Music festivals – and scenes like this one – are returning.

Will the Show Go On? World’s Largest Music Festivals React to Covid

Music festivals are returning around the world as many places are emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In 2018, the BBC put together a list highlighting some of the world’s largest music festivals. Here’s which festivals are returning this summer – and how they’re planning to do it.

EXIT Festival

As we start to exit the pandemic, one fittingly named event is returning to the festival scene. Per the BBC, the EXIT Festival in Novi Sad, Serbia, draws crowds of 200,000. It will return for its 20th anniversary July 8-11. The event is branding itself as EXIT 2.0 and using the tagline “Celebrate Life.” 

According the festival’s website, attendees must be vaccinated and pass a Covid test. The site says the event’s return is possible in part due to a vaccination drive targeting younger people.

EXIT also announced plans to bring a celebration of electronic music to the U.S. with a festival in Miami on June 20.


EXIT said high U.S. vaccination rates made its Miami event possible. The success of vaccinations has led Milwaukee to lift its masking and distancing rules. This change could lead to a normal return of the city’s music festival, Summerfest. 

Per the BBC, the event draws around 850,000 patrons. The state is hoping the allure of music leads to an uptick in vaccinations, as well. A vaccine drive-thru at the festival site is offering free tickets to those who get the shot. 

Summerfest’s website says the event is slated for the first three weekends of September and does not yet list any Covid guidelines. 

Music festival fans sing and dance to a song.

Danube Island Festival

While EXIT and Summerfest got creative to encourage vaccinations, the Danube Island Festival (Donauinselfest) in Austria got creative to keep the show going in 2020. Visit Vienna says festival organizers took the show on the road in the form of an 80-day bus tour through various parks. 

This year, organizers moved the event from June to September and scaled it down. Visit Vienna says, “Local acts will dominate given the obvious difficulties with booking international acts at the moment.” Additionally, a smaller bus tour will run from August to September, the site notes.

According to the BBC, the festival holds the Guinness World Record for largest attendance at a music festival with 3.3 million fans attending in 2015. While that many people may not be able to make it, the return to a more normal format will surely be welcomed.


Polish music festival Pol’and’Rock, which the BBC says averages 400,000 attendees, will return this June. Per a Polish news source, the event’s location has moved, and fans must show proof of vaccination and pass a Covid test. Because of this, the usually free event will sell tickets covering the cost of those Covid protocols. 

Some music festivals are closed for another year, though.

Glastonbury Festival

However, not all the festivals headlining this star-studded list of the world’s largest are returning in 2021. 

The Glastonbury Festival in southwest England normally draws around 200,000 people, but it drew an online-only crowd this year. Event organizers decided to cancel this summer’s event back in January. Performers put on live-streamed shows, but technical difficulties marred the first live stream.

The British government has allowed some events to return to the festival site, though. Per the Somerset County Gazette, concerts can return in September. Still, attendance will be capped at 49,999 total people (including staff) and camping will not be allowed.

Rock in Rio

Rock in Rio, which the BBC says draws crowds of around 700,000, will not happen in 2021. Per LoudWire, however, 2020 and 2021 tickets will be valid, so Rio should be rocking again after consecutive cancelations.


Mawazine in Rabat, Morocco, averages 2 million attendees for its shows featuring Arabic, African, and international acts. The event’s account has not tweeted since March 2020, and Everfest says the event is canceled. Morocco World News says that, even as lockdown lifts, an 11:00 pm curfew and 100-person cap on outdoor gatherings are still intact.

Vaccines are helping music festivals return.

How More Music Festivals Can Return

These cancelations outside of the U.S. and Europe show the importance of vaccinating the world. Accordingly, faith leaders and international agencies have come together to call for global vaccine equity. Last week, G7 world leaders pledged to donate one billion vaccines and the U.S. announced a donation of 500 million.

IIFX has laid out expert-created guidelines in its Return to Work, Play, and Spectate guide; and high local vaccine uptake makes reopening venues much easier. Indeed, more shots in arms can provide both relief and a return to normal across the globe. 

This article first appeared in our biweekly newsletter, the IIFXtra. Sign up here to get the latest from IIFX delivered straight to your inbox.

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