Festivals have transformed the live-music business and become a vital revenue stream for the music industry, reshaping live entertainment into an economic engine for growth and commerce while challenging humanity to live by its own best principles, celebrating both the individual and the power of the masses.
Like other great art forms, festivals evolve by building upon the past — beginning with the idealism of the anti-war and counterculture movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s through events like Woodstock and Glastonbury, to the changing cultural landscape of the 1990s, where events like Lollapalooza, Warped Tour and the Free Tibet concert series served as a bridge for today’s biggest festival names and brands.
Ranking the festivals that have come to dominate today’s festival landscape is a difficult task that will undoubtedly generate strong emotions, disagreements and debate. Ten people could attend the same festival one year and have 10 totally different experiences. Much of what makes a festival great is totally subjective, but most fans who enjoy and attend festivals have had some part of their life affected by the experience. With that in mind, Billboard has ranked its inaugural Top 50 Festivals chart based on influence both within the live-music ecosystem and as part of the larger music and cultural community. We want to hear your feedback on how we did and your ideas for future charts. Email email@example.com with your feedback, and have a great festival season.
50. Suwannee Hulaween
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak, Fla.
Launched by String Cheese Incident in 2013, this Halloween-themed, cross-genre arts and camping festival takes place among the swamps and Spanish moss-covered forests of North Florida at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. Mixing contemporary touring bands with avant-garde artists and sounds, Hulaween has evolved into one of the country’s most coveted cross-genre festivals. Curating dynamic lineups that range from electronic, jam and indie to bluegrass, funk, soul and hip-hop, Suwannee Hulaween’s ability to subvert the confines of genre boundaries is evident year after year.
Pimico Racetrack, Baltimore
Launched by Glow CEO Pete Kalamoutsos, Moonrise is Baltimore’s longest-running electronic dance music festival and the Mid-Atlantic region’s most consequential dance fest. The festival takes place on a 150-year-old horse racing track and is now owned by Pasquale Rotella and his team at Insomniac, who plan to expand the event with the launch of Project Glow, a first-of-its-kind electronic music festival at the RFK Festival Grounds in Washington, D.C.
48. III Points
Mana Wynwood Convention Center, Miami
The III Points festival is a music, art and technology festival in the heart of Miami’s arts district. Established in 2013, the festival has since been pushing boundaries in terms of the way audiences experience art and music. The two-day event takes place with over 90 performances across six stages, as well as immersive art installations, food vendors and cutting-edge stage designs.
47. Float Fest
Private ranch, Gonzales, Texas
Float Fest has a pretty simple concept: Arrive, jump into an inner tube and float several miles down the San Marcos River in Texas to a festival site featuring such musical tastes as indie-pop, electro, hip-hop and progressive rock. The event also attracts a large college audience from the nearby Texas State and University of Texas. Taking a break from the stages, attendees can bring their own floats to splash around in the summer sun.
46. Something in the Water
National Mall, Washington, D.C.
Pharrell Williams launched Something in the Water in 2019 to celebrate his hometown of Virginia Beach, Va., but decided to move the festival after local police shot and killed his cousin in 2021. Now the festival is taking place in Washington, D.C., and fans will not find out who is performing until a few days before the show starts. For fans of Pharrell, Something in the Water is both performance art and political activism and they are more than happy to put their faith in his creative genius.
45. Bourbon and Beyond
Kentucky Exposition Center, Louisville, Ky.
Produced by Danny Wimmer Presents, Bourbon and Beyond has developed an impressive following in the live-music business with many agents, promoters and managers talking up the event as Kentucky’s version of California’s BottleRock in Napa — a mix of impressive headliners, like this year’s Kings of Leon, Jack White, Alanis Morissette and Pearl Jam, and up-and-coming Americana artists, as well as a focus on food and drink. This hard-rock and alternative festival is shaping up to be the insider fest of 2022.
44. Rock am Ring and Rock im Park
Nürburgring racetrack and Zeppelin Field, Nuremberg, Germany
These two festivals share a lineup much like Reading and Leeds, but instead of being located miles apart, they take place in the same town — Nuremberg, Germany, in the state of Bavaria. Rock am Ring happens at the Nürburgring racetrack, while Rock im Park occurs at the historical Zeppelin Field. Both festivals focus on hard rock and metal and serve as an important launch pad for German and European acts, including Berlin’s own Rammstein.
43. Welcome to Rockville
Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla.
Welcome to Rockville — promoted by Danny Wimmer Presents — is considered America’s largest rock festival and moved to Daytona after several years in Jacksonville, Fla. With a focus on being a massive platform for hardcore, metal and hard rock bands and livestreamed by over 1 million fans annually, Welcome to Rockville has performances on four stages along with award-winning spirits, craft beer and the best food and year-round sunshine Daytona Beach has to offer.
42. Corona Capital Guadalajara
Arena VFG, Guadalajara, Mexico
Launched by Mexican entertainment firm CIE, Corona Capital is the hometown festival for Mexico’s second-largest city and is known for bringing English-speaking bands to the country to show how many fans live south of the border. From its roaming beer vendors to its wild afterparties, the festival’s “anything goes” attitude hasn’t let up, even as the festival scene becomes more corporatized.
41. Telluride Bluegrass
Town Park, Telluride, Colo.
There are few outdoor experiences more magical than camping in the Rocky Mountains during the summer. It is an enlightening experience especially when surrounded by one of the season’s jewels — the annual Telluride Bluegrass festival. The Town Park campground is the Valhalla of camping with permanent bathrooms, waterfalls and stages so close that you can listen to the music from your tent. The show’s lineup includes Americana, jam bands, alt country and, of course, bluegrass.
40. Vive Latino
Foro Sol, Mexico City
Festival Iberoamericano de Cultura Musical Vive Latino is an annual music festival held in Mexico City that celebrates every Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking country in the Western Hemisphere. For many, it’s the most important rock show in all of Mexico but also highlights other genres through the Carpa Doritos Gozadero, a space dedicated to other music genres such as techno, deep house, hip-hop, trap and dancehall. Launched by concert promoter OCESA in 1998, Vive Latino has been many artists’ first introduction to the country as well as Mexico City, the hemisphere’s largest live-music market.
39. Hangout Fest
The beaches of Gulf Shores, Ala.
The annual three-day music festival is held along the public beaches of Gulf Shores and at famed restaurant/venue The Hangout. With an emphasis on Southern hospitality and legendary performers, Hangout Fest has taken over the Gulf Coast city since 2010 with a huge lineup featuring just about every genre and providing a sneak peek of what’s coming this summer in the United States. As far as we know, this is the only festival in the world where you can watch the main stage from a hot tub.
38. Roots Picnic
The Mann at Fairmount Park, Philadelphia
Curated by and named after Philadelphia’s own critically acclaimed band The Roots, this summer tradition is a celebration of Philly’s famed music scene. While the gravity of its Grammy Award-winning hosts and their many musical collaborations and connections may be what attracts the masses to the festival (you never know who will take the stage), most of the day’s music rings out with vibrant discovery of new sounds coming from each of the Picnic’s three stages. From burgeoning local rappers on the Cricket Stage to breakout experimental artists on the main stage, the festival boldly faces forward, embracing its historical ties to the Black community.
37. Ohana Fest
Doheny State Beach, Dana Point, Calif.
Sept. 30-Oct 2
This surfing-centric festival founded by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder has announced its second Encore Weekend this year, featuring Vedder, Alanis Morissette, The Black Keys and HAIM. Created to honor and protect the California coastline,a portion of the proceeds from Ohana will benefit the Doheny State Beach Foundation and the San Onofre Parks Foundation.Keeping in tune with Ohana’s premise, the lineup showcases the best of indie, surfer rock and alternative music.
36. HARD Summer
NOS Events Center, San Bernardino, Calif.
Developed as an alternative to the increasingly commercialized EDM scene in 2007, Gary Richards’ HARD Summer was dedicated to highlighting the next generation of breakthrough artists — often hand-picked by Richards, a performance artist in his own right when he takes the stage as DJ Destructo. Each summer, HARD’s diverse, technicolor-clad fans come together to celebrate the intersection of electronic and hip-hop music culture. Boasting names throughout the years such as Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Future, Skrillex, Major Lazer, and countless other big acts, it’s no wonder HARD Summer has had such a lasting impact on the North American festival circuit.
Sheridan Memorial Park, Minneapolis
Named after James Spooner’s pivotal 2003 documentary on New York’s Black punk-rock scene, Afropunk was launched by Santigold manager Matthew Morgan in Brooklyn in 2005 and developed the moniker into a festival highlighting “the other Black experience” in music. Today, Afropunk is both an event series (that changes its location every year) and a platform for non-mainstream Black music in all forms. This year, Afropunk heads to Minneapolis for the first Afropunk Midwest. The festival hopes to celebrate the bustling community of Black creators and activists living in the Twin Cities while opening space for a conversation around the struggles facing the community at large.
34. Rocking the Daisies
Cloof Wine Estate, Darling and SuperSport Park; Centurion, South Africa
Rocking the Daisies, like the Reeding and Leeds festivals, spreads its musical lineup over two very different sites: a posh family winery and an urban sports and music park in one of South Africa’s largest cities. Programmed by Steyn Entertainment, the three-day festival is also known for its musical collaborations, multisensory experiences and production techniques, along with its commitment to environmental sustainability efforts like its continued support of the World Wildlife Fund.
33. Exit Festival
Petrovaradin Fortress, Novi Sad, Serbia
Exit Festival is a two-time winner of the best European major festival award at the EU Festival Awards and takes place in a historic 18th-century fortress, melding the scenic location with a genre-blending mix of dance music styles and artists spread out over 30 different stages and zones. The main performance space, the legendary Dance Arena, is considered one of the leading open-air electronic music stages in the world, while host city Novi Sad is often regarded as one of the top European capitals of culture due to its museums, galleries, restaurants, cafes and bars combining Soviet architecture and modernized Hungarian-Austrian design.
32. Estereo Picnic
C. Golf Briseno, Bogota, Colombia
Estereo Picnic is Bogota’s Lollapalooza — a mix of local artists and international touring acts who take over a golf course and country club on the outskirts of the capital city with a thriving fan community and “Hippie Market” that attracts fans to this mountainous festival. Bring plenty of rain gear because it will inevitably get very wet during the torrential downpours that temporarily soak the festival each day.
31. Desert Daze
Lake Perris, Calif.
Sept. 29-Oct. 2
This long-running camping festival in California’s Moreno Valley is a cosmic ode to the metaphysical, dubbing itself the most trusted name in inter-dimensional exploration since 2012. Known for booking psychedelic bands, stoner rock and all things way left of center, Desert Daze takes a serious yet approachable view of topics like mysticism in the music industry and the occult, outfitting itself with illuminated art and custom immersive sound installations. There are film screenings, lectures, sound baths and parties that go deep into the night. It’s hard not to have a good time at Desert Daze — just keep an open mind and bring enough clothes to comfortably travel between galaxies.
General view of the grounds during day one of Rolling Loud Miami at Hard Rock Stadium on July 23, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.
30. Ultra Music Festival
Bayfront Park, Miami
One of the first festivals to face cancellation due to COVID-19, Ultra came back in 2022 with strong attendance more than 23 years after it was launched by Russell Faibisch and Alex Omes in 1999. Ultra, which primarily takes place downtown at Bayfront Park has an economic impact of $170 million annually. Held alongside the Winter Music Conference and Miami Music Week, Ultra is an important franchise for the electronic music scene and the first event on the calendar each year for hundreds of artists preparing to tour the EDM festival circuit.
29. Boston Calling
Harvard Athletic Club, Boston
Tired of his hometown being the only major U.S. city without its own trademark festival, Aaron Dessner of The National launched Boston Calling in 2013 with the help of Boston-based Crash Line Productions. In 2016, the rock and contemporary music festival was purchased by Madison Square Garden Co. and is now run by co-founder Brian Appel. Boston Calling has a hard-rock appeal and is a showcase for the festival production talents and capabilities in the New England region along with the importance of Boston as one of the Northeast’s best concert markets.
28. Riot Fest
Douglas Park, Chicago
One of the great punk-rock festivals of North America, Chicago’s Riot Fest has expanded in the last decade to include alternative, metal and hip-hop but will always be best known for its high-profile headliner sets including The Misfits’ first major reunion in 2016. Today, the event has added a circus atmosphere with lucha libre, carnival rides and sideshow performers who push the boundaries of good taste.
27. Fuji Rock
Naeba Ski Resort, Niigata Prefecture, Japan
Fuji Rock is Japan’s biggest music festival, organized by promoter Smash Japan and held at a popular ski resort about a 90-minute train ride from Tokyo. International travelers often attend to access the hot springs and lengthy hiking trails that lead to secret gigs around the resort. Fans camp, stay in their cars or book a room at one of the many surrounding ski lodges that can provide visitors with a more traditional Japanese culinary experience.
26. Life Is Beautiful
Downtown Las Vegas
Spread over 18 city blocks in downtown Las Vegas with a backdrop of old-school casinos and the Fremont East bar district, Life Is Beautiful is a celebration for Sin City locals co-created by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh and Rehan Choudhry in 2013. Besides music booked by Another Planet Entertainment, attendees enjoy a culinary village with food from some of the country’s top chefs, an Alchemy Garden with wine and beer, and inspirational speakers and educational panels for attendees. (Billboard parent company PMC purchased a majority stake in Life Is Beautiful in 2022.)
25. Baja Beach Festival
Papas and Beer, Rosarito, Mexico
Aug. 12-14, 19-21
Launched in 2018 at bohemian paradise Papas and Beer, Baja Beach in Rosarito (about an hour south of the Tijuana border crossing) has grown rapidly year over year as a popular weekend getaway from Los Angeles and San Diego. With headliners primarily in the fast-growing Latin trap and reggaetón music scenes, the three-day festival (which takes place over two weekends) quickly sells out every year thanks to founders Chris Den Uijl and Aaron Ampudia and their passionate fans willing to make the trek through Baja California.
24. Pitchfork Music Festival
Union Park, Chicago
The Pitchfork Music Festival is the ultimate tastemaker conference booked by Mike Reed of Constellation Arts, a longtime Chicago talent buyer and event producer. The festival takes place every July in Union Park — a green gateway near downtown known for its stunning cityscape backdrops. Like its namesake media company, Pitchfork is booked beyond the mainstream and features artists that are culturally acclaimed but not necessarily as commercially successful as the artists playing the neighboring Lollapalooza. While some of the acts booked can be more challenging for the audience, many casual fans say they prefer the laid-back vibe at Pitchfork and its celebration of the city to larger events.
23. Primavera Sound
Parc del Fòrum, Barcelona
Since launching in 2001, promoter and festival creator Pablo Soler has expanded the Primavera Sound brand into South America and the United States, including a new Los Angeles festival in 2022. Primavera Sound is a celebration of Barcelona and a showcase of big-name headliners from the Spanish indie-rock scene with songs sung in Spanish, Catalan, English and Portuguese. Each night features smaller club shows across the city through the Primavera als Clubs, and parents who want to party with their kids should check out minimusica — an interactive, kid-friendly programming area. There’s even a daytime conference component, PrimaveraPro, geared toward industry professionals, producers, thought leaders and musicians who work in the music industry.
Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal
Quebec’s famed annual concert has a distinctively French Canadian identity — it’s named after French explorer Jacques Cartier’s first contact with an aboriginal Mohawk tribe in 1535. But Canada’s largest and longest-running indie festival’s bookings tend to have a broader appeal with mostly English-speaking artists. (Those looking for a French-language festival should consider Montreal Pop.) Launched by Nick Farkas of indie concert promotion company Evenko in 2006, the festival has attracted artists from around the world interested in its serene location on Saint Helen’s Island inside the Parc Jean-Drapeau’s Espace 67 — a historic complex that includes a natural amphitheater, an Alexander Calder sculpture and the iconic Montreal Biosphere that houses the Montreal Environmental Museum. Can’t make it Osheaga? Evenko now operates a year-round minifest and event series that works with everyone’s schedule.
21. Electric Forest
Double JJ Resort, Rothbury, Mich.
Few events evoke the emotions and beauty of Electric Forest, where a ranch in Rothbury, Mich., is transformed into a mystical celebration of light and sound. Now co-owned and co-produced both by Madison House Presents and Insomniac, Electric Forest was one of the first festivals to combine the electronic music and jam band genres. The true headliner is the Sherwood Forest, the festival’s backdrop known for bringing energy and unprecedented participatory spirit to the site’s incomparable features and amenities. By day, fans gather through a web of hundreds of hammocks draped along the clustered trees of the forest’s maze of installations and gathering spaces. At night, Sherwood Forest comes alive, lit up with state-of-the-art lighting displays, impromptu “secret” parties and costumed characters.
20. Roskilde Festival
Animal Showgrounds, Roskilde, Denmark
June 25-July 2
Fans have long sworn that Denmark’s Roskilde Festival is one of the world’s most underappreciated and unique fests for all genres of rock and pop music, including acts such as Bob Dylan, Radiohead, Nirvana, David Bowie, Taylor Swift and Cardi B. Organizers always provide a space for up-and-coming Nordic artists as well, and all revenue after expenses is donated to Scandinavian charities. Each year the fest is given a theme — in 2019, the theme was Solidarity, which called on fans to support one another in fighting “hopelessness and despair” in the face of climate change, inequality and political division around the world.
19. Rock in Rio Brasil
Cidade do Rock, Rio de Janeiro
The original flagship of the Rock in Rio brand, the Brazilian fest is set in Rio de Janeiro’s Cidade do Rock and showcases some of rock, pop and hip-hop’s biggest artists. Launched near the end of a decadeslong military coup supported by the U.S. government, Rock in Rio is both a symbol of music’s transformative power and one of the biggest media moments in the country, watched by millions in and outside of Brazil. For much of the 1980s and ’90s, Rock in Rio was many artists’ introduction to the country, drawing hundreds of thousands of people every year to hear live music and enjoy art on their own terms.
18. Splendour in the Grass
North Byron Parklands, New South Wales, Australia
Australia’s 20-year-old festival, held in North Byron Parklands in New South Wales since 2013, is known for its carefully curated lineup and quirky experiences like the dance-centric Tipi Forest, eccentric craft tents (with names like “Smash Those Bad Dream Catchers” and “Cool As F#%k Charm Bracelets”) and a music-filled kids area known as Little Splendour. Few festivals indulge their fans’ creative instincts like Splendour by finding as many ingenious ways to reinvent itself each year, including plans for a 2022 science tent with lectures and adult-friendly hands-on experiments.
17. Newport Folk Festival
Fort Adams State Park, Newport, R.I.
Launched in 1959 as a counterpart to the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island, this festival has maintained its relevance within the folk music community by pushing the boundaries of the genre: In the 1960s the fest invited both Johnny Cash and blues artist Howlin’ Wolf to perform. The festival closed for 15 years between 1970 and 1985, but today is a premiere showcase for folk, blues, country, bluegrass and other genres including alt country, indie folk and folk punk with a lineup that changes often (many artists simply show up and perform without any advance notice). “We are probably the only festival that doesn’t know its full roster until the day after it’s over,” promoter Jay Street says.
16. Reading and Leeds Festivals
Bramham Park, Leeds; Little John’s Farm, Reading, England
Located about three hours apart in England, the Reading and Leeds festivals are linked by a shared lineup that plays both festivals — Reading in the south near London and Leeds in the north near Manchester — traveling between the two cities each August. Managed by Festival Republic, the rock-centric shows are known for their legendary sets and rowdy crowds, along with heaps of mud, excessive drinking and massive mosh pits. For fans who still want rock’n’roll to be dangerous, it doesn’t get much better than Reading’s Little John’s Farm and Leeds’ Branham Park.
15. Electric Zoo
Randall’s Island Park, New York
Launched by Made Events, Electric Zoo is New York’s hometown rave on Randall’s Island — a herculean musical celebration that was briefly the U.S. anchor of SFX, the world’s first and last publicly traded EDM company. Previously owned by a hedge fund, the annual electronic music festival — with past international editions in Mexico City, Tokyo, Shanghai and São Paulo — was bought by New York’s Avant Gardner in June. Its location in one of North America’s best nightclub markets makes it an instant powerhouse in the dance community and, while the festival has been slow to react to an uptick in overdose deaths and safety issues, its fans have remained loyal and willing to come back year after year.
14. Day N Vegas
Las Vegas Festival Grounds, Las Vegas
This Goldenvoice festival has only been on the scene for a few years, but organizers let fans know they were ready to throw down top dollar when they booked J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott to headline the inaugural 2019 edition at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. Like other festivals in the genre such as Rolling Loud, Day N Vegas can feel a little disorganized and chaotic, but when one compares the cost of a ticket with the event’s ROR (return on rappers), there are few better options for fans looking to max out their music dollars than this deeply booked music experience.
13. Austin City Limits Music Festival
Zilker Park, Austin
Launched during the festival world’s second wave in the early 2000s by C3 Presents — also co-founders of Lollapalooza — the annual event gets its name from the long-running PBS show Austin City Limits and is one of the few contemporary music festivals to take place over two weekends and feature more than 100 acts. ACL happens inside Austin’s “most beloved park,” the famed 350-acre Zilker Park where Barton Creek meets Lady Bird Lake. Longtime fans say the festival’s carefully curated lineup, October dates and embrace of Austin’s food and arts culture make it one of the best large-scale festivals in the country.
12. Rolling Loud Miami
Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens
Started as a long-shot rap and hip-hop festival in Miami in 2015, Rolling Loud has become a global live-music brand with events held in Europe, North America and Asia. Its mainstay event in Florida is now one of the most important music festivals in hip-hop. Built from scratch by lifelong music fans Matt Zingler and Tariq Cherif, Rolling Loud’s early strengths were its daring curation and booking, elevating a new generation of artists with exciting live shows and captivating energy. Today, the biggest performers headline the raucous Miami festival, coming from all over the world, often driven solely by their love and trust of Zingler and Cherif.
11. New Orleans Jazz Festival
New Orleans Fairgrounds, New Orleans
April 29-May 8
Located at a horse racing track just outside of the city’s 7th Ward, Jazzfest is an open-air museum, street festival and pilgrimage dedicated to the musical legacy of The Big Easy. Fans walk between two sprawling main stages to access a maze of creole and Cajun culinary options, smaller stages featuring on-the-rise touring artists and about a dozen massive tents highlighting the best in gospel, African music, jazz, R&B, swing and big band sounds. Each day the festival ends around 7 p.m. and the city’s many venues and performance spaces reverberate with afterparties for New Orleans’ living legends like Dumpstaphunk, Trombone Shorty, the Neville Brothers, The Meters and dozens of other acts.
10. BottleRock Napa Valley
Best Food and Beverage Program
Napa Fairgrounds, Napa, Calif.
Dave Graham and his partners at Latitude 38 have completely changed how the world looks at the festival-going experience with this Napa, Calif., festival built around food, wine and the true rock stars of the culinary world: award-winning chefs. With a general admission experience that rivals most festivals’ VIP sections and a lineup of contemporary and classic artists that provides the festival’s signature soundscape, BottleRock is an easygoing event with plenty of specially crafted food and beverage options, no long lines and options for every price point.
9. Stagecoach Festival
Best Country Music Festival
Empire Polo Fields, Indio, Calif.
April 20-May 1
This annual Palm Springs festival happens the week after Coachella on the same site and is widely considered the largest celebration of country music on the planet (“I can’t think of anything bigger” fans often say when discussing the size of Stagecoach). With major Nashville acts headlining the main stage and alt country, Americana, bluegrass and roots music groups performing on the smaller stages, Stagecoach has something for all fans of Western life, including bountiful barbecue pits, “hillbilly chic” fashion boutiques and a full-scale replica of the old Palomino bar in North Hollywood.
8. Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
Best Camping Festival
Bonnaroo Farm, Manchester, Tenn.
What began as a jam band festival on a 700-acre farm in an effort to entice and emulate the fan communities that came out for shows by Phish and the Grateful Dead, Bonnaroo has become one of the largest camping-based contemporary music festivals in the world with visitors packing in truckloads of gear for the long weekend. While jam-centric acts Widespread Panic and String Cheese Incident typically get top billing, the festival has become more mainstream since Live Nation bought out Superfly’s ownership of Bonnaroo in 2020. For many, the Roo is both a rite of passage and an annual tradition for attendees looking for a festival that places positivity and kindness as its highest values. Bonnaroo is a great option for adventurous types not afraid to get a little dirty. Even during the most difficult moments on the Farm, attendees are always expected to have a good attitude and be willing to help one another.
Best City Festival
Grant Park, Chicago
Few cities do summer quite like Chicago, where every neighborhood, block and brownstone comes alive in June and July in celebration of the Windy City’s music, food and city park system. The crown gem is Grant Park in downtown Chicago that sits alongside the Chicago skyline and the shores of Lake Michigan and is home to the Lollapalooza festival featuring 170 top touring acts in rock, pop, dance and EDM spread over nine stages. At night, the city buzzes with afterparties and unofficial underground shows throughout Chicago’s iconic venues. If you’re looking to fully immerse yourself in all forms of music in one of the country’s best concert markets, this is the festival for you.
Best Dance Festival
De Schorre Recreation Area, Flanders, Belgium
This long-running Belgium festival is often celebrated as the world’s largest dance music party on one the festival world’s largest sites — a space known as the Tomorrowland Holy Grounds, which is steeped in mythical imagery with water ways, sprawling greens and destinations like the Rave Cave, the Garden of Madness and the famed Mouse Bar. Attendees say Tomorrowland is the most mystical and imagination-defying experience one can have without leaving planet Earth. Like its cousin and rival Electronic Daisy Carnival, Tomorrowland is one of the few events that truly has it all, including the world’s biggest superstars across EDM, house, techno, drum’n’bass and trance spread over 10 intricately designed stages that push live production beyond anything most people will ever experience. Built around the idea of imagination and storytelling, Tomorrowland is its own universe waiting to be discovered and a bucket list experience for dance music fans.
5. South by Southwest
Best Platform for Music Discovery
Various locations, Austin
Even when it launched in 1987 with only 700 attendees, South by Southwest was already too crowded for the 15 venues that played host in its first year (only 150 were initially expected to attend). Today, SXSW is a global platform for film/TV projects, music artists and tech companies wanting to be discovered by the event’s 80,000 registered attendees and 150,000 fans who flock to Austin for its barbecues, parties and free shows. It’s a festival where buzzy young bands still get discovered in dive bars and major artists play secret shows in tiny sauce-stained honky-tonks. While music discovery has largely gone the way of the algorithm, SXSW is still the best feet-on-the-ground festival for discovering new bands and sounds. (Billboard parent company PMC purchased a minority stake in SXSW in 2021.)
4. Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival
Best Festival Site
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
The annual San Francisco festival might be one of the youngest fests in the top 10, but its founders’ credentials — festival gurus Superfly Entertainment and the independent Bay Area concert company Another Planet Entertainment — and its location inside Golden Gate Park, just blocks from the Pacific Ocean, give Outside Lands a level of instant credibility within the live-music space. Known for its consistently well-curated lineup, a long-standing commitment to high-end food and wine from Bay Area restaurants and chefs, and a willingness to take risks on everything from comedy to cannabis, Outside Lands is discovered each year by thousands of new fans looking for a one-of-a-kind experience that’s both credible and authentic.
3. Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas
Las Vegas Speedway, Las Vegas
Pasquale Rotella’s annual dance festival — held each summer “beneath the Electric Sky” — has gone from quasi-legal Los Angeles rave to major Las Vegas economic engine, with tens of thousands of hotel rooms booked and nightclubs bristling with activity each year. The dance music world takes over the Las Vegas Strip every May for North America’s ultimate spectacle of sound and light featuring the biggest names in house, techno, drum’n’bass and other genres. Every Ferris wheel, performance stage and art exhibit at the expansive festival site on the outskirts of town was either commissioned by Rotella or created by one of his senior staff members who spent years with the promoter trying to capture his vision. Each night of the festival is packed with global superstars spread out across EDC’s seven stages, but it’s the community EDC has created — where fans are deemed “headliners” by Rotella and productions grow bigger and bigger each year — that speaks to the event’s power and longevity.
2. Glastonbury Festival
Best Festival Culture
Worthy Farm, Somerset, England
No other festival or event has done more to nurture, develop and celebrate the idealist peculiarities and cultural eccentricities of modern festival culture quite like the merry men and women of Glastonbury. Launched by dairy farmer Michael Eavis as the Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival just 13 months after the original Woodstock festival, Glastonbury would serve as ground zero for nearly all of the counter-cultural movements of the 1970s and 1980s and is one of the few festivals to take a “fallow” year every five years to give the land and locals a break. Today, Glastonbury is more relevant than ever, from its iconic Pyramid stage to Eavis’ dedication to raising awareness about the dangers of global warming. The festival has been through many different incarnations over the years, but it has always served as a force for good in the music world.
1. Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
Best Festival Overall
Empire Polo Fields in Indio, Calif.
The granddaddy of them all, Coachella is the best attended, most relevant and highest grossing music festival in the world. Livestreamed each year to millions of fans worldwide, no other festival transcends culture or has as much influence on the music industry and music fans as this annual rite of passage in the desert. Spread out over a sun-soaked grassy polo complex outside of Palm Springs amid foothills that paint the sunset sky in hues of purple and blue, Coachella is both a celebration of Southern California culture and a platform for artists of all backgrounds to share a moment with the festival’s massive audience. While influencers and celebrities draw the most attention, most attendees are young, working music fans who are passionate about the live experience and will continue supporting concerts over the long haul. More than half of the attendees at Coachella buy their $524 ticket before the lineup has been released through Goldenvoice’s payment plan system which splits the cost of a ticket into four or nine installments. In exchange, Goldenvoice provides a live music experience produced, staged, and delivered at the highest level possible. Sure, money can buy attendees greater creature comforts, but attendees who invest their time dancing, singing along and taking in the festival’s artistry are the ones who always stand to gain the most from the Coachella experience.
Editor’s Note: The listing for Ultra Music Festival has been updated to more accurately describe the festival.