Festival Battle: North America vs. Europe

Did you know that lineups are bigger in Europe, but North America has the biggest stars? So which mainstream festivals are better, those in North America or in Europe? We dissected the most popular ones to give you the answer.
Festival Battle: North America vs. Europe
Insights
Urban Klancnik

In North America, we put Austin City Limits Music FestivalCoachellaLollapaloozaOsheaga, and Outside Lands Music Festival under the microscope, pitting them against some of Europe’s best: Boomtown FairExitGlastonburyPrimavera Sound BarcelonaRoskilde, and Sziget. Now, if you're wondering why some of the biggest festivals, such as TomorrowlandMysteryland or Electric Daisy Carnival, aren’t here – the criteria for a festival to get on the list was that artists of no single genre exceed 65% of the lineup, otherwise we consider the festival genre-specific and not mainstream. 

 

DJs take the crown
Let’s get the obvious out of the way – on both continents, Electronic music is dominant, but in North America, the battle for genre supremacy is much closer than in Europe. The leading genre at all North American festivals, with approximately 30% of the lineup, is Pop, with the exception of the biggest one of them all, Coachella, where half of the lineup are Electronic artists. Overall, Pop (27%) is really close to Electronic music (31%), while Rock has fallen to third place (16%), with Hip Hop (14%) and R&B (9%) breathing down its neck.

In Europe, on the other hand, Electronic music doesn’t have any real competition. It’s firmly in first place with almost half of the lineup, then it gets a little crowded. Rock is in second place (13%), followed closely by Pop (11%) and Hip Hop (9%). 

In the USA, Pop and Electronic music are quite close, then there’s quite a gap between Pop and Rock in third place. In Europe, Electronic music is in the lead, but there’s a fierce competition between Rock, Pop, and Hip Hop behind it.

Pop is more popular in American lineups and so is Hip Hop, while the popularity of Rock is quite similar in both Europe and North America.

Slicing the Electronic music

Electronic music is showing its diversity and the differences are there to prove it. In North America, House is the most popular subgenre, followed by Dance or EDM, which is considered pretty mainstream and often also features Pop artists. In third place: Downtempo.

In Europe subgenres are closer together than in North America, where House is ruling the stages.

In Europe, however, Techno, a genre that was long underground, is the most popular Electronic subgenre, followed by House and Drum & Bass.

Boris Brejcha at Exit 2019.
Source: Jelena Ivanović/Exit 2019

The best for your taste

Now, let’s say you like mainstream festivals because you can get a little bit of everything, but you would still want to choose those that offer the most of what you like. Well, based on the 2019 lineups, here are the results.

 

If you want your fair share of Hip Hop and R&B beats
If you like Hip Hop or just want to argue with people whether it started in South or West Bronx, the best bet would be Lollapalooza, which had 27 Hip Hop artists performing in 2019 (16% of the lineup). For R&B fans: Outside Lands Music Festival with 31 R&B artists (15% of the lineup).

In Europe, fans heard the most Hip Hop beats at Primavera Sound Barcelona (40 artists, or 16% of the lineup). It’s interesting that Roskilde had 24 R&B artists, putting the genre just below Pop and Rock. This Danish festival also had the highest percentage of Pop artists (21%) among the European mainstream festivals.  

 

Where to rock, mosh, and headbang?
In North America, the best place to listen to Rock was Austin City Limits Music Festival, where 31 rockers blasted the stages (one quarter of the lineup). Punk doesn’t usually get many slots at mainstream festivals, so the highest number of Punk acts were featured at Coachella (four artists or 2% of the lineup). American headbangers also can’t be too happy, because Metal had the largest lineup at Lollapalooza, but with only two acts, namely Diablo and Bring Me The Horizon.

In Europe, Roskilde is still the place to be if you like Rock (one quarter of the lineup), but even there, Pop is very close behind and could swing this Rock festival towards softer riffs in the future. But for now, Roskilde is also the best place to hear Metal among European mainstream festivals, with a healthy 15 artists representing the genre (10% of the lineup). As for Punk, while some may believe it originated in the USA and others consider the UK its birthplace, it's definitely more popular in the latter, as no fewer than 30 Punk acts (7% of the lineup) performed at Boomtown Fair.

The Cure rocked the stage at Glastonbury, Roskilde, Exit, and Austin City Limits. 
Source: Instagram.

In Europe, only one lineup wasn’t dominated by Electronic music and that was Roskilde, which is still primarily a Rock festival.

Reggae is the hottest in the UK
What about if you’d like to air out your dreads a bit or dance dirty to some Latin music? Well, mainstream festivals in North America didn’t give much space to Reggae artists. Koffee and Rebelution performed at Austin City Limits, while Coachella had the most Latin artists (five, or 2% of the lineup). The latter were homegrown band Ocho Ojos playing Cumbia, Los Tucanes De Tijuana representing Regional Mexican music, Reggaeton stars Bad Bunny and J Balvin, and Chilean Tomasa del Real.

Reggae is the hottest in the UK, specifically at Boomtown Fair, with 50 Reggae artists (12% of the lineup). It may be surprising that Latin is the hottest at Exit, with 5% of the lineup being Latin acts. Apparently, the genre is big in Serbia, as most of the performers that played at Exit were actually native. 

J Balvin repped Reggaeton at Primavera Sound Barcelona, Osheaga, Lollapaloza, and Coachella. 
Source: Keenan Hairston/Lollapalooza 2019

On average, European festivals have bigger lineups (300 artists compared to 140 in North America) and more stages (16 compared to 7). North American festivals, on the other hand, are more star-studded: there are 7 superstars* in the lineup compared to 4 in Europe.

So, to answer the main question; are the festivals better in North America or in Europe? It’s up to you to decide, if you must. For us, it’s definitely a tie.

 

 

*Superstars are artists ranked in the top 200 across all genres according to their digital popularity on Spotify, SoundCloud, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.

Cover photo: Mike Palmowski (Unsplash)

 

 

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Urban Klancnik

Urban Klancnik

Guest Writer at Viberate
A journalist, writer, drummer, and music enthusiast. Spent the last 20 years destroying his hearing with Metal and Rock and sharing his experiences from some of the biggest festivals in the world.