This paper addresses the theme of this special issue of MIA in the context of music festivals. It discusses the continuing growth of music festivals as avenues for musical performance, and for regional economic development, and considers what festivals mean for musicians in terms of changing audience demographics and the conditions of work. Festivals are increasingly important for musicians in building audiences and incomes. They have proliferated particularly in rural, coastal and ex-urban parts of Australia, linked to day-tripper and shortstay tourism and the wider socioeconomic transition of those places. Festivals both reflect and contribute to social and cultural changes, such as the diffusion of musical genres with specialist audiences, inward migration of particular demographic groups and shifting place identities. They also offer new opportunities for places seeking to develop tourism, and local music and performance-based industries. This paper explains these trends, and draws on results from a recent large research exercise that sought to document the extent and impact of festivals. Although they are not new, festivals continue to reconfigure musical touring networks, audiences and performance opportunities. Such reconfigurations have occurred with less public fanfare than developments surrounding digital technology and downloading cultures, but their influence on the working lives of musicians is no less profound.