The first Ultra Music Festival in Miami in 1999 cost $200,000. In 2013, Russell Faibisch estimated in a Miami New times article that in 2013 Ultra would require $25 million to $30 million dollars to pull off. This is a significant jump from the infant days of UMF. Today EDM music festivals cost tens of millions of dollars to put on. In a Forbes article, Pasquale Rotella was interviewed about the history of EDC and stated in 2014 that it would take $36 million to throw EDC in Las Vegas. Ultra Music Festival in Miami and EDC have large impacts on the surrounding area and add to the burgeoning $6.9 billion EDM industry, but the economic boom provided does come at a cost that is running ever higher.
Tomorrowland began a little over a decade ago in 2005 with about 10,000 unique visitors and had swelled to 180,000 unique visitors in 2016. Tomorrowland is looked to as the trendsetter when it comes to stage design and production. However, it is not the visual environment that ID&T founder Duncan Stutterheim, the founder of ID&T, feels it’s costing festival organizers an arm and a leg. In remarks made at the Noorderslag Seminar in Groningen in 2015, Stutterheim discussed the rising costs of booking DJ acts. Tiesto and David Guetta can command $350,000 while Calvin Harris could be paid up to $500,000 per an investigation by QUOTE. So how have festival organizers dealt with these rising costs? One way is sponsorship, the double-edged sword.
Sponsorship is a way for festivals to invest more money into the festival experience without having to worry about the increased financial risk, but festival organizers are still making a big gamble in favor of reward over that risk. Festival organizers have to find the right balance and ensure the festival isn’t turned into one big marketing bonanza as sponsors will expect there to be some product placement and advertisement. But even with sponsors, there are going to be expenses festival organizers will have to manage.
All manners of work are involved in putting on a festival, and all of those workers have to be paid. Festival goers encounter the front line: parking attendants, security personnel, food service workers, and ticket box workers. Employees who are in the background but whose skills are ever present are sound engineers and stage workers. Then there are porta potty vendors, sales managers, talent buyers, web developers, sponsorship coordinators, social media managers, operations assistants, city officials (for fees and licenses), and venue operators. Remember all the people it takes to put on a festival the next time you gasp at the cost of admission. What is paid for memories for a lifetime is a fraction of what it costs to provide the experience for those memories.