In response to polar123's comment:
Yoga, good stuff, but imo the answer is no.
The big festival industry seems to be thriving, and as you said, many events are selling out before the lineups are even announced. The scramble for tickets is insane, and the waiting list for passes is as long as some pro sports teams. Most have serious corporate sponsorship money behind them, tons of advertising/pr dollars, and word-of mouth. If this is a deflatting bubble, I'd like to see failure :) Name a few other industries that sell out their product before it is released??
See, you're talking popularity. I think more in terms of quality; the quality is sacrificed, it has to be, in order to increase the supply to meet the demand. When people are manipulated into buying something (anything ... including a ticket to a performance) because a marketing company sees a way to increase supply for demand (and there's nothing wrong with making money, I am in no way an idealist with regard to making a buck ...) that just means they have to make accomodations along the way. Again, case in point: the lack of variety and the "vanilla" nature of the lineups. As I pointed out, they already have repeat headliners in less than 3 years. What does that tell you?
A more interesting statistic to me would be analyzing how many one-offs attend over the course of 10 years, how many repeat attendees, and so forth. Age group would also be an interesting statistic. All of this just means that the festival "market" is going to be more and more youth oriented as time passes, and if the lineups are interchangeable from year to year, it's now an "unknown" how much of a demand there will be 10 years from now. Coachella went from an original 25,000 attendees, to what it is now, at 80,000. People feed off of the popularity and think, wow, I have to be there, too.
That's not a bad thing, but let's put it this way: I picked up container of yogurt recently, and noticed it seemed smaller and lighter, so I checked, and sure enough, it is no longer 6 oz. Is it the same price? Yes, of course, it is. But we're now paying the same price, for less product ... and this is the way a brand maintains marketshare, they slowly have to either erode quality, or amount, in order to offer the product for the same price. A ticket to a festival is no different, IMO. This is why the lineups are so vanilla. There are artists you will simply *never* see at a festival; they only perform at their own concerts. There are artists who repeatedly play festivals ... in fact, some of them *only* do festivals.
As for other industries, there are loads. Technologuy is a prime example. How many people camp out to get the latest Apple product, ready to buy it before they've even seen it? People order automobiles without test driving them. They buy all manner of tickets to shows on Broadway without knowing a thing about them. People even buy houses these days with the use of the internet, without having set foot in the place. It's crazy, but it's not uncommon for people to plunk down money without knowing what they're going to get for it. How about the stock market for that matter? :P
Sure many festivals have jumped the shark, but it hasn't hurt their popularity. Even having mediocre headliners (Coachella), or a major stretch in musicial styles (Springsteen at Jazzfest) hasn't not hurt sales, much to the dismay of the music purists. And many festivals like Austin and Coachella have become vacation destinations, where the music becomes secondary. Folks go to take in everything the venue and it's surroundings have to offer.
I don't know many music purists, because most people I know are into rock music, and that varies greatly. But I don't think it's fair to criticize someone who expects JAZZfest to offer jazz ... so it seems again, that's it's a sign of the times that the older festivals like Jazzfest have to move with the times to attract newer, younger, and a more fused audience.
As for classical music ... I know this because I have been surveyed. Even if symphony hall(s) are sold out, they are mostly filled with an older crowd. I go to classical concerts, and you don't see many younger people in the audience. That's a fact. So classical concert halls and orchestras are vying to that market share and they are exploring ways to lure those younger people in. You can get a ticket for a classical concert for a very reasonable price if you want to be there -- it's doable. Another aspect of the classical world is opera. No, the Met won't ever die, but Boston closed the Opera House in 2011. They just went under. It happens and it will continue to happen unless there is a way to make that art form current and popular in this day and age.
Some smaller festivals may be vunerable as they try to keep pace. But, tbh, there does not seem to be a lot of slowdown there either. It seems the more successful smaller festivals are the ones that have been able retain their original character, are totally strpped down, and have sponsors with big advertising dollars to help offset ticket prices. Some good examples are Newport, Pitchfork, and Grace Potters' Grand North Point. Maybe this is a blueprint for all festivals going forward?
I don't consider Newport FF small, although it's no Coachella by any means. But there are small festivals all over the US that I also agree are well-attended, appreciated and hopefully will be sustainable over time.
It's very hard to say if the trend will be as hot in 10-20 years. It's only been red hot for the past 10, some festivals have only been in existence for 15 -20 years, if that, many far, far less. How can we benchmark? We can't. It's a wait/see.
The luster of the big festivals will only be there for the same type of person who likes to go to see concerts in the arena environment. That's not a criticism, by any means, it just means that anyone who likes a more intimate or "local" feel, won't have any desire to go to the bigger festivals, and that might be why they will reach their peak in terms of supply and demand.
This is the end of the article, from above, and I tend to agree with this:
"If it means that people go back to attending shows at local venues instead of shelling out a couple of hundred dollars to camp in the desert for a weekend, it’s probably to the ultimate benefit of musicians — and lord knows, they need all the help they can get."