It is on the longest day of the year – Fête de la musique (music festival) takes place every year on June 21st – no matter what the day of the week is. This year, it falls on a Tuesday.
This day is also the longest day of the year and the summer solstice, so music listeners can soak up lots of daylight while jamming to the band, DJ set, or orchestra playing on their street corner. Celebrations on the summer solstice aren’t specific to France – Nordic countries, where the sun doesn’t set on June 21st, also have their fair share of festivities in the daylight.
It was invented by an American – The concept came about back in the 70s when American musician Joel Cohen was working as a music producer for French National Radio (France Musique).
He came up with the idea of a day full of music to celebrate the solstices, originally proposing “Saturnales de la Musique” which would be celebrated on both June 21st and December 21st with a special musical program broadcast all night long.
His idea for the June festival did eventually catch on (although December 21st is not a festival day in France) and that’s how Fête de la musique as we know it was born,
It’s all over France…and the world – Fête de la musique is celebrated all over France, from small towns to large cities.
In 2019, over 10 million people took part, and depending on where you go, it does have the potential to get a bit rowdy.
It has also gone global, and over 100 countries celebrate it. It started being exported out of France as early as in 1985, during the “European Year of Music.” Then, in 1997, several other European cities signed onto a charter to be ‘partners of the European Music Festival.’ In the United States, several cities also take part, calling it “Make Music Day.”
It has become such a big deal that at one point in 1998 a postage stamp was dedicated to it, right alongside stamps for the Olympic Games and the Queen of England.
It’s on the French calendar, but not a public holiday – In 1982 the then-Culture Minister Jack Lang, launched the first official edition of the Fête de la Musique in France, with the help of Maurice Fleuret.
The French government got behind the idea and made it an official event and it’s been popular ever since.
That being said, even though the event is marked on French calendars, it is not a jour férié, so you don’t get the day off of work sadly.
Professionals and amateurs alike – Fête de la musique is not just for professional musicians – it is truly a democratised event where anyone and everyone can get involved.
Though a lot of big name musicians take advantage of the day to plan concerts or symphonies, you’ll still see plenty of amateur musicians out on the streets just playing their instruments or singing. You might even see people just set up a big speaker and blast whatever music they feel like listening to.
The goal of the day is to promote the arts, and give everyone dedicated time to appreciate music.
If you’re looking to figure out where and how to celebrate, you can go to this website to see which events are planned.