After the pandemic, which made large gatherings impossible, live music was all but gone. Now, the festival season is back to fill your summer with show-stopping headline acts, indie stages, and endless Instagram opportunities.
Businesses can also benefit from them. Tens of millions attend music festivals every year. Lollapalooza, a music festival in Chicago, generated over 300 million billion in revenue in 2021. This is up from the $248 million in revenue it had before the pandemic. Woodstock’s barefooted attendees and scrappy productions are a thing of the past. Festivals have become a massive industry with A-listers, influencers, and corporate sponsors.
Entering the music festival scene may be intimidating for small business owners and entrepreneurs. But the opportunities (mainly in the form of hungry festival-goers) are there. Three small business owners offer their insights and experiences on making the most of the music festival market.
Add a menu item that will please the crowd.
Music festivals can temporarily dominate the cities in which they are held. The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, is a substantial economic boon and an annual event that brings the whole city together. Local eateries, like Jiffy Burger, have taken advantage of the festival’s large crowds by creating unique menus geared toward them.
The “Bonnaroo Burger,” a deluxe cheeseburger with bacon and onion rings, is a festival favorite yearly. Festival-goers are looking for fuel and flavor. David Pennington told wired.com that his family, which has owned Jiffy Burgers since 1965, sells them to the hilt. Pennington, a former Manchester mayor, said that Jiffy Burger now advertises itself as the home of Bonnaroo Burger. “They’ve been a great community partner for Manchester.”
Local traditions are essential.
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has become a significant event in the Big Easy and is a source of income for many local businesses. This is especially true of the vendors selling New Orleans’ famous cuisine. Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to New Orleans during the festival for both the music and the food. Po’boys and beignets are popular, as well as jambalaya and crawfish.
Roddrick Harrison is the co-owner and manager of Loretta’s Authentic Pralines. He told New Orleans that this event was their biggest every year. Loretta’s is a NOLA institution that dates back to 1978 when Harrison’s mother opened the business. Loretta’s New Orleans-style pralines were a big seller at the Jazz Festival in the past. Still, after the pandemic closed down Jazz Festival events in 2020 or 2021, Loretta’s has returned to begin a bittersweet chapter. Harrison told WWNO New Orleans, “[my mom] died two months ago.” “We’re picking up where she left off.” “We’re holding down the tradition for her from above.”
Think beyond food
You can still thrive during the festival even if your business is outside the food sector.
South By Southwest ( SXSW ) attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to Austin, Texas, each year for ten days of film, music, technology, and cultural events. Austin, a bike-friendly, warm city, has become a yearly event that local bike vendors rely on to bring in new customers. SXSW returned to the in-person celebrations this year, and Devon Lampman of Barton Springs Bike Rental was delighted to take advantage. “Now that SXSW is back, the business has been busier than it ever was,” said he to Fox 7 Austin. We have between 250 and 300 bikes, but we’ve already sold them all.
In April, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival brought the beauty and hair salons to their maximum capacity. As soon as the dates were announced, people started calling and booking appointments,” Kalee Fred, owner of Tressed Up Blowdry & Beauty Bar, told CBS Los Angeles.