The Sour Note of Music Festivals

by Terrica Watkins, Communications volunteer

Music is therapy. Music moves people. It connects people in ways that no other medium can. It pulls heart strings. It acts as medicine.


Music festivals have become a cultural, significant, and beloved pastime among music and art lovers. Music festivals are a time to connect with others to witness and celebrate the unique powerful artistry of our most favorite and beloved musical artists. These festivals not only commemorate a medium that encapsulates the fundamental human experience of connection, authenticity, and freedom of expression, but it allows and encourages even for a brief moment, a time to be vulnerable, liberated, jovial, and experience the raw and organic ambiance of intimacy and awe-inspiring cinematography. 

There are currently 800 music festivals in the United States (Deployed Resources, 2018). According to a 2015 online article by Billboard Music, 32 million people go to at least one music festival in the United States every year, people travel on average 903 miles to attend a music festival. In addition, music festivals have generated a huge amount of money surplus. In 2014, the five biggest music festivals made a combined $183 million dollars in ticket sales (Deployed Resources, 2018). According to Forbes magazine, In April 2016, Coachella made a whopping $704 million dollars (Hu, 2016).

As fascinating as music festivals are, behind the smiles, cheers, and dancing lies a problem lurking in the midst of the excitement-that problem is sexual harassment. According to a recent study conducted by professors at Durham University, “Two thirds of women worry about being sexually harassed at music festivals. In addition, “30% of women have been sexually harassed at festivals while 10% have been sexually assaulted.”

Here are some additional startling statistics (Source:

  • Nearly 43% of female festival goers under the age of 40 have experienced unwanted sexual behavior at a music festival.
  • 29% of women recalled “forceful dancing.”
  • 23% reported verbal harassment.
  • 17% of women under 40 have experience sexual assault while conscious.
  • 6% have been assaulted while unconscious.
  • A poll of 1,188 festival attendees also revealed that only 2% of these experiences were reported to the police.

Many national and local music festivals such as Hangout, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and many other festivals are approaching, whether you are an avid festival guru or new to the festival scene, here are some helpful tips to make your festival experience safe and enjoyable:

Festival Safety Tips (Source:

  • Establish a Buddy System
  • Never Take Drinks From a Stranger
  • Keep Your Cell Phone Charged
  • Never Leave Your Drink Unattended
  • Never Assume It Won’t Happen To You
  • Stay Alert Of Your Surroundings
  • Create Designated Meet Up Times and Locations
  • Prepare An “Exit Strategy” and Have An Emergency Back Up Plan

Sexual assault and sexual harassment continues to remain a topic geared toward “victim blaming” rather than survivor empowerment, education, and awareness. Sexual assault and sexual harassment are especially unnoticed at music festival contexts where drugs, alcohol, and music are perceived to be a lethal combination inciting “carefree hookups” and sexual promiscuity.

Criminal Law Professor Dr. Hannah Bows addresses the significance and prevalence of sexual assault and harassment at music festivals in the following quote, “”Concerns about crime and safety, particularly around sexual violence and harassment, has been emerging over the last few years and a number of festival initiatives have been established to raise awareness and prevent sexual violence and harassment… “We wanted to provide evidence to inform festival management about the concerns festival goers have in relation to crime and safety and how common different types of victimization are, including sexual violence and harassment.”

To combat the rising growth of sexual harassment and assault at music festivals, the Good Night Out campaign was launched in 2014 in the United Kingdom, a law was approved in the United Kingdom banning the illegal photography under women’s skirts, and many festivals have implemented Sexual Assault Referral Center at music festivals and concerts. 

Music festivals are a time to enjoy music and live in the moment. Have fun, but always remember that your safety is the most powerful note of the night. #consentrocks 


BBC News. (2018, June 18). ‘Shocking’ level of sexual harassment at music festivals. Retrieved from
Deployed Resources (2018, June 13). The rising trends of music festivals in the U.S. Retrieved from
Festival Angels. Retrieved from
Hu, C. (2016, November 27). What the top 50 global music festivals reveal about today’s live music industry. Retrieved from
Lynch, J. (2015, April 22). Check out these surprising stats about U.S. music festivals. Retrieved from
O’Malley, K. (2019, April 12). What is Upskirting and when did it become a criminal offence? Retrieved from
Petter, O. (2018, August 20). Two-thirds of women concerned about sexual harassment at festivals, study finds. Retrieved from
Yougov. (2018, June 21). Two in five young women female festival goers have been subjected to unwanted sexual behavior. Retrieved from

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