Big Noise: A Look at the World’s Largest Music Festivals



Traveling for a major music festival is a bucket list experience for many people. Since the turn of the millennium, music festivals have become powerful cultural institutions. Though the idea of getting together to party and enjoy new music is nothing new, the vast scale of today’s festivals would have raised a few brows back in the day.

If you want to see and be seen, there’s no cooler prospect than heading to one of the world’s biggest and most expansive music festivals. Though the non-initiated might be thinking about Burning Man or Coachella, neither makes the list in terms of sheer size. Let’s take a closer look at the official list of the world’s largest music festivals.


Every summer, around 200,000 music fans pack into venues in Pilton, Great Britain. This event is one of the most well-known in the world thanks to its diverse line of musicians. In fact, some prepare for the big event each year by gearing up with games, including slots that focus on musical themes and beloved bands.

Though it might sound odd, slots are the world’s most popular casino game and can be accessed digitally from remote locations. Along with musical themes, there are plenty of party themes that can also lift the mood when festival season rolls around.


Summerfest is probably the largest music festival that you’ve never heard of. Each year, around 800,000 guests pack into venues around Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This 11-day festival takes visitors to the shores of Lake Michigan, where they can explore different stages and tons of different musical groups. Until 1999, it was the world’s largest music festival.

Rock in Rio

Once upon a time, Rio de Janeiro was home to the world’s biggest music festival: Rock in Rio. Today, it’s still up there with around 700,000 annual guests. As the name suggests, there’s always been an emphasis on rock music since it first launched in 1985 (at which time Queen headlined).


It’s worth noting that Rock in Rio also performs well in terms of remote viewers. It’s estimated that around 200 million people watched the very first televised version of the event. Today, there’s a large lineup that includes acts from far beyond the world of rock.


As with Montreal (below), the idea behind starting the massive Mawazine festival in Morrocco was to support the promotion of Rabat. This coastal city wasn’t on the map globally—but it certainly is now. Over two million guests regularly attend this massive festival each June, which brings on the biggest acts from around the world.

  • The venues are modern, but the city is steeped in ancient history, which adds a dash of intrigue that other festivals simply can’t match. In 2024, guests can choose between six different venues as they watch some of the world’s top acts—though this year’s guests haven’t yet been announced.    

Montreal International Jazz Festival

With an estimated two million visitors each year, Montreal’s International Jazz Festival dwarfs other competitors—including New Orleans’ famously long list of jazz-centric and jazz-inspired music festivals. The event kicked off back in the 1980s, at which point it was designed to boost tourism and also celebrate the wonders of jazz.


Today, there are over 150 live performances that take place at indoor and outdoor venues across the city. Best of all, many of the events are free to the public, which makes this massive festival incredibly accessible. According to some sources, around 1,500 kilos of fries are consumed at the festival each year—which also makes it a great option for fans of poutine.


Many of the festivals listed here include free entry for certain shows and programs. So it might not surprise you to hear that the world’s largest festival is actually totally free. Each year, around three million guests head to Vienna, Austria to join the masses at this three-day festival.

The music tends to be a bit more focused on electronic dance music, but there’s plenty of variation. In fact, there are usually over one thousand performers who take to stages around the city.