80,000 attend three day event.
The fourth annual Bonnaroo music festival took place in Manchester, Tenn., over the weekend (June 10-12), drawing a crowd of approximately 80,000, according to the event's promoters. Headliners included such jam band scene stalwarts as Dave Matthews Band, the Allman Brothers Band and Widespread Panic.
But what was once a tour de force of noodling guitar solos has grown to cover a gamut of genres; this year's lineup featured everything from DJ Krush's Japanese hip-hop grooves to the dance-y bossa nova of Brazilian Girls.
"We try to produce a diverse lineup," explains Superfly promoter Jonathan Mayers, one of the partners in the festival. "But there's still a core we push. We want to do a festival where we can have bands like the Mars Volta and the Secret Machines on the same bill as John Prine and Bela Fleck and it makes sense because it's about great music and great live performances."
And, adds Mayers, "If you want to talk straight-up business, in order to bring new people in, if you do the same thing every year it gets kind of stale."
Gross ticket sales for Bonnaroo, which won the top festival award at the Billboard Touring Conference last year, were roughly $14 million, down from $14.5 last year according to producers. Attendance was also down, a decrease of 11% from last year, which drew the biggest turnout to date of 90,000. Earlier this year, Bonnaroo promoters canceled their planned summer Zooma tour due to poor ticket sales; the outing was to be headlined by Trey Anastasio and Ben Harper.
But Mayers says there is little cause for concern. This year's Bonnaroo still managed to pull in a higher attendance than its first year (70,000). "Anytime you pull around 80,000 people in the middle of anywhere -- especially the middle of Tennessee -- it's a huge amount of people," he says. "As the event matures I don't think it will always sellout. Sometimes it will."
This year's festival was also hammered by torrential rains, marking the third consecutive year bad weather has played a role in the event, which impacts profits and, potentially, attendance. “Rain is going to continue to be one of the biggest challenges we have out here," says Mayers. "Buty overall, I feel better about the event. I think it’s going more smoothly than ever, the team has jelled more than ever. Logisitically, this has been the best festival that we’ve done."
Mayers says that Superfly is about a month away from announcing a new event slated for later this year; another source at Superfly confirmed it will be held in Las Vegas. "Sometimes with promoting, things work and sometimes things don't," says Mayers. "Bonnaroo built a very grassroots, word of mouth, organic following. With [Zooma] we tried to do the same thing but it didn't work. We are going to keep trying things.
Additional reporting by Ray Waddell, Nashville.