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Live Music Festival Tickets are Heating Up

Technology has changed the industry of music into an entirely different system than existed even ten years ago. Digitalization of music, computer file-sharing and the Internet have all contributed to ...

Technology has changed the industry of music into an entirely different system than existed even ten years ago. Digitalization of music, computer file-sharing and the Internet have all contributed to a dynamic shift in revenue streams for musicians and recording labels. Live performances now have significantly more earning power compared to album sales, which are compromised by the nearly-free flow of recorded music in cyberspace.

Many fans believe this to be a positive trend, taking revenue and demand away from record companies who sell overpriced CDs, and instead emphasizing and paying for opportunities to watch their favorite performers live. Though the industry has taken a huge financial hit, those in the music business are still savvy enough to know they have one inimitable product left: the experience of hearing music as it's made.

This experience is substantial enough for everyone to take a cut of the profits. Artists, record labels, venues, sponsors and ticket brokers all collect money from live shows. In order for that payoff to cover costs, the concerts typically need to be sold out--no mean feat for non-blockbuster artists and bands. In order to guarantee a sold-out show and a healthy profit, industry heads have turned to gigantic festivals, bringing together the hottest musicians for a few days of great music, great fun and merchandising.

While cynics deplore extortionate ticket prices, diluted artist lineups and shameless product placement, their continued success indicates a high demand for such mega-shows. The opportunity to hear several of one's favorite bands has tremendous drawing power, and at some of the biggest music festivals, the price of a ticket works out to just a few dollars per band.

The most famous and mythical of all music festivals is Woodstock, the 1969 version of which is still being written about and romanticized. What many people do not know is that the concert was initially a money-making scheme, and the $18 tickets had to be mail-ordered in advance. Organizers prepared for 50,000 concertgoers, and saw their control of the festival literally trampled as more than 500,000 people came and knocked down the gates. The culture of peace, music and drugs helped establish the festival's enduring iconoclastic image, while bands like The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead and Neil Young ensured a high quality of music.

Reincarnations of Woodstock in 1994 and 1999 were doomed to failure, as the spontaneity and casual spirit of the original were replaced by oppressive security and corporate greed. Violence and looting also marred the latter festival, with crowds turning on vendors in the absence of free water. Many of the water fountains were taken over and guarded by "mud people", who would sling mud at those wishing to use the fountains.

Recently, music festivals have evolved into more transparent for-profit schemes with fans willing to pay a premium for outstanding lineups of musicians. Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bamboozle and Bonnaroo are some of the shows that have taken the torch from Woodstock. While the unstructured magic of Woodstock is impossible to plan or recreate, safety and fun allow more people to enjoy the music they pay to see.

Music festivals arenít limited to the rock genre, either. Several annual events celebrate classical music, such as the Salzburg Festival, in honor of Mozartís Austrian roots. Opera aficionados have the Bayreuth Festival, a long-running event honoring Richard Wagner. The Montreal International Jazz Festival is famous all over the world, having hosted the likes of B.B. King, Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie since it began in 1978.

With Internet piracy continuing to marginalize the market for recorded songs, music festivals will continue to grow in stature and reputation. Despite rising ticket pricesArticle Submission, live music looks set to be the future of the industry.

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J.B. Hooper is a consultant for He has been an authority on music and theater for more than twenty years.

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