Festival Headliners Average Age Continues to Rise -- Are The Youngs Replacing Them With DJs?

Tomorrowland Festival
Isopix/REX/AP Images

Tomorrowland Festival in Boom, Belgium on July 25, 2014.

Young concertgoers may be following their favorite dance DJs to large-scale EDM festivals, leaving rock and roll for the olds.

What do Paul McCartney, Billy Joel and Lionel Richie have in common? They are all recent music festival performers, and part of a trend toward aging festival headliners.

Data in an article at The Economist, provided by Will Page of Spotify, shows that the average age of headliners at nine British festivals has risen from about 31 in 1996 to 43 in 2015. The age of the band's lead singer or the solo artist was used for analysis.

The article pinpointed a couple possible causes. One was the aging crowd of the festivals. The average age of a festival attendee in 2014 was 33, according to Festival Insights. Another theory was a lack of young artists popular enough to headline a large festival. Legacy acts -- the industry name for older artists -- are naturally going to have a broad appeal and beloved repertoires for large audiences. Fewer young artists can pull it off. 

Of course, festivals have plenty of younger artists either not headlining, or playing smaller stages. They bring the diversity many attendees love about festivals. But as far as the headliners, those artists that have a broad appeal to 80,000-plus concertgoers, the names skew older. Steve Parker from Live UK told The Economist that the Reading Festival used to have a capacity of 40,000 and attendance from 20,000 to 30,000 in the '80s. Now Reading has over 80,000 attendees.

One theory not mentioned was the rise of EDM festivals. If you're looking for a younger audience, look at Tomorrowland, Electric Daisy Carnival, and Sonar Festival. Young concertgoers follow young musicians: Avicii is 25, Afrojack is 27, Calvin Harris is 31, Deadmau5 is 34, and Armin Van Buuren is 38. David Guetta, a seasoned veteran, is 47 -- just a few years over the average in Page's dataset.

U.S. numbers released by Nielsen last year support this theory. Fifty-five percent of EDM fans are under the age of 25. Fifteen percent have completed a four-year degree or graduate school, lower than the U.S. average of 29.5 percent of the population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.


The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.