathering, but over the course of modern music history, big names like Coachella or Lollapalooza made it to where they are right now, due to insane performances. Not because of some outfits… That’s why we’re going to present to you the best aspects of your audio consecration.
It would be only logical to start from the top. Selling tickets as if it were a dynamite fuse. Our first entry is going to embody the venue that makes attendants feel as if they’ve had won the golden ticket for the Chocolate Factory. It’s colorful, it’s big, it’s loud… it’s Coachella.
9-11 & 16-18 October 2020, Indio, California
What started as a not-so-profitable venue in 1999, wrapped up in the hymn-arms of Rage Against the Machine, has blossomed into a powerhouse money-making gala - bringing back the revolutionary band in their 2020 lineup.
And the thing is, this festival started out really slow. How slow? Well, it took Coachella until 2004 to get sold out for the first time. That’s five years. The 2004 festival was held across two days in May and featured acts such as Radiohead, Pixies, The Cure, and The Flaming Lips. This iteration of the festival saw its highest numbers in its (then) history, drawing a respectful crowd of 120.000.
Compare that to 2019’s first weekend, featuring Childish Gambino, Ariana Grande, and Tame Impala as headliners reportedly sold out in 40 minutes. But that’s not all. The full festival was completely sold out within six hours.
Nonetheless, we have to be honest here. It wasn’t all music that got Coachella flowing… Technology became a well-nourished element that attracted new followers like flies.
A standard festival had no cell phones in sight, just people enjoying the festival. Camera phones were not released until 2002, and smartphones didn’t become popular until at least 2007, following the release of the iPhone. Those two details have made that now, attendees, artists, and celebrities alike join in on snapping photos and sharing content with followers. Coachella, like many other festivals, has incorporated interactive activations and installations for photo opportunities. This includes special art exhibits, food trucks, a Ferris wheel, and brand-sponsored tents. In 2018, the first weekend of the festival is reported to have a total Media Impact Value of over $116 million, and over 460.000 posts on social media.
This year, the music & media marriage stands out with some apocryphal names. Here’s a small sampling: Rage Against the Machine, Frank Ocean, Travis Scott, Calvin Harris, Flume, Lana Del Rey, Thom Yorke & FKA Twigs.
Price entrance: (starting at) $429
Music festival history of Lollapalooza
30 July - 2 August 2020, Grant Park, Chicago
We’ve all seen the Simpsons episode, Homerpalooza. Admit it.
Well, Lollapalooza had a rough start as well. Jane’s Addiction leader Perry Farrell started it in 1991 as a multicity venue for his band’s farewell tour. Acts played in that tour, which reached 20 cities across the United States and Canada. The events were profitable, therefore, a similar tour was planned in 1992, with a second stage added. The festival again visited many cities across North America, establishing the format of Lollapalooza through 1997… but… everyone began to lose money, canceling the whole deal in 1998. In 2003 the name got resurrected, yet, still struggling financially. So, of course, the gig got canceled again in 2004.
Farrell got desperate and after finding new backers, Lollapalooza was given a third chance in 2005 - this time taking place only in Chicago. It turned out to be such a success that a third day was added for 2006, and Lollapalooza became an annual event. This household name attracts now over 200.000 attendees, including many families. It’s a wonderful gathering of music, dance, comedy, and crafts booths, which transforms it into a multi-genre delight, providing also a platform for political and non-profit artists and groups.
But with all those side dishes, can it still be a good festival? Well, let’s have a small look at last year's biggest names: The Strokes, The Chainsmokers, Childish Gambino, Tame Impala, Twenty One Pilots, J Balvin, Ariana Grande and Flume.
Not too shabby. Right?
It’s also a tiny bit more affordable than the neighbor from California, with a price tag at $340.
South by Southwest 2020 is canceled
16 - 27 March 2020 (CANCELED), Austin, Texas
You wanna launch your career? Get a spot at the South by Southwest. Period. This southern oasis is regarded as the ultimate trendsetter and launcher of musical careers. It displays as an annual showcase of music, film, and interactive highlights enjoyed through performances, talks, screenings, and more. Virtually taking over the city of Austin, everyone in the world of music from fans to media flock here to discover the next big thing.
It all began in 1987 as the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference, when a promotion company under that name, decided to showcase the eclectic music scene in Austin for music industry professionals. Around 700 insiders attended the inaugural event, not knowing what masterpiece stood before them.
As a good melomaniac, you can dig into the biggest variety of artists in 2020 like Margot Price, Belako, Steam Down, HMLTD, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Pokey LaFarge or Soccer Mommy.
Are there any cons? Yes. Yes, there are. The ticket price. In 2019, the SXSW ticket prices ranged from $825 to $1150, increasing over time to $1325 to $1650 for walk-up tickets. Ouch…
BUT❗️It is the first time in the event’s 34-year history that it’s been canceled. “We are exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, starting with SXSW EDU,” reads the full cancellation note on the SXSW website.
Pitchfork Music Festival
17 - 19 July 2020 (CANCELED), Union Park, Chicago
Once again, Chicago’s summer vibes bring out the best in music, local food and art in a true cultural feast. Organized by independently focused music source Pitchfork Media, this three-day event is music heaven that melts Rock, Hip-Hop, Electronic, Jazz, Punk, and many other genres and sub-genres. It has a record fair, fantastic food shops, local art, and beverages from local and national vendors.
Before we jump into the festival's history, here’s 2019 lineup, so you can get a taste of this three days pre-Lollapalooza entity: HAIM, Robyn, The Isley Brothers, Belle & Sebastian, Clairo, Charli XCX, Earl Sweatshirt.
It actually all started with the Chicago-based Internet music and reviews publisher, back in 2005. The following year, the company organized its own Pitchfork Music Festival. It was held over two days in July and attracted more than 36.000 fans to hear some glorious 40 bands, including Band of Horses or Mission of Burma, on two main stages. Over the years the venue expanded to three days, including some amazing musical guests like Animal Collective, Pavement, Modest House, Sonic Youth, or Public Enemy.
What’s also very significant is that activism has gone always hand in hand with the festival. In 2008, concert-goers could register to vote and more than 1.200 people did so. In 2010 the organizers purchased carbon credits to offset the traveling the musicians would do to reach the festival. Besides that, there’s, of course, a lot of recycling going on, the usage of greener methods, etc.
But everything comes with a price tag, although this one’s lower than the rest, standing at $185. Which we consider okay.
❗️Pitchfork Music Festival 2020 is canceled, but organizers are fully committed to bringing Pitchfork Music Festival back in 2021 if the public health situation allows for it.
What is Burning Man
30 August - 7 September 2021, Black Rock, Nevada
We couldn’t leave this one out, even though it’s not actually a music festival like the rest of them. Because, what matters is that there’s music involved in this legendary, psychedelic, almost mythological week nearby Las Vegas.
This late-summer art festival rides each year into the sunset after an impressive festival circuit. This badass festival was inaugurated in 1986 when Larry Harvey and Jerry James - two members of the San Francisco arts community - burned a two-meter tall wooden effigy of a man on San Francisco’s Baker Beach in celebration of the summer solstice. Only twenty people witnessed the event. This started a small tradition of burning wooden men, with more and more people attending. Until the year 1990, when the police intervened at the last minute and forbade the structure from being set ablaze. Consequently, the event was moved to the Black Rock Desert, where it was burned on the Labor Day weekend, in early September. Bad luck San Francisco.
The Burning Man festival expanded dramatically over the next two decades. It expanded to an entire week, preceding Labor Day. In 2010, attendance rose exponentially, exceeding the 50.000 marks. That meant that each year a temporary city - with named streets, villages, and camps - gets erected in the desert to accommodate all of the attendees. After the festival, however, that city gets completely obliterated, keeping with the “leave no trace” policy of the festival organizers.
What’s so awesome about the festival is that anyone attending is expected to be an active participant, particularly through the installation of art projects or by involvement in one of the camps or villages. Unlike most other festivals, Burning Man is virtually vendor-free. People are expected to bring with them whatever they need for a week’s subsistence in the desert and to trade for any item they might lack. In the end, it’s an exercise, challenge, balancing human cooperation, self-reliance, individual expression and creative collaboration in the formation of an artistic community.
But, it’s expensive, right? Sure it costs $425 if you’re over 12 years of age. But remember that it’s a full week of desert-psychedelia.
❗️Organizers of Burning Man are going to build Black Rock City in The Multiverse. It would be Virtual Black Rock City 2020. More details in the video.
New Orleans Jazz fest 2020 is officially canceled due to COVID-19
22 April & 2 May 2021, New Orleans
Do you want to know what a festival means to its community? Then forget the rest and head to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. This venue dates back to 1970, embodying a complete cultural experience, reaching well beyond music. A rigid, stuffy affair this is not. It has bloomed over the last decades from its purview into a wide and beautiful spectrum, that grows alongside one of the most vibrant cities in the world.
Still not convinced? What if we add names like Foo Fighters, Stevie Nicks, Lizzo, THE WHO, Dead & Company, Lionel Richie, or Erykah Badu for the 2021 edition?
How to promote your event?
The festival began modestly, drawing a mere 350 attendees, but it has grown into one of the largest festivals in the United States - and, in the process, a major economic boon for New Orleans - with a record attendance of 650,000 visitors over the course of seven days in 2001. According to its mission statement, “The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc., promotes, preserves, perpetuates, and encourages the music, culture, and heritage of communities in Louisiana through festivals, programs, and other cultural, educational, civic, and economic activities.”
What else is great in comparison to the rest? $85. That’s so great.
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
24 - 27 September 2020, Great Stage Park, Tennessee
This funny-named multi-themed festival started out on jam bands and folk-rock, until it expanded to include an impressive array of genres and was once praised by Rolling Stones magazine as being amongst the “50 Moments That Changed Rock & Roll”. That’s honestly pretty cool if you ask us.
The first Bonnaroo was organized by veteran music promoter Ashley Capps back in 2002 and it attracted surprisingly over 70.000 visitors. What’s so interesting about the venue is that it's not limited to any genre. at the four-day multistage festival, attendees can hear a variety of music, from Rock and Jazz to Hip-Hop and even World Music.
That’s why this year includes artists like Tool, Lizzo, Tame Impala, Lana Del Rey, Flume, Vampire Weekend, and even Miley Cyrus.
And if you get tired of first-class music, there’s always a central area of the festival site, called Centeroo, which is open 24 hours a day, offering food and craft vending and other activities where you can also watch films, sample specialty beers or dance all night at the Silent Disco.
And at $319 for four days… it’s kind of worth it.
The Governors Ball Music Festival
5 - 7 June 2020 (CANCELED), Randall’s Island, New York
The mighty city of the east coast of the United States brings to this list a newbie festival, filled with big and juicy names and companies.
Founded and launched in 2011, The Governors Ball Music Festival is an annual multi-day music festival hosted on Randall’s Island in New York City. Initially established and operated independently by Founders Entertainment, Gov Ball was just recently acquired by Live Nation in an agreement made so that the excellent festival might continue to “remain competitive and match the high costs of booking top talent for its events,” reports the New York Times.
Over the last six years, the New York festival has transformed from little more than a one-day event featuring primarily underground artists into a three-day musical extravaganza to be reckoned with. Consistently chock-full of an eclectic mix of big-league names, Gov Ball has quickly earned a seat at the table with the likes of Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Made In America, Sasquatch and otherwise.
Get your ticket to the big apple to see musicians like Tame Impala, Missy Elliot, Flume, Vampire Weekend, Stevie Nicks, Solange or Miley Cyrus.
If you have the same amount of money as the Bonnaroo festival in your pocket…
Electric Forest 2020
25 - 28 June 2020 (CANCELED), Rothbury, Michigan
Hungry for some electro nectar?
When the summer of 2010 rolled around, the leaders of the Rothbury Festival announced that they would be “on hiatus” for the year. They cited various artist’s conflicting touring schedules as the reason for the postponement.
That’s how In the summer of 2011, Electric Forest was born at the JJ Resort. Tiësto, Kaskade, Lettuce, and Excision all helped christen this next chapter in Forest history. Production giants Insomniac Events partnered with the festival for the first time this year as well.
This colorful festival fuses bands with electronic DJs, taking over in the form of a forest as an alternative to the field-only festival we are used to. Festival-goers are immersed in the colors of the nature surrounding them, as thumping sounds follow them around from stage to stage.
This year's forest lineup includes The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Flume, Major Lazer, Big Gigantic, Diplo, and Louis The Child.
Also, the forest is nice to your bank account: $75 for the individual pass
Austin City Limits Music Festival
2 - 4 & 9 - 11 October 2020, Zilker Park, Austin
Inspired by a concert series of the same name, the festival is an eight-stage celebration of all things music, along with an art market, delicious food and drink, a dedicated family area, and much more.
Originally a one-weekend event, the festival successfully expanded to two weekends in 2012 after the local council voted unanimously to allow it to do so.
This monster festival has gathered many of the best names in music history. A good example is last year's legendary formation: Guns N’ Roses, Mumford & Sons, Childish Gambino, The Cure, Cardi B, Billie Eilish, Tame Impala, Robyn, etc.
As mentioned above, other than the musical performances, there are many other attractions at the ACL. These include the Austin Eats and the ACL Art Market. The former is a food court that was inspired by the New Orleans Jazz Fest and features food from the top caterers and restaurants in Austin. The latter is an exhibition of the works of local artists. Furthermore, there is an ACL Cares section at the festival that allows festival-goers to give something back to the community. Some of the good causes that are supported by the event include Austin Music Foundation, HeadCount, Keep Austin Beautiful, and United Way for Greater Austin.
Does all this premium content come at a price? Well, one day can cost you up to $250… Imagine the full circuit.