The evolution of the festival

Other | Thursday 20th June 2013 | Keshav

From Glastonbury to Wireless the UK is now the home of large scale music festivals. As festival season rolls in hundreds of thousands of excited revellers make their way up and down the country for the four day music bonanzas.  In the last twenty years there went from being just two or three festivals to there being literally hundreds scattered all over the country. Many journalists and commentators now believe that attitudes of the traditional festival goers have radically changed.

It is now common for us to see many festivals dominated by young people and booze. As the summer comes in, the younger generation now see the weekend as a ‘rite of passage’. They see it as a chance to meet likeminded people and enjoy the different bands on show as well as having a bit of fun! A survey recently also suggested that 46% of people that attend music festivals are officially single / unattached. Does this suggest that people are going to festivals to look for love? I think not, but this is certainly an evolution that the modern day festival has seen.

Alcohol consumption is becoming a serious problem in festivals nowadays. As recently as last week Glastonbury organisers warned festival goers not to ruin their weekend by alcohol.  During festival weekend newspapers are plastered with images of people literally brining trolleys full of beer and cider. It is estimated that the average person consumer 50 units of alcohol during a typical festival weekend (the daily average is 2 -3 units). Many artists and volunteers themselves complain that people are far too drunk during the whole weekend and often ruin the festival for others. Many people just use the festival as a weekend binge and fail to enjoy the music on show which is a disappointment especially to the artists who hope to impress and capture a new fan base.

Festivals have become a lucrative business in the past ten years. Take for example T in the park. Scotland’s biggest festival only attracts around 17.5% of people from the country itself. The rest of the annual 70,000 visitors come from abroad. It is estimated that the T weekend brings in more than £400million for the Scottish economy. Festival organisers year in year out see profits climbing as they attract more and fans. In 2009 a report published on the festival market suggested that an estimated 3 million people went to festivals. The report also suggests that the in the months between 2005 -2006 capacity increased by 60% and ticket prices have risen faster than inflation since 2004. It is startling to believe that every summer people part with such a large amount of cash for a single weekend.

However it’s not all plain sailing. It’s not the 60% of the market is controlled by large events companies such as Livenation which struggle. It is however the remaining 40%. Smaller festivals were hit by the financial crisis hard with many claiming that the indie festival industry was certainly on its way down. After many of the smaller festivals fold and with financial problems still lingering it’s difficult to see the industry really picking up and in a few years many predict a full circle return to a system where there are only 5-10 big festivals running in a country.  

The festival business has now become an internationally competitive industry. This is true especially in Europe. With people willing to flock from all over the globe to come and enjoy the weekend festivals need now more than ever to attract bigger artists. This is for example why we saw Glastonbury a traditionally indie festival being headlined by Jay Z and Beyoncé. The organisers came in for criticism for damaging the Glasto reputation however it clearly shows a strategy. To compete with big festivals across Europe such as ‘Sziget’ in Budapest and ‘Pinkpop’ in Holland organisers need to attract a new sort of crowd and branch out to keep their festival ahead of the game. Every year as line up’s are announced they just keep getting bigger and bigger prompting fans to flood in to see their favourite artists for a price that works at £1 per band at a big music festival . Value for money? Certainly is.

 Over the years we have seen music festivals become more and more about culture. Many festivals have alternative stages which include art, comedy and even sometimes live demonstrations. The festival has become about more than just the music but now provides an experience for all. Once again this is a ploy by companies to help sell more tickets and to be able to branch out. However it’s all not all bad, festival goers have gained the most from these new alternative stages which allow them to take a break from all the music and experience something else. The festival to first encourage this was Glastonbury because of its alternative arty scene. However now at festivals you see more people than even wanting to go to the art/ comedy tent because they are looking for something different and new.   

Sponsorship has also become a big new part of festivals. With big corporate companies realising the potential of this market they have pumped funds into these yearly extravaganzas. Now at festivals you see for example stalls selling ‘coke’ only or stages sponsored by ‘red bull’ suggesting that the festival has now become a corporate goldmine. Modern day festivals have seen a dramatic rise in the number of single day tickets going on sale. Festival goes now only chose to go and see their favourite acts on a singular day at a much cheaper rate than a weekend ticket. This has also seen overall revenue increase dramatically.

Who knows what the future holds for the festival, maybe a 3D based festival? Maybe a cyber space festival? All suggestions which are not ridiculous but seem a long way off. For now though it’s safe to say the festival is evolving every year, getting bigger and better

Keshav Kapoor