In their earliest days, music festivals were a place to celebrate counterculture in a grassroots way, with the biggest emphasis placed on the music and the community itself. Affordability was rarely an issue for attendees, and even Woodstock in 1969 was largely considered a free event due to the overwhelming demand.
The rugged and dirty festival days have undergone a shift, though, and this weekend's launch of Desert Trip in Indio, Calif. is the most obvious example of the huge corporate influence in the festival community.
Desert Trip will take place over two weekends at the Empire Polo Grounds: Oct. 7-9 and Oct. 14-16. The festival is being priced as an exclusively once-in-a-lifetime. The event kicks off Friday with sets from The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, followed Saturday by Paul McCartney and Neil Young, with the weekend coming to a close on Sunday night with Roger Waters and The Who. The event will repeat the following weekend from October 14-16.
To put it simply, Desert Trip is already the biggest festival event of all time. The Goldenvoice event is projecting a box office gross of $150 million, which would smash the all-time record gross of $84.2 million, set in 2015 by Goldenvoice's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
Three-day passes to the festival started at $399, with reserved floor tickets ranging from $699-$1,599. Primary tickets sold out within hours, pushing fans to rely solely on the secondary market, where tickets were exponentially pricier. With just days before the launch, three-day passes are averaging $1,136, with the cheapest pass priced at $205. However, those tickets are strictly just to get inside the festival -- the most basic camping option can be purchased for $99 for the weekend, but options go as high as $10,000.
Amenities are huge, too, as Desert Trip will feature some of the world's most renowned chefs from 40 of the best restaurants in the country. All six headliners collectively dominate nearly every list of the 100 greatest rock songs ever put together. And even though these artists have ruled rock for decades, they have never all shared the same stage, making Desert Trip even more special.
It would appear from the outside that festivals couldn't get much bigger than Desert Trip, but according to festival experts, there will be more huge festivals. "I recently met another emerging festival along the lines of Desert Trip, which is aiming at capturing the same baby boomers as Desert Trip," states Laurie Kirby, co-founder of FestForums, a business-to-business conference for festival producers. "The success of these festivals depend upon the VIP experience with amenities that baby boomers have come to expect. Ticket pricing won't be an issue if they get it right."
Desert Trip has certainly combined the biggest and most expensive facets of festival life into one, and it's likely that future festivals will find ways to match and exceed that benchmark. Although hundreds of smaller, less bank-breaking festivals exist, Desert Trip epitomizes a shift in festival culture with no sign of slowing down.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.