THE COUNT: UPPING THE HEADLINER ANTE

At a time when ticket prices are constantly on the rise, guarantees for artists headlining big, brand-name festivals such as Bottlerock, Outside Lands, Lollapalooza and others have more than doubled since the COVID years to $2m-plus, according to agency sources.

For the most part, headliner compensation was kept in check by an informal agreement among festival bookers to not exceed $1 million per act. “The buyers weren’t in cahoots, but they all knew what the others were paying,” said one insider. “Paul Tollett and Coachella always paid more, but no one made a fuss. That was Coachella—the granddaddy of them all.”

But in 2024, many of the artists who would be considered festival headliners can make well over $1m a night playing their own show. Plus, the dearth of true headline talent has prompted promoters to greatly up the stakes, not only on the guarantee side but by block-booking artists to headline different festivals within the same promoter’s portfolio.

It all can add up to a risky proposition, as seen with the cancellation of C3 Presents’ inaugural Sudden Little Thrills festival in Pittsburgh less than a month after announcing a lineup led by The Killers (WME), SZA (Wasserman), hometown hero Wiz Khalifa (WME) and St. Vincent (UTA).


Paul Tollett, Danny Wimmer Presents' Danny Hayes

In addition, the troubled Blue Ridge Rock Festival recently announced that it will not take place as originally planned, with organizers saying their top priority is settling insurance claims stemming from last year’s severe weather-related cancellation. Live Nation and Jay-Z’s Philadelphia festival Made in America will also take the year off in 2024.

Despite these setbacks, there remain a lot of positives on the festival front, including Live Nation’s recent sold-out, metal-driven Sick New World and Danny Wimmer Presents kicking off its season 5/9-12 with Welcome to Rockville at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway.

With 150 bands on five stages, Rockville drew more than 200k fans, becoming the largest event ever for the indie festival producer. In fact, organizers claim Rockville, which was headlined by Mötley Crüe (IAG), Disturbed (CAA), Limp Bizkit (IAG), Jelly Roll (CAA), Foo Fighters (WME), Queens of the Stone Age (WME), Slipknot (CAA) and Evanescence (CAA), is now the “biggest rock festival in North America.”


Jelly Roll, Slipknot

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