Author:Madonia, Molly R.
  1. INTRODUCTION II. INFLUENCE OF MUSIC FESTIVALS OF THE PAST III. POLITICAL AND LEGISLATIVE CONCERNS OF THE MODERNMUSIC FESTIVAL A. State law 1. Preservation of the Recreation Exception 2. Why is this important to the modern music festival? 3. Overbroad Legislation: Knives and the Trespass Statute B. Federal law 1. The Americans with Disabilities Act 2. Trademark Protection IV. TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION WITHIN THE MODERNMUSIC FESTIVAL A. Streaming B. The Internet, Online Contests, and Legal Concerns of the Federal Trade Commission V. CONCLUSION "I can see a lone artist with a lot of tapes and electrical ... like an extension of the Moog synthesizer--a keyboard with the complexity and richness of a whole orchestra, y'know? There's somebody out there, working in a basement, just inventing a whole new musical form. We'll hear about it in a couple years. Whoever it is, though, I'd like him to be really popular, to play at large concerts, not just be on records--at Carnegie Hall, to play at dances"

    Jim Morrison, The Doors. (1)


    Musical festivals are, and have always been, a way for friends and families to gather together to celebrate the latest and greatest in music, food, and entertainment. From large festivals in major metropolitan cities to small, intimate shows, music festivals have long been a source of enjoyment to music fans and a source of inspiration to up-and-coming musicians. This Article will explore innovation within the modern music festival, including legal, political, and operational changes that affect festivals across the country. So, as Emerson, Lake, and Palmer so eloquently expressed, "Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends, we're so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside." (2)


    An entire article could be written on the tremendous and invaluable influence of music festivals of the past on today's festivals. From location, to demographics, to marketing, to innovation, the music festivals of the sixties and seventies continue to influence today's events, both nationally and internationally. Below are a few examples of how former festivals shaped the way we plan, produce, and attend festivals today.

    First and foremost, music festivals of the past shaped the direction and mission of today's festivals by presenting a simple question: What type of festival does the reader want to have? For example, is your festival marketed toward the younger, more socially-conscious crowd? Are you planning a family-centric festival? Or are you hosting a classic, rock-centered party with plenty of throwbacks to festivals of yesteryear? Each of these festival types has a myriad of concerns unique to each scenario showcased by the trials and successes of the early festivals.

    Fortunately for Summerfest, (3) the early years of the festival encompassed all of the above demographics. For example, the early producers recognized the need for an affordable ticket so the community's youth could attend the festival. (4) For this reason, the $1.25 Youth Fest admission was reduced to $0.50 if patrons brought in soda bottle caps. (5) Echoed in today's promotions, in collaboration with supportive sponsors, Summerfest is able to reflect this commitment to the younger demographics, families, and financially-conscious guests by continuing a similar pricing strategy. Just as Summerfest 1968 received praise for these efforts, (6) today's admission promotions continue to enjoy great success at the box office and have been among the most popular box office attractions.

    One of the most obvious evolutions in Summerfest history is the changing landscape of Henry Maier Festival Park itself. In an effort to make the grounds more enjoyable to all patrons, Summerfest made its first capital improvements in the 1970s, ranging from a new roof on the main stage (7) to a functional marketplace. (8) In the 1980s, paved walkways replaced gravel paths, (9) new bathroom facilities were added, (10) and Summerfest welcomed several new stages, including the Amphitheater in 1987. (11) All of these projects reflected the continuing innovation within the festival landscape; festivalgoers deserved newer amenities, safer grounds, and high-level talent. By responding to popular demand, the festival demonstrated both its commitment to its guests and its potential for longevity. As Summerfest continues to adapt to the newest amenities, such as mobile phone charging stations, virtual reality, and concert streaming, it navigates the modern music festival landscape at a level expected from top-tier entertainment venues by offering the latest and greatest comforts to its guests.


    Although the music festival industry was built on feelings of "fighting the man," the modern music festival recognizes the need, purpose, and helpfulness of political and legislative initiatives. The following is a discussion of how state and federal laws are incorporated into the operation of the modern music festival.

    1. State law

      The laws of the state of Wisconsin govern the majority of Summerfest operations. For this reason, the legal department must monitor changes to the legislative landscape for any changes to policies that would affect the safety and security of summerfest guests. The below statutes encompass two of the more important legislative policies in recent years. Accompanied by a brief explanation, these two statutes were selected to show how the modern music festival innovates within and adapts to changes in state legislative policy.

      1. Preservation of the Recreation Exception

        one of the most important legal issues within the modern music festival is protecting the festival from liability, especially if that music festival serves alcoholic beverages. While responsible imbibing is encouraged for the enjoyment of all of-age patrons, overindulgence can lead to injury. Thankfully, the legislature has recognized this issue and instituted the so-called "recreation exception" to liability, codified in Wisconsin Statute section 895.52. In sum, the statute relieves the owners, officers, and all other management personnel of non-profit organizations from liability for injuries that occur on premises that are used for recreational purposes. (12) This interpretation means that all persons that elect to visit a theme park, a music festival, a farm used for tours, or other location used specifically for outdoor recreational activity may not hold the owner of the property liable for injuries sustained while on the property. As with any statute, there are exceptions (e.g., some state-owned properties are still liable, malicious failure to warn is still actionable, etc.), and these exceptions fully apply to those participating in traditional outdoor activities, such as ice fishing or even saying hi to your neighbor. so, the next time you see a patron at a fair attempting to capture a runaway steer, consider the recreational immunity statute, and let them know they are engaged in recreational activity and should watch their step because the fair organizer is immune from liability. (13)

      2. Why is this important to the modern music festival?

        First, the recreational immunity statute applies to non-profits, allowing organizations that could not afford to fully litigate an issue a reprieve from potentially expensive and reputation-harming action. The statute allows the non-profit to focus on hosting an activity that aligns with its mission. Secondly, it encourages personal accountability; if a patron enters a mosh pit, hopefully they will have the wherewithal to be aware of their surroundings. The combination of these important points creates a need for the exception, a functional and legal approach to ensuring that patrons act in a responsible manner, and a way for non-profits to continue to focus on their missions.

      3. Overbroad Legislation: Knives and the Trespass Statute

        In 2016, Wisconsin enacted Act 149, which modified the weapons regulation statute to remove "knives" from the list of weapons that may not be concealed and carried without a permit. (14) This meant that there was no prohibition against openly carrying a...

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