best music festivals

The music festival industry is booming. According to Nielsen Music, 32 million Americans attended at least one music festival in 2014. It’s only grown since then. With all that demand for these sorts of gatherings, music festivals have exploded, with hundreds of them happening each year and more being planned for the coming years.

Some music festivals attract people from miles away, or even countries and continents away. But let’s say you’re not really the “moving around” type, or the “spending a ton traveling after you’ve already spent a ton on a festival ticket” type. I know I am. You should therefore probably find the city with the most music festivals.

But consider this: you might also have a ton of people in your city, which makes your local festival crowded and hard to bounce around and see everyone you want to see. So what’s the sweet spot? For me, I’m looking for the number of festivals per capita.

So here’s what I did. I took the 14 American cities Jukely is in (sorry London and Toronto, I couldn’t find a reliable data set for you). The data set I used was from a 2015 count by Wanderbat for GraphIQ, a data compiler and visualizer. It counted all the large, ticketed music festivals within 50 miles of the city center. I compared that to the 2015 US Census estimates of population for the census-designated MSAs (metropolitan statistical areas). (Note: For Austin, I used 2016 estimates.)

For the full list of Jukely cities, head over to Jukely.com.

Which city is the best city for music festivals? The answer, as you might have guessed, is Austin. Austin has six major music festivals despite a population of only 2,056,405. Austin is a bit of an outlier city among our 14 because of how small it is. If we take it out of the data set, it’s Denver with five major music festivals and a population of 3,418,876.

The worst city? That would be Dallas, a city with only one major music festival for a population of 7,504,362. In fact, I took the mean of all 14 cities to work out a rough “expected number of festivals” (how many music festivals a city “should” have based on its population, if you redistributed the existing number of festivals proportionally between the 14 cities), and Dallas should have around 2.6 festivals. Maybe if you’re looking to start one, the Dallas-Fort Worth area would be a good place to start.

Here’s the full table:

cities by number of music festivals etc.

Click here for the spreadsheet.

Here are some other things to consider from looking at that data: many major festivals are attractions in and of themselves, so some of those festivals are way out there like Coachella (which is pretty far from LA) and Bonnaroo (pretty far from Nashville…. not that Nashville is in our data set anyways) and don’t get counted here. Those kind of festivals can afford to be far away from the city center.

Places like Philadelphia are also closer to other festivals in New York, as opposed to a city like Denver that is pretty isolated from other major cities. The 50 mile radius from a city center was imposed by the data set’s search options, but it would have been interesting to expand that.

There are a ton of free, smaller-scale, one-day festivals out there too that supplement the demand in cities. There’s no publicly available, reliable data set that I managed to find to count those, but if anyone out there would like to do that, send it over to us, I’d love to see your results for a more comprehensive spectrum of festivals.

What do you think? Are you packing to move to Austin now? Or are you going to start planning Dallas’ next major music festival? Let us know on Twitter!


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