St. Jerome's Laneway Festival began in 2005 when Jerome Borazio and Danny Rogers decided that summers in Melbourne would be far better with more live music in unique settings. First came the "St. Jerome's Summer Series" each Sunday afternoon, featuring "new" bands of the time, including The Presets and Architecture in Helsinki. They then included a monthly Saturday night called "Brains" (which was actually a residency for musical act The Avalanches).
Borazio and Rogers eventually convinced The Avalanches that they could close the lane, remove the bins and stage a laneway party. With the addition of promotional material and other acts, the inaugural St. Jerome's Laneway Festival was launched. The line-up included: The Avalanches, Art of Fighting, Eskimo Joe, The Dears, Cut Copy, Architecture in Helsinki, Clare Bowditch, the Feeding Set and Gersey.
Following an total attendance of 1,400 people at the first Laneway Festival, it was announced later in 2005 that Laneway was expanding to Sydney, Australia.
In 2006, both Melbourne and Sydney hosted a lineup of both international and domestic artists, including: Broken Social Scene, Les Savy Fav, Gossip, Pretty Girls Make Graves, The Avalanches, The Posies, The Hold Steady, The Raveonettes and The Drones.
Just as Sydney's Laneway was becoming further established, Brisbane venue The Zoo staged the festival in 2007. Brisbane. A combination of street party and music show included performances from The Walkmen, Yo La Tengo, Peter Bjorn and John, Camera Obscura and Snowman.
In 2008, Laneway found a home at the Fowler's Live venue in Adelaide. Laneway Festival 2008 included performances by Feist, Gotye, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Presets, Stars, The Vasco Era, The Panics and Okkervil River.
Laneway Festival Perth happened for the first time in 2009. A FasterLouder review of the inaugural Perth event stated: "The promoter's move to bring the festival to Perth is the best decision taken since Howard's rejection from parliament. The awesome turnout attested to the West Australian respect for great music, which rivals that of our purportedly more urbane eastern counterparts".
The 2009 event featured Girl Talk, Stereolab, Architecture In Helsinki, The Hold Steady, The Drones, Cut Off Your Hands, Four Tet, Tame Impala, El Guincho, Jay Reatard, Buraka Som Sistema (DJ/MC set), The Temper Trap and No Age.
An announcement in October 2009 confirmed that the festival would be held in Auckland, New Zealand, from 2010 onwards.
In 2010, Laneway Festival implemented some significant changes to adapt to the growing stature of the event. After some considerable issues with the Melbourne site in 2009, Laneway left its original venue and moved to the inner western suburb of Footscray, with the support of the Footscray Community Arts Centre. Also, the Sydney event relocated from the site at Macquarie Park to the historical courtyards of the Sydney College of the Arts in Rozelle. The inaugural festival in Auckland, New Zealand, sold out.
The line-up in 2010 included: Florence and the Machine, Mumford and Sons, The XX, Kid Sam and Wild Beasts. In November 2010, the organizers announced Singapore as the first city to host the festival's expansion into Southeast Asia. Rogers stated: "We've been working on this [Singapore Laneway Festival] for ages and we're over the moon that everything lined up for 2011. We can't wait to host Laneway at the stunning Fort Canning Park, easily one of the best, most unique locations in the city."
For the inaugural Laneway Festival Singapore, music fans from all over Asia travelled to the Canning Park venue. Paul Kay, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time Out Hong Kong, wrote:
Finally, a music festival in Southeast Asia that's worthy of the name. A fantastic venue, a packed and up-for-it audience, and a lineup that mixed unimpeachable indie credibility with balls-out, dance-till-you-drop rock'n'roll euphoria, Laneway Singapore couldn't have asked for a better debut. Even the non-stop torrential rain couldn't wash the smile from my face.
The 2011 list of acts featured: Foals, Warpaint, Beach House, Two Door Cinema Club, Yeasayer, Deerhunter, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti and !!!, among others. Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis called it "the best line-up we've been a part of for a very long time," while the Vine website's Marcus Teague wrote: "the top-to-bottom completeness of this year's Laneway line-up will be hard to beat in future years. Its roster of quality new bands coupled with on-the-cusp outright stars is veritably unmatched by any other festival. There's next to no filler ... It also seems to breed a discerning music fan that's (largely) focussed on the music."
In March, Laneway Festival co-hosted a day party at the American SXSW festival—alongside North American agency The Windish Agency, independent British promoter Eat Your Own Ears, and Austin, Texas, publication Austinist—which featured Twin Shadow, Foster the People, Givers, Hanni El Khatib and Jamie Woon, among others. Eat Your Own Ears then invited the Laneway organisers to curate a stage at the August Field Day London event for the first time, which featured Matthew Dear, The Horrors and James Blake.
In 2012, Laneway Festival selected acts such as M83, Charlift, SBTRKT, Toro y Moi and Washed Out for that year's events. The festival recorded its highest tickets sales ever in Singapore, Auckland and Sydney in 2012. A Vine review stated: "This year's event seemed the most enjoyable yet … the 2012 Laneway proved that it's now an essential recurring destination on the calendar."
Laneway returned to SXSW in 2012—and again in partnership with The Windish Agency, Eat Your Own Ears and Austinist—to co-host the "Austin or Bust" day party that featured DZ Deathrays, Django Django and Chairlift. Laneway's organisers also returned to London's Field Day festival—in collaboration with Last.FM on this occasion—and showcased artists such as Blood Orange, Sleigh Bells, The Vaccines and Kindness.
The Laneway lineup in 2013 included: Bat for Lashes, Japandroids, Divine Fits, Alt-J, Of Monsters and Men, MS MR, Jessie Ware, Flume, Chet Faker, Pond and The Rubens. The Tone Deaf website wrote: "Laneway does not fail to live up to its reputation, putting the mega-corporate festivals to shame with [its] authenticity".
The festival continued to stage its events in New Zealand and Singapore, and programmed a stage at Field Day London for the third time. The Field Day stage featured a line-up of acts that included Charlie Boyer & The Voyeurs, Dark Bells and Django Django.
On 15 March 2013, Laneway Festival announced it will expand to Detroit, US, to make its North American debut on 14 September 2013. The inaugural Laneway Festival Detroit lineup was announced on 13 May 2013, and included co-headliners Sigur Rós and The National. The Detroit event also featured CHVRCHES, Solange, Savages, AlunaGeorge, Flume and Icona Pop. After spending some time in Detroit in 2012 at the invitation of the Palace Sports & Entertainment company, Rogers said he knew the city was Laneway’s next stop and first American venue: "Detroit is having its rebirth and as Laneway continues to evolve, we can identify with a city that is continuing to evolve as well ... It seemed like a great fit and this line-up seals it."
On 9 November 2013, Laneway Festival won Music Event of the Year at the West Australian Music Awards.
Laneway Festival sold out five of the seven events in 2014. The festival featured Vance Joy, Lorde, CHVRCHES, Haim, The Jezabels, Earl Sweatshirt, Four Tet, Jamie xx, Frightened Rabbit, Daughter, Warpaint, Danny Brown, Savages and King Krule. In regard to the line-up, Rogers said:
We’re exceptionally proud of this year’s line-up. As usual, the artists have been chosen on the strength of their music and their ability to deliver an insanely great live show. It’s why we couldn’t resist bringing a few international acts back and it’s why we are so thrilled to introduce you to some most exciting new artists this side of the world has seen for the very first time. This country has so many incredibly talented artists; if only we could bring them all along.
In 2014, the Perth event relocated from the Perth Cultural Centre to Esplanade Park in the port city of Fremantle. The new venue was chosen due to the event's growth in popularity, accommodating 12,000 people. Laneway also relocated in Adelaide and moved to the historical site of Hart's Mill, Port Adelaide. In regard to the Adelaide move, Rogers explained: "We searched super hard to find a site that we felt could match the experience that other cities have had with Laneway. Renewal SA, the City of Port Adelaide Enfield and a team of locals have worked with us to find a site that ticks all the boxes."
New Zealand artist Lorde was scheduled to perform at Laneway Festival Auckland on 27 January 2014; however, due to her attendance at the Grammy Awards ceremony on 26 January in Los Angeles, US, she was unable to perform. In lieu of her performance at the festival, Laneway's promoters announced a special stand-alone Lorde performance at the festival site at Silo Park, which was held on 29 January 2014.
Laneway Festival 2015 once again travelled around Australia (Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Fremantle, New Zealand (Auckland) and Singapore and featured performances from FKA twigs, Banks, Courtney Barnett, Flying Lotus, St. Vincent, Mac DeMarco, Pond, Connan Mockasin, Future Islands and Caribou amongst many others. Mac DeMarco's mother, Agnes DeMarco, was co-MC along with Australian musician/entertainer Spod. Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland and Singapore all sold out.
The original home of the laneway festival, St Jerome's, was shut down in 2009 by developers Colonial First State, while Caledonian Lane, the festival's original home, was demolished in January 2010.
†: Not playing AdelaidePort Adelaide, Brisbane, Fremantle, Melbourne & Sydney