Like many music festivals, The Governors Ball Music Festival, known as Gov Ball, was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

This year, many promised to return. Top events like Gov Ball in New York City, Outside Lands in San Francisco, and Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas delayed their summer dates to later in the year in order to safeguard against coronavirus surges. Six million people are expected to attend music festivals in the second half of 2021, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino said in an August call with investors.

"Everyone who works in the live music business — forget the fans for a second — were very eager and excited to get back to work," Founders Entertainment co-founder and partner Jordan Wolowitz said.

The global live events industry lost an estimated $30 billion in revenue, according to music industry publication Pollstar. It hasn't rebounded fully yet, but there are signs it may be coming back. Live Nation, which owns Gov Ball parent company Founders Entertainment, said demand has driven the average ticket price up 10 percent compared to 2019. 

A decade ago, the biggest challenge Gov Ball faced was getting off the ground. Wolowitz and Tom Russell had a dream to bring an all-ages music festival to New York City with artists spanning a variety of genres. The two quit their jobs,and put their minds together to bring 12 acts on stage in 2011.

"We attended so many music festivals as kids and as teenagers and in college, but we realized that our hometown never had a big festival," Wolowitz said.

Fast forward to 2021. The Governors Ball Music Festival, which was held September 24-26 in the Citi Field parking lot in Queens brought in more than 150,000 attendees to see Billie Eilish, Megan Thee Stallion, Bleachers, Post Malone, A$AP Rocky, and more. It was part of the return of the large-scale multi-day music festival, following Chicago's Lollapalooza which was held July 29-August 1.

"It was really a strong point of pride for us to be able to build that from the ground up and really see Gov Ball start out from one day to two days to three days, and then grow to what it's become today," said Founders Entertainment head of partnerships Alex Joffe.

Rules were different than in years past. Similar to Lollapalooza, a COVID-19 vaccination record or recent proof of a negative COVID-19 test was required before each day of attendance. Masks were encouraged. The rules have now become standard at most U.S. festivals.

The year-and-a-half without music meant using online popularity to judge which acts to book. In the past, Wolowitz would take into account ticket sales in the tri-state region to predict whether a musician could bring in an audience. But with no live shows in 2020, streams and TikTok views, as well as word of mouth, became paramount.

Brands were also more than eager to get to those festivals as well. Multi-year deals at Gov Ball now run in the six and seven-figure range. Many companies' requests were turned down this year by the team because of a lack of sponsorship opportunities and concern about oversaturation.

"It's a testament not only to the Gov Ball experience but brands who understand the value of real-time connections, " Joffe said. "We missed that for 18 months, right?"

But the most important thing was just making sure the music could be live again, Wolowitz pointed out.

"[I] just really missed live music and doing what we do with Gov Ball," he admitted.