The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival had its worst-ever ticket sales this year, its 15th, according to a report in The Tennessean. This year’s edition, held over four days in June at the Manchester, Tenn. farm that has been its home since its 2002 launch, was headlined by Pearl Jam, LCD Soundsystem and Dead and Company.
The numbers, obtained by the paper through a public records request, represent a major drop off from the 10-year average of 75,000 attendees (capacity is 80,000). The festival sold just 45,537 tickets this year, 28,000 less than in 2015, a 38 percent drop. The Tennessean estimates Bonnarool made $9 million less in ticketing revenue year-over-year. The festival’s estimated annual gross is generally in the $25 million range.
Bonnaroo was co-founded by Superfly Presents and AC Entertainment and had been produced independently until April 2015, when organizers sold a controlling interest in Bonnaroo and its 750-acre location for an undisclosed fee shortly before the 2015 edition. This year’s festival marks the first full year since Live Nation acquired its stake.
At the time, Superfly co-founders Jonathan Mayers and Richard Goodstone said the decision to sell a controlling stake to Live Nation, the highest-grossing promoter in the world according to Billboard’s 2015 Boxscore, was made in order to invest further in the festival’s infrastructure, as well as explore the possibility of hosting more events at The Farm. Accordingly, this year’s edition featured a major improvement in The Farm’s water system, including brand new bathrooms, showers and water filling stations, costing millions.
Following the festival’s conclusion in June, organizers released a statement acknowledging “slightly lower” attendance figures, adding, “The Bonnaroo community is as vibrant as ever and excited about celebrating this milestone year on The Farm.”
Following reports the low ticket sales, Bonnaroo organizers released a statement to Billboard. “Celebrating our 15th anniversary this year, Bonnaroo continues to be recognized as an iconic staple of the American festival scene. This year we made a significant investment into site improvements on The Farm, which were met with overwhelmingly positive responses from our fans, and we’re committed to continuing to enhance this truly unique experience even further. The spirit of Bonnaroo is truly represented by our community and we’re extremely grateful for the support of over a million fans over the past 15 years. We’re already planning for 2017 and beyond and can’t wait to be back on The Farm to do it all over again next year.”