The Bonnaroo fest (photo by Jeff Baum)
My first music festival experience came in 2004 at the Coachella Music Festival, near Palm Springs, Calif.

Normally I would shy away from such large crowds and unbearable heat, but the lineup was just too good to miss: Festivalgoers were treated to headliners The Cure and Radiohead, as well as one of the first performances of the recently reunited Pixies. Also on the bill were Beck, Kraftwerk, the Flaming Lips, Air, Belle & Sebastian, Muse and other bands I was thrilled to see live.

And what could have been a nightmare turned out to be an amazing weekend trip.

Temperatures were over 100 degrees in the sun; there were almost 50,000 sweaty bodies surrounding the stage by the time the Pixies launched into their first song at dusk. The beer tent was one of few areas providing sanctuary from the heat, but the prices (upward of $10 each) and fear of getting too dehydrated kept attendees away.

Sure, the trip was an expensive one, after combining roundtrip airfare, hotel and food costs and the tickets. However, in addition to seeing some of my favorite musical acts, I squeezed in an extra day of sightseeing and pool-side lounging, a frozen margarita always within reach.

If I had stayed in New York City and saw each band individually when they toured the area, I would have quickly exceeded the cost of the whole weekend -- if I had been lucky enough to even get tickets before scalpers scooped them up. Taking a mini-vacation to relax and enjoy all of the artists made the festival trip worthwhile.

The More, the Merrier

Jeff Baum, contributor to and music blogger at Central Village , prefers festivals to individual artists' concerts because he enjoys having everything laid out for him.

" There is no worrying about having tickets for each band, getting on the list, finding the after-parties," says Baum. "You can just wake up, go see music all day and hang out all night. In New York, it's rarely that simple."

Beyond convenience, festivals help introduce ticketholders to countless new musical acts. In addition to my 10 must-see bands, I was treated to a circus-like environment at the Coachella festival, helping me indulge in music stylings I would normally shy away from.

"There's something genuinely comprehensive about the atmosphere at larger music festivals," says Dan Rogers, a Boston real estate developer and concertgoer. "A lot of today's festivals offer such an array of music styles, that if you're a fan of music in general, you can always find a stage or a tent throughout the day that has someone playing something that completely fascinates you. I hate the crowds, but all the bands and styles is what gets me to these things."

Tennessee's annual Bonnaroo Festival took place the third weekend of June this year and included by far one of the most diverse sets of musicians ever assembled.

Once a jam band-oriented festival, Bonnaroo expanded to include such diverse acts as Radiohead, Beck, Elvis Costello, Sonic Youth and Tom Petty for its 2006 incarnation. The additions of these artists paid off -- the festival sold all 90,000 available tickets.

Brought to You By...

While ticket sales help fund a majority of the costs for festivals, sponsorships and partners are also brought into the fold. The sponsors help fund the costs of the festival, and quite often, the return they get on the investment is well worth it.

Most companies are selected to target a certain demographic of festival attendees; not surprisingly, many festivals have alcohol distributors as sponsors. In return, organizers may allow a company such as Budweiser ( BUD) to be the only beer vendor on the festival grounds.

"Our partners have contributed to the success of the festival," says Richard Goodstone, sponsorship coordinator with Superfly Presents , a company that helped curate the Bonnaroo Festival. "Our philosophy is that every one of our corporate partners needs to add to the overall experience of the event. This is a true partnership and a value-added for the fans, which they understand and appreciate."

Philip de Liser, an organizer for the electronic music festival 10 Days Off in Belgium, says that companies choose to sponsor music festivals "to get access to a certain audience. It gives its product a profile by connecting it to an event."

Of course, while cash income or media attention can be important to both sponsors and festival organizers, de Liser points out how important it is that, in turn, "we choose our commercial partners. They have to fit with the image and philosophy of the event."

However, Bonnaroo's organizers were intent on restraining corporate sponsors. Baum notes that "Bonnaroo actually hid the sponsorships very well," and the most prominent issue forced upon attendees "was to clean up and take care of the environment, which is hard to complain about, really."

"Some festivals show ads on the projection screens in between bands or on huge billboards, but I saw none of that," Baum adds. "There was a Microsoft ( MSFT) Xbox arcade tent and an AT&T ( T) Internet cafe. Both were fun, optional and useful, so there were no complaints. Budweiser even sponsored a cleanup crew."

"We don't name stages or put up banners throughout the site, which our consumers do not respect," Goodstone explains. "Companies choose to partner with Bonnaroo because we provide a ... unique opportunity for their brands. Where else do you have the ability to integrate your brands into the city of 90,000 people that is Bonnaroo in a way that is authentic and relevant to the consumer? Rather than just having a touch point of three hours at a concert or even a day festival, brands are able to communicate with the Bonnaroo community for 24 hours a day over a four-day period."

More Bonnaroo (photo by Jeff Baum)

This Summer's Top Festivals

We've got your covered -- here's a listing of festivals across the globe for almost every weekend this summer. So, get ready to rock, and don't forget the suntan lotion, a bottle of water and your wallet.

Oxegen Festival -- Punchestown, Ireland (7/8-7/9)
Lineup: The Who, The Strokes, James Brown, Richard Ashcroft, Gomez, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sigur Ros, Ben Harper, Pharrell Williams, Goldfrapp, Arctic Monkeys, Felix da Housecat
Sponsor: Heineken

10 Days Off -- Ghent, Belgium (7/14-7/24)
Lineup: Matthew Dear, Carl Craig, Jeff Mills, Sasse, Morgan Geist, Magda
Sponsors: Bacardi, Red Bull, Studio Brussel

Splendour In The Grass -- Byron Bay, Australia (7/22-7/23)
Lineup: Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jose Gonzalez, Mos Def, TV On The Radio, Death Cab For Cutie, Sonic Youth, The Avalanches, DJ Shadow, Scissor Sisters, The Zutons
Sponsor: Rolling Stone Magazine

Pitchfork's Music Festival -- Chicago, IL (7/29-7/30)
Lineup: Spoon, Yo La Tengo, Mission Of Burma, The Futureheads, Ted Leo + The Pharmacists, Art Brut, Band of Horses, Matmos, Devendra Banhart, Diplo
Sponsors: Toyota's ( TM) Scion, Whole Food Markets ( WFMI)

Lollapalooza -- Chicago, IL (8/4-8/6)
Lineup: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kanye West, Wilco, The Flaming Lips, Ween, Queens of the Stone Age, Ryan Adams, Sonic Youth, Sleater-Kinney, Blues Traveler, Built To Spill, Gnarls Barkley
Sponsors: AT&T, Sony's ( SNE) PlayStation, Budweiser

Sziget -- Obudai Island, Budapest, Hungary (8/9-8/16)
Lineup: Radiohead, Franz Ferdinand, Ministry, Placebo, Scissor Sisters, Therapy?
Sponsors: MasterCard ( MA), Samsung

Pukkelpop -- Hasselt, Belgium (8/17-8/19)
Lineup: Beck, Radiohead, Daft Punk, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Keane, Snow Patrol, Placebo, My Morning Jacket, Zero 7, The Shins, Belle & Sebastian, Massive Attack, Ministry, Pennywise, DJ Shadow
Sponsors: Toyota, Coca-Cola ( KO),

V Festival -- Chelmsford & Staffordshire, UK (8/19-8/20)
Lineup: Radiohead, Morrissey, Beck, Keane, Bloc Party, Fatboy Slim, Editors, Starsailor, We Are Scientists, The Go! Team, Rufus Wainwright, The Cardigans, Gavin DeGraw, Bic Runga
Sponsor: Virgin Mobile

Download Festival (East Coast) -- Mansfield, MA (8/20)
Lineup: 311, The Wailers, G Love & Special Sauce, Dropkick Murphys, Jurassic 5
(West Coast) -- San Francisco, CA (9/30)
Lineup: TBA
Sponsors: News Corp's ( NWS), SanDisk ( SNDK), Wells Fargo ( WFC)

Reading Festival -- Reading, U.K. (8/25-8/27)
Lineup: Muse, Pearl Jam, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, My Chemical Romance, Slayer, Dashboard Confessional, Flogging Molly, The Fall, Peaches, Dizzee Rascal, Primal Scream, Broken Social Scene, Jet, Coheed & Cambria
Sponsors: Nokia ( NOK), Carling, HMV Records

Austin City Limits Festival -- Austin, TX (9/15-9/17)
Lineup: Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, Van Morrison, Ben Harper, The Flaming Lips, John Mayer, Los Lonely Boys, Muse, Ween, Tragically Hip, The Shins, Kings of Leon, Aimee Mann, Son Volt, Guster
Sponsors: AT&T, Advanced Micro Devices ( AMD), Washington Mutual ( WM), Cingular

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