The 10 Largest Music Festivals in the World
There are a lot of music festivals around the globe that attract some pretty spectacular numbers. The 10 largest music festivals have attendance numbers that will leave you speechless.
The music festivals on this list have already made history, but they continue to have a vibrant future ahead of them. If you love music, and you want to have some fun over the next year, maybe this list will help you find your next vacation destination.
10. Electric Daisy Carnival
Record attendance: 400,000
Electronic dance music fans, beware: the Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) is back to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2022, and its newest edition is expected to make a bang. In 2015, the music festival registered a landmark 400,000 attendees, making for one of the largest electronic dance music events on the planet.
The EDC combines performances by the most popular electronic dance music artists in the world with a carnival-like ambiance. The scale of the festival is worthy of some of its former headliners: a list that features the likes of Calvin Harris, Diplo, Martin Garrix, Afrojack, or Zedd.
The first edition of the EDC took place at a small California venue in 1999. From then on, the music festival transformed into a global phenomenon. While Las Vegas and Orlando are considered to be the “home” of the EDC, former editions of the festival have passed through Tokyo, Seoul, Puerto Rico, Milton Keynes (United Kingdom), or São Paulo (just to name a few).
9. New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Record attendance: 450,000
New Orleans, Louisiana is one of the most important cities in the history of jazz, and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is perhaps its most significant music event.
The festival took place uninterruptedly between 1970 and 2019, being organized even in the aftermath of the devastating hurricane Katrina. In 2020 and 2021, however, it was canceled for the first time in decades, only to return on the final weekend of April 2022.
As you can tell by its name, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is all about celebrating the city’s vibrant history. It enlists the talents of the best local musicians in New Orleans (not only in jazz but also in other genres). The music festival is historically significant because its first editions were shadowed by the racial segregation of the Jim Crow era.
Today, it’s meant to represent the coming together of a music-loving city, regardless of race. The festival’s record number of attendees sits at 450,000.
8. Essence Music Festival
Record attendance: 470,000
It’s known that New Orleans is a city of music, but it’s still impressive that a place with less than 400,000 residents boasts two of the world’s largest music festivals. In addition to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the state of Louisiana is also home to the Essence Music Festival. After a virtual edition in 2021, the summer event announced a full return in 2022.
If the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is about celebrating the local culture, the Essence Music Festival is about celebrating the global impact of African-American culture. After all, the festival is organized by Essence, a magazine aimed at African-American women.
The concert line-ups often feature the most popular Black artists in the United States, which can only mean there’s plenty of good music involved.
With a record attendance of 470,000, the Essence Music Festival welcomed the likes of Mariah Carey, Diana Ross, John Legend, Snoop Dogg, The Roots, Solange, and Janelle Monáe in recent years (to name only a few).
7. Sziget Festival
Record attendance: 565,000
It started as a minor student event and transformed into one of the world’s largest rock festivals. The Sziget Festival takes place in Budapest, Hungary, and is set on a 266-acre (108-hectare) island. It’s seven days of the best pop-rock music and features fan-favorite acts from all over the world.
Canceled in 2020 and 2021, the Sziget Festival has enlisted the likes of Dua Lipa, Stromae, and Arctic Monkeys for its returning 2022 edition.
The 2019 Sziget Festival made history by becoming its largest edition yet, with a record attendance of 565,000. That year, the Sziget Festival was visited by over half a million people, and the crowd gathered to watch headlining acts such as Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, Post Malone, James Blake, and Franz Ferdinand.
Curiously enough, the earliest editions of the festival were organized in the ’90s as a response to a music-festival crisis motivated by a lack of governmental funding. The Sziget Festival emerged from the ashes of the end of the Communist era in Hungary to become one of the most renowned music events in Europe.
6. Rock in Rio
Record attendance: 700,000
As one of the world’s most vibrant, populated, and iconic cities, it makes sense that Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, is also home to the equally-legendary Rock in Rio.
In 1985, the Brazilian marketer Robert Medina announced the creation of the festival as a way to celebrate the end of the João Goulart dictatorship.
Unlike other major music festivals, Rock in Rio has been ambitious from the very beginning. The inaugural edition enlisted acts as popular as Queen, Rod Stewart, AC/DC, and Yes. The Rock in Rio brand was later extended to other continents, and Rock in Rio editions started being organized in Lisbon, Madrid, and Las Vegas.
The largest edition of Rock in Rio yet reunited an astounding 700,000 festivalgoers. The Rock in Rio Lisbon event is among the largest music festivals in Europe, with over 350,000 people making it to the third edition. While some sources state that the very first Rock in Rio was attended by a landmark 1.5 million people, I couldn’t find enough evidence to back this claim.
5. Pol’and’Rock Festival
Record attendance: 750,000
The appropriately-named Pol’and’rock Festival is a rock music festival that takes place in Poland. One of the largest rock festivals in Europe, it was attended by approximately 750,000 people in at least two editions: 2014 and 2019. The Pol’and’rock Festival is a proud national event in Poland that was even visited by some of the country’s former presidents.
The festival pays tribute to the classic 1969 Woodstock Festival, and Woodstock traditions such as mud baths are a big part of Pol’and’rock’s culture.
Organized since 1995, this huge Polish festival makes for a major summer event that, while centered on rock, explores genres as disparate as folk music, electronic music, and even classical music!
But the standout feature of Pol’and’rock is the fact it’s free. That may help to explain why this modern-day Woodstock has been faithfully visited by an average of half a million people since its earliest editions.
Record attendance: 830,000
The legendary Summerfest lasts 11 days and was held uninterruptedly between 1968 and 2019. While the 2020 edition was canceled, Summerfest bounced back and returned to action in 2021.
Up until 1999, Summerfest held the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest music festival and remains pretty close to the podium today.
A landmark event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Summerfest takes place in the Henry Mayer Festival Park, which was last renovated in 2004 with help of a hefty $150 million investment. The influence of the festival on the local economy is huge, as it attracts numerous activities that are unrelated to music, from shopping vendors to firework shows.
For a better glimpse of how influential Summerfest has been since its first edition, all one has to do is to look at its impressive list of headliners. Over the years, Summerfest welcomed some of the world’s most popular musicians, from legends such as Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder to modern-day pop phenomenons like Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga.
3. Montreal International Jazz Festival
Record attendance: 2 million
There are many misconceptions about jazz. Some believe it’s a dying genre, loved only by intellectual and music elitists. Others think it’s not fun, too complicated, or even randomly played.
These notions, however, couldn’t be further away from the truth, especially when one considers that the Montreal International Jazz Festival, in Canada, is visited by approximately two million people.
The iconic Montreal International Jazz Festival is like Christmas day for jazz lovers, and its sheer scale is impressive. Unsurprisingly, it’s the biggest jazz festival in the world. Recent editions have reunited over 3,000 artists, spread through more than 20 stages, to a total of about 650 performances per edition.
First organized by the jazz enthusiast Rouè-Doudou Boicel, the Montreal International Jazz Festival wasn’t always the showstopping event it is today. Before its first edition in 1980, it made for a two-night concert featuring jazz legends Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny. The festival’s first official edition counted with the presence of a few other jazz greats—including the late Ray Charles and Chick Corea—and was met with enthusiasm by approximately 12,000 visitors.
The Montreal International Jazz Festival continued to grow organically over the years, defying the preconceived notion that jazz is an aging style. Like so many other historical festivals, the Montreal International Jazz Festival was canceled for the first time in its decades-long history in 2020.
The lineup of the returning 2022 edition features acts such as Ludovico Einaudi, Pink Martini, Alicia Moffet, and even the electronic-music artist Woodkid.
Record attendance: 2.5 million
The world’s second-largest music festival can be visited in Rabat, Morocco, of all places, and was once attended by a landmark 2.5 million visitors. The festival is organized by the personal secretary of the Moroccan king and features only seven stages despite its huge crowd. For that reason, it’s the festival with the highest rate of attendees per stage.
By far the largest music festival in Africa, Mawazine started as a world music event before being transformed into a pop-rock festival by the personal secretary of the Moroccan king.
From 2008 onwards, the event found the investment needed to attract some of the world’s major music acts. Previous headliners include musicians such as Whitney Houston, Avicii, Elton John, Travis Scott, and The Weeknd.
While viewed as a proud symbol of Morocco and visited by millions of enthusiastic festivalgoers, Mawazine was the target of widespread criticism due to some of its funding methods. After all, many Moroccan taxpayers weren’t happy to learn that the festival was partially founded by state-owned companies.
Record attendance: 3 million
The world’s largest music festival takes place in Vienna, Austria, a city known for its rich musical history. The Donauinselfest is named after the artificial island of Donauinsel, which sits near Vienna’s city center. Even though it has a record attendance of 3 million, the Donauinselfest only lasts three days, meaning the festival’s visited by 1 million people per day!
The history of the Donauinselfest has been one of exceeding expectations from the very beginning. The event started as a state-sponsored cultural program meant to promote the island of Donauinsel. The organizers of the first edition, in 1983, expected 15,000 attendees but were met by an unexpected crowd of 160,000 festivalgoers.
The unmatched success of Donauinselfest can be explained by a couple of reasons: for one, it’s set in the music-loving city of Vienna. Additionally, it makes for a 100% free open-air music festival that’s known to feature some of the most popular acts in Europe, from Scottish singer-songwriter Amy McDonald to Eurodance favorites Basshunter.
The Donauinselfest is said to give a boost of over $45 million to the economy of Vienna, making for one of Europe’s largest touristic endeavors.
Music festivals attract a lot of people. The average attendance of a music festival is 100,000 attendees, however, the 10 largest festivals in the world put this number to shame, to say the least.
It is hard to imagine that a festival can have more attendees than a megacity, but that is exactly the case with some festivals. I hope you’ve enjoyed this list and thank you for reading!