How music festivals have changed in the last 60 years

The music festival is far from a new thing – ever since the 1960s and the first Woodstock event, music aficionados around the world have flocked to these events. But until the last couple of decades, they looked very different.

Back in the 1960s, the music festival was a very occasional event. Many were one-off events, never to be repeated, and you certainly wouldn’t have found anywhere near the quantity you do today. From European cities to British fields, thousands of festivals take place every year. Some cater to specific tastes or subcultures, others are much more broad – in the UK, you could go to a different festival every weekend between May and September, if the mood struck.

They were much more rare for the artists involved too – fewer artists would have ever had the chance to perform in front of such a huge audience, so it was more of a special occasion. These days, lots of artists do the festival circuit, performing at several each summer.

In the free love days of the 1960s, the corporate involvement in music festivals nowadays would have come as quite a shock to attendees. Once an anti-establishment movement rooted in the changing times and protest politics of the 1960s, many modern festivals are sponsored by some of the biggest brands in the world. From Carlsberg beer sponsoring Reading & Leeds festival to X-box tents and Greenpeace showers, branding is everywhere on the modern festival circuit.

Festival fashion, too, was much less prominent. There was certainly a ‘look’ to Woodstock, but it wasn’t hugely distinct from festival goers’ everyday attire. They might all have looked like hippies – but that was the way they dressed day in and day out. At festivals today, not only is fashion a huge part of many people’s experience, but it’s a massive moneyspinner too. From glitter face paint to flower crowns, vendors make huge amounts of money from festival attendees’ desire to get the aesthetic.

The music, too, can be much more niche than in the festivals of the 1960s. While festivals then tended to be a broad church, some modern festivals cater to much more specific tastes – like reggae, folk, hard rock or dance music. The methods of relaxation have changed as well.  At Woodstock everybody was dropping the brown acid.  These days music festival goers are likely to be carrying a vape pen or a small beaker bong.

If you’re looking for artists to book for a music festival you’re organising, you could find the perfect artist at MN2S music agent. The London based booking agency boasts a wide range of musicians on the books, from reggae legends like Julian Marley to novelty acts like Sam and the Womp.