It was during the summer of 1969 that 400,000 people made their way to the sleepy community of Woodstock, New York. Woodstock marked a new dawn for large format rock festivals. While festivals remained popular in Europe, the format fizzled through the ‘80s and ‘90s in the U.S.

Coachella, with its hipster acts and 200,000 attendees, reset the stage for rock concerts. Smelling blood in the water, the same promoters offered an AARP version last year. “Oldchella” (or Desert Trip) took Southern California by storm, with the likes of The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Who, Neil Young and Roger Waters. Even Keith Richards thought it was a party.

Given Desert Trip’s big draw and high prices, the Internet was abuzz with rumors of what could be next. People of my ilk fantasized about a Led Zeppelin reunion. Within the last month, two star-studded lineups were announced. Classic West featured The Eagles, Steely Dan, Earth Wind and Fire, Journey, the Doobie Brothers and Fleetwood Mac, all on one epic bill. Arroyo Seco Weekend headliners include Tom Petty and Mumford & Sons. 

It appears we have entered a new era. The music business has experienced two significant disruptions in the last fifteen years. Napster and iTunes changed how we listened to music, destroying the sanctity of the vinyl album and replacing it with the ability to download Hilary Duff tracks for 99 cents each. That now seems remarkably expensive, given the option of unlimited music on Pandora or Apple Music for less than 10 dollars a month.

Suffice it to say the musicians took a hit and have turned to touring to support their “lifestyle” (for lack of a better term). You know, Mick Jagger has great-grandchildren to feed. It is rumored that Desert Trip bands were paid $14 million each for their trouble. It turns out even Dylan is a capitalist if the money is right.

At the center of the business model shift are two fundamental business strategy principles: scalability and utilization. It wouldn’t make much sense to hold a concert that doesn’t sell out. The costs of the stadium rent and sound are fixed. The costs to sell tickets are the same for one band or six. It turns out the math supports booking multiple bands and charging $500 per ticket. Madison Square Garden bought The Forum, providing more opportunities for marquee acts to book out multiple nights.

Consumer tastes are also shifting. Americans (especially we shallow Southern Californians) are consumed with experiences- namely those which return us to our youth. We are willing to overpay to capture memories of a happier time.

So I guess we are reelin’ in the years and stowin’ away the time. Long live rock and roll, and fully utilizing assets.