Festivals attract mostly in-state ticket buyers

View Comments(0)
Pie chart with distances traveled to get to Coachella
Click the chart to see a larger version

With summer here, a lot of people are opting to go to music festivals, and why not? Many of them are three or four days long, and in that time, you often have over 100 bands to choose from. They're a good deal for the price.

I looked at three festivals – Coachella, Lollapalooza, and Austin City Limits – to see where ticket buyers are coming from. I already knew, by looking at other concert data, that people tend to stick close to home when choosing what they want to see.

It makes sense, given the recession, plus rising gas and airfare prices. However, I went into this research expecting the opposite to happen with festivals. Unlike tours, I saw festivals more as destination events: something people plan an entire week-long trip around.

People Live Close to the Festivals

While it is true to some extent that people travel long distances to a festival, what I ended up finding out is that, like regular concerts, the attendee base is still mostly made up of people who are coming from within the host state. That includes 54% of customers for Lollapalooza, 59% of customers for Coachella, and an astounding 73% of customers for Austin City Limits.

You might expect that these numbers are skewed because Texas and California are so large. Texas is the second largest state in the U.S., and California takes up most of a coastline. However, it's not the case. As you can see from the pie charts, a significant portion of customers are traveling 150 miles or less to get to the festivals. The effect is that a lot of attendees are clustered relatively close to the site of the events.

Pie chart with distances traveled to get to Lollapalooza
Click the chart to see a larger version

The effect is most noticeable with Lollapalooza, which seems to be very much a regional event, with very few people coming from outside the greater Chicago/upper Indiana area. Austin City Limits has the widest spread of attendees, bringing in people from just about every area of the country.

Other Interesting Data

International Reach

One of the things I found most interesting is how many customers who attended Coachella came from outside the U.S. While there was a handful from Canada, more came from Mexico, Spain, Italy, Australia, France, and, interestingly, China. Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza also had foreign visitors, but nowhere near as many.

Coachella Doesn't Appeal to Its Neighbors?

There are noticeably few customers residing within a 50 mile radius of Coachella. Instead, the clustering I mentioned earlier actually happens around Los Angeles, instead of Indio. This is because Indio (and the area around it) is much smaller, both in area and population, than the Los Angeles region.

Pie chart with distances traveled to get to the Austin City Limits Festival
Click the chart to see a larger version
Hey, you told me that most people live close to a festival, but your ACLF chart shows more people further away from Austin!

The Austin City Limits chart is slightly misleading, making it seem that there are a lot of people living far from Austin. Actually, there are a bunch of customers from Houston that make up a lot of that section and Houston is 10 miles past my cut-off for the 51 – 151 miles section (the distance from Austin for an order starts to grow a lot after that). If I include them with the people living 51 – 151 miles away, that section jumps to 25%.


Many people are opting to look relatively close to home when they want to go to a festival, or else not going at all. I speculate the recession has a lot to do with it, but it's possible that people just treat a festival as more of a road-trip, weekend-long kind of event than the destination event I thought they are. More study is needed, so I'll research previous years and be back soon with a follow-up.