The Lefsetz Letter: Bonnaroo Bummer


"Bonnaroo ticket sales drop by 28,000, hitting an all-time low": http://goo.gl/a32UQM

The name wasn't bigger than the lineup.

Ever since Coachella went on sale without a slate, we've come to believe it's all about the experience. Isn't that what we're told millennials want?

But the drastic decline in Bonnaroo attendance tells us this isn't so. Coachella might be a rite of passage for SoCal teenagers, despite the press fawning over its musical bona fides, but every other festival in America other than EDC lives and dies on who is performing.


Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, "The Lefsetz Letter". Famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

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And the acts performing at Bonnaroo were aged, appealing to the wrong demo.

Millennials don't care about the Dead, certainly not Pearl Jam. And LCD Soundsystem peaked years ago. And only millennials want to camp out in the heat and endure the crowds to see acts in the summer in Tennessee.

Conversely, baby boomers are flocking to Oldchella because of the lineup, as stellar as has ever been put together, eclipsing even Woodstock, which didn't have either the Beatles or the Stones, but they're part of the Desert Trip. That's the buzz in L.A., who plays next year? And believe me, Goldenvoice wants to do this next year, create an institution. Do the oldsters flock for a reunion of the Kinks or to hear David Gilmour or can this only be a one time event because the assets have been strip-mined and the landscape is now empty? Furthermore, there might be a backlash, these are people who are used to being up close and personal and inherently they won't be, not with hard seats and this many in attendance, so, buzz… No, let's not kid ourselves, baby boomers will testify as to how great it is no matter how bad it is, unless it's an utter disaster. It's all about their image. We think youngsters worry about how they're perceived? Oldsters care even more, after spending thousands they won't complain. But they may not return.

But they keep coming back to EDC, the Electric Daisy Carnival, because that's a culture, that's a scene, the headliners aren't everything. But the truth is the headliners are everything to the rest of these music-focused festivals.

So it is about who you book.

And these festivals have to start booking youngsters. The acts millennials really want to see.

Like Bieber. He's now credible, after working with Skrillex and Diplo. He should headline Coachella next year, usher that festival into the new paradigm, illustrate the changing of the guard. Millennials don't care about reunions, they weren't there the first time around!

So it's all about headliners. And it's all about scarcity. Country business has faltered because these acts go out every year. Why go to the festival to see them when they're in your hometown on a regular basis? Whereas there's far more demand for Drake than can be fulfilled, Beyonce too.

And we've got to stop hearing how good the festival site is, all the smoke the promoters blow out their ass, patting themselves on the back, trying to believe it's about them.

It's never about them. As long as people don't get trampled to death, as long as there's enough water and bathrooms, people will flock to a field in the middle of nowhere to see the right talent.

But what is that talent?