These events bring together thousands of people to celebrate music. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 most iconic music festivals of all time.
For this list, we’ve chosen our entries based on a mix of their iconic nature, pop culture recognition and historical significance. These can include one-time concerts or touring events, as well as ongoing festivals.
#10 – Pinkpop Festival
This gathering of musicians and fans calls the Netherlands home. With its inaugural festival taking place in 1970, Pinkpop is also one of the world’s longest running annual pop music events. Though its popularity caused overcrowding to become an issue, that’s been resolved by expanding it to a three-day affair. Pinkpop can boast more than more than 1.5 million attendees and 500 performers throughout the last 40 years.
#9 – Montreux Jazz Festival
Starting in the late-‘60s as an event strictly meant to show off the talents of jazz musicians and artists, the world’s second largest annual jazz festival now welcomes countless musical styles to its lineup. Held in Switzerland near Lake Geneva, the Montreux Jazz Festival has also been the source of dozens and dozens of live albums recorded by artists ranging from Alanis Morissette to Miles Davis.
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#8 – Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
It may have only started in 2002, but Bonnaroo’s influence over subsequent music fests changed rock and roll for the better: with its multiple stages set up over acre-upon-acre of Tennessee farmland, and its musical guests from a wide variety of genres, it’s a unique event where you can party till 4 in the morning. Expanding from its jam band-only origins, the festival also offers arts and crafts, comedy and film-related entertainment, and more.
#7 – Roskilde Festival
This hippie-turned-more-mainstream-music event started up back in 1971 after two high-schoolers decided Denmark needed a festival dedicated to music. Now, the four-day-long Roskilde is one of Europe’s oldest and biggest open-air festivals. Previously intended as a money-making operation, the festival changed gears within a year and is now mostly run by volunteers, with proceeds going to various causes.
#6 – Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
What better way to spend three days in the California sun than with thousands of other music lovers enjoying some of the best that rock, hip hop and electronic have to offer? With several stages and multiple art installations, Coachella brings many people from far and wide to the city of Indio to experience the likes of Paul McCartney, Wu-Tang Clan, Daft Punk, Roger Waters and more.
#5 – Lollapalooza
Wanting to go out with a bang prior to his band’s imminent breakup, Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Ferrell envisioned Lollapalooza as a goodbye event featuring themselves and other alternative rockers. It initially toured North America and showcased less-mainstream artists, but is now a stay-put event open to multiple musical genres. Calling Chicago’s Grant Park home and boasting over 160 thousand attendees, the three-day event is something every rocker should experience.
#4 – Summerfest
Lasting 11 days and with 11 stages, Summerfest truly is “The Big Gig.” This Milwaukee, Wisconsin event started in 1968 and holds the Guinness World Record for “the world’s largest music festival” – which isn’t surprising, considering more than 700 acts perform every year! With musical styles ranging from rock to R&B to reggae, the fest also offers family-friendly festivities like comedy shows, and other attractions.
#3 – Reading and Leeds Festival
It doesn’t matter if you’re partial to England’s northeastern or southeastern regions because the Reading and Leeds Festivals have got you covered. They both feature the same lineup of rocking artists, who split their time between the two locations during the same August weekend every year. Originating in 1971, Reading claims to be history’s oldest music fest, while Leeds takes place near an 18th century country house.
#2 – Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts
Tracing its origins to the 1970’s Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival, Glastonbury has grown from a hippie-inspired event into the world’s largest greenfield festival. The annual multi-day event has attracted headliners like David Bowie, Elvis Costello, The Cure, Coldplay and more. If you’re one of the 175 thousand lucky festival-goers, be sure to check out the various performing arts that are on display alongside the music.
#1 – Woodstock Music & Art Fair
Advertised as “3 Days of Peace & Music, ” Woodstock made history as one of the biggest outdoor musical events ever. In August 1969, 400 thousand attendees came together to celebrate music and arts, with notable acts including Janis Joplin, The Who and Jimi Hendrix. Held in Bethel, New York, it has since inspired numerous commemorative concerts and spin-off festivals worldwide.