The ninth Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival wrapped Sunday night with the Dave Matthews Band, and festival producers say it was their best-attended event since 2007.
More than 75,000 music fans from across the country and internationally descended on a field about 60 miles south of Nashville to immerse themselves into what has become the top-grossing music festival in North America.
Among this year’s headliners were DMB, Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, and Kings Of Leon, with the latter being the first band to graduate through four performances from tent stages to the newly-permanent main stage. A diverse under card included Flaming Lips, Avett Brothers, Jeff Beck, John Prine, Ozomatli, Norah Jones, Zac Brown Band, Jamey Johnson, John Fogerty, the National, and many others.
“We go into every festival with the same goal: to create the most amazing festival experience we possible can,” says Ashley Capps, president of AC Entertainment, co-producers of Bonnaroo with Superfly Entertainment. “I was very excited about the  lineup because I felt like it was taking us one more step in the direction of reaching out to so many different music fans.”
A lineup that some felt lacked the “wow” bookings of past years such as Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Metallica, or the Police, turned out to be a meat-and-potatoes bill that stimulated ticket buyers and clearly pleased fans.
“Every year you sit down and there’s an ‘oh my god, what are we going to do next?’ moment,” says Capps. “But the answer to that tends to reveal itself in the process of reaching out there and talking to people and discussing ideas and possibilities. It’s really a process these days that doesn’t start and end with each festival, it’s an ongoing discussion. There are dialogues about artists performing here that have been going on two or three years that might come to fruition in 2011, maybe not until 2012, or maybe never.”
Also unveiled this year at Bonnaroo were several new projects and programs that proved successful and boosted revenues. Among them were an expanded Total Access program that caters to upper-end fans at an $18,500 price point for eight on a luxury tour bus, to shuttles, a new Tent City (in which Bonnaroo provides the tent living quarters and amenties), and a shuttle system, along with more fan activities such as the new Lunar stage that offered viewing of the World Cup and NBA finals to fans. Bonnaroo also unveiled its now-permanent main stage to fans this year, and operated almost entirely on its own power, a priority project since producers bought the property in 2007 for about $8.7 million. Bonnaroo also live-streamed performances on YouTube for the first time in an integrated sponsorship with Ford.
“You always try to grow your business and create new revenue, and hopefully provide new services at the same time,” says Jonathan Mayers, president of Superfly, who says the land will be paid off by 2012. “You want to improve the event in ways that make money. You invest today because you believe you’ll be around tomorrow.”
The success of this year’s Bonnaroo was marred by the death of 29-year-old man Sunday night, which was blamed on the scorching middle Tennessee heat, according to the Tennessean.