As we come up on Spring, lovers of live music all know that music festival season is about to begin. Mainly from mid-March to October, hundreds of music festivals take place all over the world. In the U.S alone, premier music festivals such as Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and more, draw fans of every genre beneath the sun to witness the era’s biggest performers make history.
Like Beyonce’s legendary Coachella set that spawned the music film Homecoming. Or Lizzo’s Austin City Limits performance in 2019, drawing one of the biggest crowds Zilker Park had ever seen. Or when LCD Soundsystem reunited in 2016 to headline Lollapalooza and throw the most celestial electro-punk dance party… ever?
Music festivals, much like indoor concerts, are vital to the connection between musicians and their fans.
Now that the vaccine is being received by around 1.49 million people per day, live music, both indoor concerts and music festivals, may finally be seeing the end of its indefinite postponement. Largely, music festivals have the advantage of taking place outdoors, which may help the eventual return of these events fall sooner than the that of concert tours.
Will there be music festivals in 2021? According to some festival organizers, yes. But with everything Covid-19 related, the path forward for music festivals in 2021 involves differing opinions, complex strategies, and a desperate need for funding.
Here is everything we know about the return of music festivals in 2021.
Some music festivals have moved online.
As of now, online, virtual events remain the only safe option for music festivals that are typically scheduled in early Spring. South by Southwest, downtown Austin’s legendary 11-day culture, tech, and arts fest, is well on its way to hosting (a shortened) festival online. You can check out how to get SXSW passes and attend virtually here.
Pitchfork, Summerfest, and others, are eyeing September
Right now, the pandemic has forced festival organizers to veer on the side of caution. But the outlook will, theoretically, be very different in a few months. Events such as Milwaukee’s premier Summerfest and Chicago’s Pitchfork music festival are looking at September—when more populations will have received the vaccine.
Tentatively, Summerfest 2021 is scheduled over three weekends in September: 2-4, 9-11, and 16-18. Performers in the lineup include Dave Matthews Band, Khalid, and Guns N’ Roses. Pitchfork might take place the weekend of September 10-12, though no performers have been announced.
NYC’s Governor’s Ball and BottleRock music festival in Napa Valley are also vying for September returns. The significance of postponement, versus cancellation, is hope. These specific festivals are holding out for the possibility of a normal enough—and safe—fall. Whereas other music festivals have already announced their 2021 cancellations.
2021 Music Festival Cancellations
Events traditionally scheduled in the early part of music festival season (March-mid May) were particularly disadvantaged for a 2021 return. So far, these music festivals have announced cancellations for this year: Stagecoach, Coachella, Glastonbury, and Fortress Festival.
The cancellations we’re seeing so far have also been of massive, premier festivals. Unfortunately, this type of event is the most likely to become a super-spreader of the Covid-19 virus. This may pose an issue for festivals such as Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo to return as well. But, these festivals have a few more months to organize around a brighter future brought on by the vaccine.
Many festivals are waiting until March 1 to announce their decisions.
By March 1, festival organizers will have clearer outlooks on several fronts: Vaccination rates, vaccination efficacy, and funding. There are hundreds of music festivals which might, if the outcomes seem brighter, announce postponement in the coming months. We consider this a good thing.
We are all weary of the pandemic. We are all ready to attend days long music festivals, to party on, to await the glorious arrival of dusk signaling a riotous night of headliners. Billie Eilish. Lizzo. The 1975. Kendrick Lamar. These are the artists we may still have a chance to see in 2021. So far, no news is good news when it comes to the pending decisions of festival organizers to host their events in 2021.
Austin City Limits, the TX capital’s premier fall music festival, is currently scheduled for October 1-3 and 8-10. Much sooner, in just a couple of months, Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) Vegas is set to host hundreds of EDM fans May 20-23. With events scheduled to resume (though with new post-pandemic precautions in place) as early as May, we will soon learn which types of live entertainment are feasible and safe for 2021.
We really hope music festivals are returned to us this year. Meanwhile, the return of indoor events is still very much in the air. It will largely depend on if venues can receive the funding to properly ventilate their spaces—a factor that dramatically affects the possible transmission of Covid-19. You can check out a list of tentatively Rescheduled Concert Tours in 2021 here.