published Thursday, May 15th, 2014

City Beat: Face it, festivals are hot and expensive

Did you ever wonder why Riverbend doesn't book Paul McCartney? Or Arcade Fire?

As we've written many times before, there are lots of reasons. In fact, in the case of Macca, there are about 4 million reasons. That's how much Rolling Stone magazine reports Sir Paul (wonder how many nicknames I can slip in here) is getting for festival gigs these days.

Arcade Fire is getting between $2 million and $3 million. Lorde is getting half a million.

In the article "Inside the Festival Economy" in the most recent edition, the magazine looks at the rise of the summer music festival. It gives proper respect to Coachella and Bonnaroo for making them popular and for making it possible for acts like Outkast to make more money in one summer than they did in all their previous years of recording and touring.

The reunited duo will make about $60 million doing 40 festivals this season. In 2001, the "Stankonia" tour and its 46 shows grossed $4.8 million. They haven't released any new material in eight years, which according to many critics would make them a perfect act for Riverbend.

Festivals are hot (pun intended) right now because they are a great way for fans to see a lot of music in a concentrated time and place. In just a few hours, you can see 10 or 12 acts you've never seen before. To say "never heard before" would be to assume you don't have Spotify on your smartphone, and that would be wrong. Anyway, over a weekend, you can see closer to 70 or 80.

If it seems like there are suddenly a lot of festivals going on, it's because there are. Rolling Stone reports that 60 are scheduled in the U.S. this year.

Bonnaroo takes places on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tenn. Hangout is on the beach in Gulf Shores, Ala. Shaky Knees was this past weekend on a couple of parking lots in the Atlantic Station area of Atlanta. Forecastle is an urban festival by the river in Louisville, Ky. These give fans a choice: Do you want to camp or do you need air-conditioning?

These festivals also have pretty harsh "radius clauses," which prevent bands from playing within several hundred miles of the festival site for weeks, and sometimes months, on either side of the event.

Not all of the new festivals succeed because they are expensive to produce. Which is another reason what Riverbend has done for more than three decades is remarkable.

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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