The Monterey Pop Festival embodied the theme of California as a focal point for the counterculture and is generally regarded as one of the beginnings of the "Summer of Love" in 1967; the first rock festival had been held just one week earlier at Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, the KFRC Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival. Because Monterey was widely promoted and heavily attended, featured historic performances, and was the subject of a popular theatrical documentary film, it became an inspiration and a template for future music festivals, including the Woodstock Festival two years later.
The festival was planned in seven weeks by John Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas, record producer Lou Adler, Alan Pariser and publicist Derek Taylor. Monterey and Big Sur had been known as the site for the long-running Monterey Jazz Festival and Big Sur Folk Festival; the promoters saw the Monterey Pop festival as a way to validate rock music as an art form in the way in which jazz and folk were regarded. The organizers succeeded beyond all expectations.
The artists performed for free with all revenue donated to charity, except for Ravi Shankar, who was paid $3,000 for his afternoon-long performance on the sitar. Country Joe and the Fish were paid $5,000 not by the festival itself, but from revenue generated from the D.A. Pennebaker documentary. The artists did however have their flights and accommodation paid for. Apart from Shankar, each act was given up to 40 minutes for their performance. Several ended their sets earlier, including the Who, who played for only 25 minutes.
Lou Adler later reflected:
ur idea for Monterey was to provide the best of everything – sound equipment, sleeping and eating accommodations, transportation – services that had never been provided for the artist before Monterey ... We set up an on-site first aid clinic, because we knew there would be a need for medical supervision and that we would encounter drug-related problems. We didn't want people who got themselves into trouble and needed medical attention to go untreated. Nor did we want their problems to ruin or in any way disturb other people or disrupt the music ... Our security worked with the Monterey police. The local law enforcement authorities never expected to like the people they came in contact with as much as they did. They never expected the spirit of 'Music, Love and Flowers' to take over to the point where they'd allow themselves to be festooned with flowers.