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Edited by Samuel Cameron
13 The significance of commercial music festivals Gretchen Larsen and Stephanie Hussels INTRODUCTION During the summer months of 2007, an estimated 485 music festivals, covering every genre of music, were held in the United Kingdom. This figure, which does not include any of the multitude of free festivals that also occur, represents a staggering 38 per cent growth in the number of festivals in just seven years (Mintel, 2008). This phenomenal growth shows little sign of slowing down, as many of the major festivals continue to sell out, some within a matter of hours of tickets being made available. This is attracting much attention from the media and other social commentators who are asking, what is so special about music festivals that attracts such an insatiable interest from all involved – audiences, artists and organizers? Clearly, these festivals are economically valuable (see, for example, O’Sullivan and Jackson, 2002; Gibson and Connell, 2003), but there is some recognition that festivals are also important socially and culturally. Thus, it is only by taking a multidisciplinary approach that we can understand the significance of commercial music festivals in contemporary society. Before exploring this issue, we must first define the very thing we are aiming to understand. In a very general sense, festivals are special occasions for celebration involving a range of artistic performances, which usually occur over a number of days. The roots of festivals can be traced back to the time of the first Olympic games in Greece, several hundred years BC (Sadie,...
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