The Millennial Switch

That’s the reason I sent that Bonnaroo report yesterday, to illustrate it’s not the baby boomers’ business anymore, it’s not even Generation X’s.

We’ve been inundated with stories about the survival of classic rock bands, their road numbers, and the legacies of the early MTV acts, this is obscuring a fact that is becoming self-evident, the millennials have taken over. While boomers debated online music, decried Napster, bought iPods and then believed in files, the millennials weren’t even paying attention. File-trading was de rigueur and streaming is now the standard. It’s the oldsters who are reluctant to sign up for Spotify, not the youngsters, which is why the U.S. Top Fifty contains acts you’ve never heard of and don’t want to hear, because you’re still living in the last century, maybe even the first decade of this century, but it’s now 2017.

Maybe you caught the ascension of Kanye, his attack upon Taylor Swift, the sideshow. You’d seen it before, rap artist and teen phenom. But that obscured what was really going on. Hell, Kanye committed his faux pas at the MTV Video Music Awards. When was the last time you watched MTV? Do you even know what channel it is on? And when was the last time you even watched the VMAs, admit it, you stopped half a decade or so ago, when you no longer recognized the acts, which are all evanescent popsters.

That’s the new world.

The classic acts are irrelevant. Do you even know that Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie have a new album? They’re much more famous than all the acts on the top of the chart, but they haven’t even reached six digits on all tracks but one on Spotify. BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT LISTENING! You either didn’t sign up or don’t care or both. And the point is if you’re waiting for boomer acts to rescue the business, to bring rock back, to have an impact, you’re DREAMING! It almost doesn’t matter whether their new material is good or bad, MILLENNIALS DON’T CARE!

We keep hearing that there are no headliners. While Rihanna and rappers sell out arenas. Come on, you want an up close and personal experience, you don’t even want to go if you’re in the front row, not with 20,000 others. BUT THEY DO! It’s a tribal rite wherein they take selfies and document their adventures and bask in the glow of the new music.

Kind of like the EDM scene. How would you know what’s going on, ever been to a rave, never mind EDC? You’re clueless! Which is fine, because you’re old. But don’t crap on the youngsters.

The youngsters don’t expect the acts to last. And they don’t care about the album. And they care a lot about the backstory, the feuds, they research these acts on Wikipedia, follow them online. They just need something to listen to, they don’t care if it’s what they were listening to last week or the year before. And they don’t even care what the genre is, as long as it’s popular. They want to belong. They want to know what their brethren are listening to. And the experience is different. You sat in front of the stereo with your seeds and stems and nodded to the album. They take their music everywhere, it’s in the air, it’s the soundtrack to their multifarious lives.

And these are the same millennials pissed about college debt. The same millennials who threw a monkey wrench in the election on both the left and the right. That’s the story of 2016, how both the Republicans and the Democrats were clueless. How Sanders and Trump made such inroads. But Hillary keeps complaining it was somebody else’s fault and the Republicans are dumbstruck, unclear whether to follow Trump to the abyss or stand up for what they used to. Even Rubio is defending Trump!

And then there’s acquisition and driving. Boomers are about owning things. Remember the aphorism “He who dies with the most toys wins.”? Millennials don’t want to own ANYTHING, not even a car. They consume services, which they expect to be on demand. And why waste time going to a retail store when it can all be delivered to your house and sent back for free.

Of course there are exceptions, of course there are young shoppers and drivers, but we are concerned with the trends. And while the oldsters weren’t looking, the millennials took over. It wasn’t a coup, they don’t care about the aged, they just kept marching forward in their own direction, and with their mass and attention and spending power they moved the needle. Not only do you not see classic rock acts in the Top Fifty, you don’t see jam bands. You’ve got Max Martin saying songs have to hook you immediately and have multiple hooks and you’ve got rock bands with thirty second intros with lame vocals. Did you think this was gonna go on forever?

The change happened in plain sight.

Some people adjusted. Like Live Nation. Last year attendance at Bonnaroo was abysmal. So this year they stacked the stage with blue chips and youngsters, to see if the festival was viable. Even Coachella, going with Beyonce and then ultimately Gaga. It’s a young people’s business, they’re the ones supporting it, and you either play to them or…

You’re history.


From: Tom Forrest
Subject: Bonnaroo Winners and Losers



Long time reader in Nashville. Just got back from Bonnaroo. Started going in 2007. Even though I am in the Industry, I go with all non-industry guys who love music. Most of the our crew have been going 10+ years and roll 10+ hrs a day. 2017 was by far the most transformative year for Bonnaroo that I have seen and mostly for the better.



The Fans: There was a noticeably big increase in attendance this year. The fans wanted a more relevant line up, got one and came. Chance, The Weeknd and all the EDM shows were by far the main draw. As with every year, the kids were kind, energetic and having fun.

Chance the Rapper: Kept telling my crew that Chance was the main draw not U2 or RHCP. They looked at me like I was crazy but 95% of the ‘Rooers were all in on Chance. We squeezed way in on house right but soon bailed. It was a mosh pit 300 yards out. The Tennessean called Chance: the King of Bonnaroo this morning

The Other Stage: There were several modest changes in the Bonnaroo layout that were good. Centeroo was divided up some to make it less cumbersome to navigate, Hamegeddon moved as to not clog up tragic in front of Which Stage, THIS Tent moved to a better graded spot for better sight lines BUT by far the biggest addition was the changing The OTHER Tent to THE OTHER STAGE. The Other Stage is almost as big as the WHAT Stage (main) and 100% dedicated to EMD acts. The change went from a 5k tent to a 25-30k outdoor EDM stage. The kids loved it and was always packed.

Live Nation was the big winner. They took a festival that was running out of acts for an aging Hippie/Dead/Phish jam generation and gave it new life. Gone were the middling aging Americana acts or aging rockers on their 4th comeback tour that can’t sing anymore. Almost all the artists performing seemed currently relevant that a younger audience would know about. The best Bonnaroo weather ever will also certainly help Live Nation secure new fans for years to come. You could not help but have a good time. Here are the acts I thought killed it: Mondo Cosmo, Car Seat Headrest, Lucas Nelson, Joseph, Rainbow Kitten Surprise and Cage the Elephant. Best find: Boyfriend who performed in Christmas Barn.



U2: Don’t believe the hype of Rolling Stone and other bloggers. U2 was not a bust at Bonnaroo but it was by far not an epic moment as described. U2 were not the reason the majority of fans were there for. Both Chance and RHCP had double the audience. From my perspective, Bono seemed frustrated with the crowd for not knowing his songs. Bono pontificated after most songs and was struggling to know how far he could push it with the audience. He seemed to be holding back wanting to go off on Trump. At the end of the show Bono told everyone to go to bed and yelled “Fuck” into the mic. I am a U2 fan but Bono was off. The other half of the crowd that was not at U2 was taking a break before the next show at the OTHER Stage. The other thing Bono forgot is that its always someone first time seeing your show or hearing your music. Bono did very little to embrace that portion of the audience which was by far the most U2 has experienced in quite awhile.

This Tent/ That Tent: It was great to be able to see so many great acts up close in THIS Tent and THAT tent. In past years, you could not get close on the good acts but when the OTHER stage has 25k kids at it all day long, something has to give. Win for me.

The old Bonnaroo Hippie Spirit: The old time Bonnaroo hippies were noticeably absent. Its like they vanished. Very few tie die shirts. It was most noticeable on High Five Friday when the vast majority of the audience did not know what the custom was of high fives on Friday. The old hippie guard was not there to keep it rolling. Let’s hope that kind hippie spirit lives on regardless.

Ominous signs of Coachella: EDM is one thing. Its evident that kids love it and I like it. But I started to see signs of kids want to glam up Bonnaroo and make it a fashion statement. I do not think the trend will stick however, its too hard to camp in the dust, rain and mud for 4 days and be fashionable. Wait till next year when the heat and rain are back.


My thoughts might not make all that much sense but wanted to write them down and share.

Tom Forrest
Bonnaroo Fan
Nashville, TN

Comments are closed