Music Festival Analysis: The Ultimate Line-Up

  • Calvin Harris is the UK’s favorite festival headliner, with seven performances in a decade
  • Only 6% of UK music festival headline artists have been female over the past ten years
  • Hip-hop is the most popular genre across the UK festival scene, 12% of all headliners
  • Martin Garrix is the most common internationally, with 15 appearances in ten years
Music festival crowd
VSO has completed research to find out the top music festival headliners in the UK and across the rest of the world. [Image:]

Whether you’re in the deserts of Coachella or the muddy fields of Glastonbury, the world is full of incredible music festivals. Each year, festivals around the globe attract a stellar line-up of artists from across every genre, with some performers returning to certain festivals time and time again.

With this in mind, we’ve looked at some of the most iconic festivals in the world and analyzed their line-up over the last ten years to reveal which artists are the most common headliners, which genres are the most popular, and what the gender split is for artists across festivals in the UK and internationally.

The UK’s 15 most common festival headliners

The UK is the home of great music festivals, with over 800 taking place each year. With the likes of Glastonbury and Isle of Wight Festival attracting some of the biggest artists from around the world, it’s no surprise that many of these names have returned to headline in the UK year after year.

Our research found that the UK’s most-common headliner is Calvin Harris, who has taken the headliner spot seven times at the five most popular UK-based music festivals in the past ten years. Electronic-dance festival Creamfields has asked him back to headline five times since 2014, and various other UK festivals have also been lucky enough to have him perform. A variety of EDM, house, and trance DJs make up the rest of the top three, with Armin van Buuren, Martin Garrix, and Tiesto in joint second place with six headline appearances, and David Guetta in third, with a total of five UK headline slots.

Just 6% of artists headlining UK based music festivals were female over the past decade

As with international festivals, the male and female split for headliners in the UK is massive. A staggering 89% of festival headliners over the last ten years have been male, and just 6% of artists headlining were solely female. Most of those women have only performed once, though artists such as Billie Eilish, Cardi B, Heather Small, and Nicki Minaj have all hit the main stages twice in the UK. Glastonbury received significant backlash earlier this year after revealing an all-male line-up for its 2023 headliners. Organizer Emily Eavis has put this down to a lack of viable female headliner options due to an industry ‘pipeline’ issue.

With huge names such as Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, and Stormzy having performed multiple times across some of the UK’s biggest festivals, the most popular genre across the UK festival scene in the last ten years is hip hop, taking 12% of all headline slots. Following very closely behind with 11% of the headline performances is alternative rock, with bands such as Biffy Clyro, Kasabian, and Muse having all headlined over three times in the UK. With almost a quarter of the top ten most popular artists coming from the genre, it comes as no surprise that EDM is the third most common music category, with 9% of all headline appearances coming from some of the world’s top DJs.

Most common international festival headliners

The international music festival scene has really taken off over the last decade. Every year, thousands of people fly across the world to see some of their favorite acts, with festivals like Tomorrowland in Belgium and Summerfest in the US attracting over 400,000 festival-goers each year.

There is a clear winner for the most popular international headliner, with Martin Garrix having performed a huge 15 times across some of the world’s major festivals. Given the DJ’s popularity within the progressive house genre, it’s no surprise that six of these appearances have been at electronic-dance music festival EDC Las Vegas.

Almost the whole of the top three is made up of electronic artists, with Above & Beyond, David Guetta, and Diplo all in joint second place with a total of nine international headline appearances each. In third place are DJs Hardwell and Kaskade with eight performances, though they are also joined by Red Hot Chili Peppers who are the only rock band to make it into the top three.

Interestingly, when looking at festivals across just Latin America, UK pop rock band The 1975 are the most common headliner, with the band having performed across festivals in Brazil and Mexico a massive seven times.

When looking at international headliners over the last decade, there is a huge gender split. Males artists have taken 77% of all headline slots over the last ten years, while solo females have made up just 12%. The only woman to make it into the top five most popular headliners is DJ Alison Wonderland, who has performed seven times at festivals such as Tomorrowland and EDC Las Vegas.

9% of all headline performances in the last decade have come from the EDM genre

Indie rock has been revealed as the most popular genre across international music festivals, taking up 10% of all headline slots. Big indie bands such as Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, and The National have all returned multiple times to play at some of the world’s biggest festivals. 9% of all headline performances in the last decade have come from the EDM genre, and alternative rock is the third most popular genre with 8% of all headline appearances.

While there isn’t too much of a split between the types of acts, bands do take up 52% of headline slots, compared with 46% for solo acts.

How to make the most out of your festival experience

Are you heading to a festival this summer to catch your favorite artist? Whether you’re staying close to home or flying further afield, we have a few top tips to help you make the most out of any festival experience.

  1. Know the schedule in advance

Most festivals release a preliminary schedule before the event. Take a look beforehand and note down any must-see artists. You don’t want to miss out on seeing your favorite band just because you forgot to check the timings!

Having said that, don’t be too rigid in plans, allowing room for spontaneity is all part of the fun of festivals.

  1. Plan your journey

Whether you’re staying local or heading further afield, it’s important to sort travel plans ahead of time to avoid any stress. If you’re planning to drive to the festival, make sure you’ve bought any festival car passes ahead of time, or look at public transport for a more sustainable travel option.

If you’re heading to a festival abroad, book flights and travel as early as possible to ensure you get the best deals. Lots of international festivals also don’t offer camping or accommodation, so you might need to factor this into your plans. If you decide to stay in a hotel, make sure it’s near the festival – the last thing you need is to be trekking across the city to get to the arena.

  1. Come prepared

Although rules will differ for each festival, lots of events let you bring your own food and drink, especially if you’re camping at the festival. Bringing your own reusable water bottle is also a super simple trick that can keep you hydrated throughout the festival.

Don’t forget the essentials such as sun cream, painkillers, and blister plasters, and pack for all weathers too – even if you’re heading to a beachside festival, you can never be sure what the weather might have in store.

  1. Have fun

Festivals are an incredible experience, and give you the chance to see some of your favorite artists and bands all in one place. Whether it’s your first festival or your fiftieth, you’re guaranteed good times and great music as you dance the days away alongside your friends and family.

Sources and methodology

VegasSlotsOnline pulled together a seed list of popular music festivals around the globe and analyzed their line-up over the past ten years to determine the most popular headliners. The research also looked into the most common genres and the gender split of headliners for these festivals.

To determine the music festival seed list, the following sources were used: Music Festival, Wizard, YouGov, and Statista.

Headline act information was found using both Wikipedia and Music Festival Wizard.

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