How Has the Recession Affected Festivals?



How Has the Recession Affected Festivals

Since the financial and banking crisis started in 2008 most business sectors have seen huge levels of decline. Banks have nearly gone bust, the housing market has collapsed and you can’t even get Pick n Mix at Woolworths anymore. High Taxes, non-existent pay rises and record breaking inflation have meant that the majority of people now have far less expendable income than 5 years ago. However despite all of this more and more new festivals have appeared year upon year with millions of people attending. We are going to look at why in the period of recession the festival market has managed to flourish and grow.

A Quick scan through the list of festivals on our site reveals that many of them have only been running for less than 5 years. Festivals do normally have a short shelf life which is why you often see a large number of new festivals, but the number of new festivals over the last 5 years in previously unprecedented.  So how has the festival industry become seemingly recession proof? We have set out to investigate this and also how festivals will continue to prosper.

Festivals are now the place to be seen. Ever since the papers carried pictures of Kate Moss and Pete Doherty walking around the Glastonbury festival festivals have suddenly become cool. Where as they were the haunts of hard-core music fans they are now seen as places to go with mates, get drunk and catch some music. Notice how many of your mates are ‘checking in’ on Facebook when they’re at a music festival. This is there way of telling you how cool they think they are. Have a look at how many glorious the festival looks on the BBC in the middle of summer. Many people now want the chance to say they were there. As Lee from Bingley Music Live told us ‘What better place is there to hang out with your mates having a good time, seeing their favourite bands, listening to great music than a festival

Dumbing down to attract a wider audience. Anyone looking through recent line ups at major music festivals will have seen a growing mainstream influence. This has allowed the festival circuit to tap into a whole new audience. This might mean festivals are selling out but also means many of the audience are top shop clones who might know the words to a Jessie J song but not anything before 1999.

Modern comforts in a field. Whilst many think that going camping for a weekend at a festival is escaping modern culture they are very wrong. Festivals are now big business run by big companies who know that to make money they need happy comfortable punters. See the rise in the number of high streets shops appearing at festivals. There is also a growing market for glamping, a place for those who want to attend festival but don’t want to slum it in a tent.

Downloads have forced more bands on the Road. Before the age of downloading, bands were able to sell an album for £15 and then pick and choose when and where they performed. Now if a band wants to make any money they have to get our tour and do the festival circuit. This has meant that medium size festivals can now attract larger acts. When the Stone Roses announced their comeback, they announced a one off set off gigs in Manchester and then followed that not with a world tour but a string of festival dates all over Europe.

Improved Payment Plans. Previously if you wanted a ticket it was a case of first come first served and buying your ticket in one go. These days there are a range of offers including Deposit Schemes, Early Birds, Discounts for Past Attendees and 2 for 1. Some festival tickets have even appeared on Discount website Groupon. Cynthia Franklin off Wikifestivals said that ‘Many festivals are also offering 2 for 1 deals, and discounts for those who have attended before, Personally I feel more festivals should adopt the “special offers” approach, as this is not only rewarding to the customer, but also to the festival as well.’

Attracting Sponsors Attracting sponsors is proving harder and harder for many festivals. Last year the Festinho festival had to be cancelled due to been unable to secure sponsorship. Many festivals who previously had sponsorship and funding from councils are finding they now need to seek extra funding due to the councils having to cut back. Maria Cotton from the Holmfirth Food & Drink festival said that ‘The council has been the main sponsor for the past 6 years and we have funding for 2012. After that we will need to look to other avenues for support. Additional sponsorship has come by way of contributions in kind for time and resources.’

Free Festivals and Events. Many new free festivals are cropping up with the intention not of making admission money but of drawing people to the local area. This has meant that people can pay less on the entry cost so have more money to spend within the festival and local area. This has seen an increase in Food and Drink festivals and Local Festivals with numbers dramatically up. Helen Robinson from Grassington Festival advised us that ‘Everyone likes a bargain, especially during a recession, so we always make sure we provide a range of both ticketed and free events, to enable people on any budget join in.’

However it is not all boom, last year saw many smaller festivals having to cancel and Leeds festival still having tickets to sell a few hours before the festival started. Could it now be that the festival bubble has burst or is it simply reaching a point where there are more festivals than there is demand. Many people have now cut back so are now attending fewer higher quality events. This was noted by the Hull Comedy Festival who told us that ‘I don’t think they are necessarily looking for a cheaper festival, I think they are looking for a quality festival that will ensure value for money. Tickets can still be of the large variety and people will pay as long as the festival backs that value up with quality entertainment.’

So as you can see, in these trying times festivals have been able to prosper due to a number of reasons. The future does look very positive for the festival market although many are having to work harder than ever to secure funding and ticket sales. I think that some festivals will have to scale back both the number of days and performances on offer in order to ensure ticket prices are competitive.

We would like to thank Lee from Bingley Music Live, Cynthia from Wikifestivals, Maria Cotton from Kirklees Council, Helen Robinson from Grassington Festival and Hull Comedy Festivals for their responses in the article. If you want to see their full responses please click here.

Article By Neil jones

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