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OVERSATURATED, MAYBE, BUT FESTIVALS ARE FAR FROM OVER


Festivals large and small continue to close across the UK - is the ‘cream rising’ in the market? LIVE


 BY FREDDIE FELLOWES, FOUNDER, SECRET GARDEN PARTY / BOARD MEMBER, AIF


guard expect. But wait, Sonisphere and The Big Chill are not small festivals and tickets for Reading and Leeds are going for less in the secondary market than in the primary. This is clearly not as simple as Live Nation, Gaiety and SJM are hoping. It appears bleak out there if we look at some


“ F


estivals are dead,” proclaimed The Daily Mail last autumn – and with the absence of Glastonbury and the cancellation of


Sonisphere and Big Chill it seems one trend has stopped and another started. Once the stock subject in our press of feelgood here-comes- summer items are now seemingly only featuring in tales of woe. The industry is saturated, we are told; people are bored with a fad that has worn thin. Maybe they are right. You would expect a


relatively new industry to go through a boom phase and then contract as it stabilises. To quote John Giddings, speaking on Radio 1’s Newsbeat, “There are just too many events now in the UK and it’s impossible for them all to survive. The market is saturated… I don’t think there will be a big casualty; I think there will be smaller ones. I think it’s like a culling affect at a lower level”. So all is fine says the Isle of White Festival organiser; this is exactly as the experienced old


statistics: overall UK licensed capacity dropped for the first time in 2009 and has been slowly decreasing, ticket price has on average doubled in the last 10 years, in 2005 a festival fan would attend two to four festivals per summer compared to around one in 2011. Add to this a recession and the growing exhaustion of the headliner stable available for the large events and it doesn’t bode well. At the same time I can’t read these figures and


signs without feeling like the sun is shining and I’m seeing a weather report that says its raining. All of the promoters I meet on a regular basis


are telling me tickets have never sold quicker and most say they are going at more than twice the rate and the Secret Garden Party has already sold out in record time. So what’s going on? Well two things; firstly, everything above is


absolutely true, but the freefalling record industry and market diversity has been hard on the traditional model of a music festival. When the market comprises health-spa food festivals in forests, literary and drama wonderlands on the south coast and everything in between, a bare field touting the same old line-ups doesn’t really compete for the market pound the way it used to. Don’t get me wrong, I am not having a swing at the Readings of the world; in fact I would count


“The


promoters I meet on a regular basis


are telling me tickets have never sold


quicker and the Secret


Garden Party has already sold out in record time” FREDDIE FELLOWES


one of my best weekends ever being spent there. But if the line-ups can’t sparkle then that’s all they have. It’s something Melvin Benn at Festival


Republic has been quoted on, saying, “What we may be looking at is a bit of a reshaping of what a festival is, becoming less dependent on headliners and more dependent on an overall vibe, an overall feel and experience”. Well, if you started your event from scratch,


like anyone in the independent festival market, then ‘vibe, overall feel and experience’ was all you had to offer. Secondly, and maybe more importantly,


festivals – the 10-year darling of the Sunday supplements – have seemingly exhausted all possible angles for journalists. Having looked with dread at the encroaching summer, knowing full well that editors are going to demand the requisite number of feelgood festival pieces (complete with picture of a pretty girl on someone’s shoulders waving a flower) they now have a respite. Finally there is something new to write about


for all the tired hacks out there – the ‘festivals are over’ piece, presumably accompanied by a requisite photo of an empty, muddy, litter-strewn field. So look forward to many more articles this


spring and summer telling you how bad it is out there. It isn’t. The sun is shining and the cream is rising.


AIF’S TWIN GOALS


The Association of Independent Festivals set up their Twin Festival initiative in 2010 after Rob Challice, director of Summer Sundae Weekender, came up with the idea based on the concept of Twin Cities. The initiative pairs like-minded events in order to


build international relationships within the festival industry and enhance the festival experience for their audiences. Twins develop unique creative partnerships and are encouraged to engage in activities such as cross promotion and sharing tips on best practice. Bestival recently announced their partnership


with EXIT Festival, Serbia. As well as exchanging acts, both events will provide audiences with the opportunity to win tickets to the twin festival. Also newly twinned are Shambala and French festival We Love Green. Both events embrace an ethical ethos and look forward to sharing tip and ideas on sustainability at outdoor events. Two Anglo-Norwegian festivals are also signed up


to the scheme – London’s Field Day with Øya Festival and the Summer Sundae Weekender in Leicester with Bergenfest.


18.05.12 MusicWeek 23


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