Creating a Culture at Bonnaroo

Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is an annual four-day music festival that is produced by Superfly Presents and AC Entertainment. Every year it is held at Great Stage Park in Manchester, Tennessee. This past year Bonnaroo celebrated its 13th anniversary and was held from June 12th through the 15th. They hosted an impressive lineup, with artists including Elton John, Kayne West, The Avett Brothers and Skrillex.


If you know anyone that has ever attended Bonnaroo, they most likely explained to you the culture that forms during the experience. This could be seen through the theory, Cultural Approach to Organizations. Geertz (1973) explains through this theory that organizations and attendees at large events form their own culture. The groups formulate a culture where experiences are shared between the individuals. Bonnaroo exemplifies this. During the festival, fans live together for four whole days. They share their space and integrate into each other’s lives.

In the video above the culture and comradery of the events are visualized. The short film speaks on how the “eclectic” group of people there forms a community during their time at the festival. However, it raises the question:  is the “community” really formed from unity and love or is it a method to keep people committed to returning to the festival?

Bonnaroo attracts 75,000 to 85,000 fans a year, many of whom are dedicated returnees. By taking advantage and promoting the idea of a community at the festival, the owners work to create clear brand image in order to keep and gain customers alongside making revenue. Looking through the  Cultural Approach to Organization helps us to understand how groups that share nothing in common other than taking part in a similar activity can become a distinct culture. Have you ever felt loyalty to an event or product because you feel as if you are part of a community of patrons?

-Olivia Sadler, Margaret Cafasso, Hannah Zeskind, Kierstin Geary, and Connor Gold

2 thoughts on “Creating a Culture at Bonnaroo

  1. The last few posts have been about various music festivals and it has been interesting to see how the “same thing” can be examined from different perspectives and through different theoretical lenses. We can look at how a festival is promoted and, as in this post, how it is co-created through the interactions of the participants. Geertz is good for this. The culture is preserved and expressed not only through behavior but story. Who or what is the hero for Bonnaroo stories? What I would find interesting is how a festival like Bonnaroo is able to reconcile bringing in an artist like Kanye West who was discussed in an earlier post. Would you recommend bringing him in if you were Bonaroo organizers? Does he fit the brand despite the “eclectic” nature of the event? What are the narrative elements you could use to explain your decision?

  2. Thanks for your comment! In relation to the “Kanye” question I think he actually fits in well with the eclectic image of the festival because he adds to the diversity of the performers. Bonnaroo prides itself on featuring a wide variety of genres and popularity levels in their line up, and that is one of the reasons why it is such a popular festival. Bonnaroo’s community environment relies on the stories told by the people who attend and people like Kayne can add to these stories.
    -Olivia Sadler

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