What Are the Differences Between a Concert and a Festival?

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Both concerts and festivals can be amazing, once in a life time experiences, and while both are more or less events where you listen to bands play live music, they can actually be quite different, and whether you want to go to one or the other will likely depend on what kind of experience you’re hoping to have. This article will explain those differences, discuss what to mainly expect when attending either a concert or a festival, and hopefully help you choose which you’d prefer. Or maybe both!

What Is a Concert?

While there’s no decidedly formal definition of what a concert is or entails exactly, and events called “concerts” can vary pretty significantly, a concert is basically a live show that’s focused on a single main band.

What Is a Festival?

Similarly, there’s no formal definition of what a festival is exactly, and they too can vary greatly between one another, but a festival is basically a larger scale and longer duration gathering with at least several live bands, often playing at the same time.

Now we’ll discuss in full detail the main differences between concerts and festivals:

Difference #1: Size – Festivals Are Typically Much Bigger Than Concerts Are

The major difference between a festival and a concert is that a festival is, on average, going to be many times larger. The biggest concerts are typically stadium/arena shows, which typically top out at around fifty thousand attendees, whereas the biggest festivals can easily exceed one million attendees.

Difference #2: Variety – Festivals Typically Offer More to Do Than Concerts Do

With several to maybe even tens of bands typically featured at festivals, who are often playing simultaneously, there’s obviously going to be more musical variety, and part of the appeal of festivals is having the option to dabble in a lot of different music.

Another reason that festivals are typically much larger than concerts is that festivals often offer, as part of their selling point, much more to do and amenities in addition to the music. It’s not uncommon for festivals to feature a variety of food and drink trucks, silent disco dance parties, art exhibits, games, interesting speakers, and all kinds of other stuff that people might want to do.

Difference #3: Duration – Festivals Last Much Longer Than Concerts Do

A concert is generally a shorter event that very rarely exceeds a few hours, whereas a festival is usually a full day at a minimum but can span multiple days or even weeks in some cases.

Related: how long does a concert typically last?

One major aspect of festivals, due to their often multi-day duration, is camping – people will often bring tents and other relevant gear in order to stay overnight or for several days. Camping is in fact a major aspect of festival life and culture – people like to escape the reality of day to day life and live removed in a different world, so to speak, and many popular festivals have developed their own sort of unique cultural universes that people specifically like to be in.

the massive encampments of the infamous Burning Man festival (image credit: Duncan Rawlinson)

Difference #4: Price – Festivals Are Generally Significantly More Expensive to Attend Than Concerts Are

Most tickets for a concert with a reasonably popular/renowned band and venue will be in the 25-100 dollar range, whereas most festival tickets will cost $150-$500. And then, additionally, there’s the ancillary costs of transportation, food and drink, and camping if you’re planning on an extended stay.

Going to a concert can be a somewhat spontaneous splurge, whereas going to a week long festival, for example, is really not that much different than going on a week long vacation – the latter will take planning and a budget that will be significant money for most people.

Difference #5: Environment – Concerts Are Usually Indoors and Festivals Are Usually Outdoors

Most music concerts happen in indoor venues that usually have seating, or a designated standing area depending on the type of ticket you get. Festivals, on the other hand, are almost always outdoors in places like parks or fields, mainly because that’s the only way to realistically accommodate events of that size. If you’re going to a festival, you will probably have to prepare to deal with the weather and being outdoors, and if you want to be able to sit down to watch a band it’s pretty common to bring an outdoor folding chair.

Difference #6: The Crowd and Atmosphere

The crowd at a concert is absolutely there to see the band, and as such is generally very enthusiastic, engaged, and energetic. There’s definitely sense of camaraderie amongst fellow concert attendees, who can quickly bond over the fact that they love the band that has likely had a significant impact on each of their lives.

A great example of a tuned in crowd instinctively chanting “Angus!” between his intro riffs of “A Whole Lotta Rosie”

The crowd at a festival, on the other hand, isn’t necessarily there for any one main reason, and will generally be more low key and casual. It’s not unusual for festival patrons to continually meander between different stages while various bands are playing.

Neither atmosphere is necessarily better than the other – for some, or sometimes, the high energy crowd of a concert can be fun and exhilarating, and other times the more relaxed crowd of a festival can be pleasant and relaxing.

So, Is It Better to Go To a Concert or Festival?

Chances are after reading this, you realize – and this is indeed the implied answer to the question – that neither is entirely or objectively better than the other. Going to a concert or festival are respectively different experiences, and while it’s true that the veteran event-goers generally end up preferring one or the other, odds are you’ll find that going to both a good concert and festival, at least once, is a great and worthwhile experience.