Rock music and its subgenres may be on a downtrend in terms of airplay and sales. But acts labeled as representing rock, alternative and indie, continue to dominate the international festival scene.
There’s always going to be a great appeal for musicians playing their instruments in a live setting. No matter the degree at which fashion changes, the fascination with live music, live rock music especially, remains constant.
While rap and pop continue to be the more popular genres in terms of sales and promotion, rock still dominates the festival market. (Certainly, many rap and pop acts do feature live musicians). And the festivals show no sign of losing their popularity.
Why are music festivals so popular?
Music festivals are as popular as they’ve ever been. While sales of physical copies of records are decreasing, big festivals offer a recipe that seemingly all participants can be happy with. Attendants enjoy hearing live music, as well as soaking in the atmosphere and everything comes with it. Festivals help with merchandising for the bands, consumption of other products available on site, tourism etc. When all participants stand to make money or to have fun, there is little complaining.
Festivals and tours are the main earning source for most bands in 2018. Since festivals are highly attended, sponsors also show a big desire to get involved and benefit from the marketing potential of these events.
It feels that for years the majority of the headliners for summer festivals have been rock bands. Sure, it’s hard to come to a consensus on what rock music is in 2018. But by and large, every music festival featuring various genres, has a few bands using guitars and live drums in their line-up. And yes, arguably there have been significant exceptions with rap and EDM stars stretching their popularity to the live setting.
A recent study looked at genre representation for the biggest U.S. festivals. Austin City Limits, for example, included 22% rock and 22% alternative music acts on this year’s roster. Hip-Hop/Rap was the closest rival genre with 16%.
Bonnaroo has a similar representation, although EDM music is the biggest player in that particular festival. Coachella made a lot of headlines for not featuring guitar bands among their most recent roster. However, alternative and rock still account for almost a third of all the music heard on the festival’s stage.
Lollapalooza built its reputation on attempting to include numerous genres, initially for mostly a rock audience. While rock bands are heavily represented among the headliners, EDM and Hip Hop acts do enjoy a slightly larger share of the bill for the 2018 edition.
There’s also a very big market for specialized festivals. The festivals geared to represent a single musical genre are also on the rise. They work as a type of expo meets festival. Some of the more popular ones are dedicated to rock music, with the extreme metal scene particularly well organized and growing in stature.
A study conducted in 2016 asked respondents to name their favorite types of music. Rock won out, with 66% of those who responded claiming to enjoy this genre. Indie received a respectable 37,9%. All in all, guitar based music accounted for the highest number of fans.
The future of live alternative music
The myth that rock and its subgenres are dying out is proving to be simply a myth. Its consumption patterns have changed. It is no longer the go to cultural statement for mass marketing, it’s not as played on radio/tv. But the number of fans continues to be a large one.
While the landscape of music festivals is bound to continue to change in years to come, rock and alternative are likely to remain very popular with concert goers. This has not changed in decades. Whether its seeing a legendary group, an up-and-coming band, or simply experiencing a new musical sound, music fans are bound to continue to maintain a deep interest in live alternative music.