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French festival attendance reaches five-year high

Nearly 3.5m people attended France's 30 biggest festivals in 2016, as the sector continues to defy challenges from domestic terrorism and a sluggish economy

By Jon Chapple on 25 Jan 2017

Les Vieilles Charrues 2015, Carhaix, Brittany, France, Thesupermat

More than 150,000 people attended Vieilles Charrues 2015 – a feat it repeated last year

image © Thesupermat/Wikimedia Commons

The threat of terror and lingering economic woes failed to put a dent in music festival attendance in France in 2016, with the 30 most popular recording their highest attendance in at least five years, new data reveals.

In its annual analysis of the social media presences of France’s 30 biggest festivals, SocialBand found the top 30 (headed by Les Vieilles Charrues) attracted close to 3.47 million attendees in 2016 – an increase of 11% on 2015’s 3.52m. The average attendance was 119,909, compared to 117,425 the previous year.

As in 2015, Les Vieilles Charrues, in Carhaix, Britanny, saw an attendance in excess of 250,000, matched only by two-week jazz festival Jazz in Marciac, with Solidays, Jazz à Vienne and Festival de Carcassonne all attracting more than 200,000 festivalgoers. More than three quarters of the top 30 increased attendance, with seven seeing a decline.

The figures follow a report by IQ in July which found many believed the 2016 festival season to be one of the best in living memory – a sentiment echoed the following month by culture minister Audrey Azoulay, who praised that summer’s “exceptional” ticket sales.

A greater proportion of French people now feel attending concerts is important to combat the “atmosphere of crisis” that has prevailed since the Bataclan massacre

France’s biggest festivals have grown consistently since SocialBand’s first study in 2012, with year-on-year growth of 5% in 2015 (to 3.52m); 9% in 2014 (to 3.45m); and 7.3% in 2013 (to 3.18m).

Prodiss, the association of French promoters, festivals and venues, says although audiences at live shows (as opposed to festivals specifically) declined slightly in 2016 (-4%), a greater proportion of French people now feel attending concerts is important to combat the “atmosphere of crisis” that has prevailed since the Bataclan massacre in November 2015.

Presenting the findings of its Baromètre du Live 2016 survey at the MaMA Festival & Convention in October, Prodiss, represented by president Luc Gaurichon and general secretary Malika Séguineau, said that “even more so than last year, the French believe the entertainment industry helps to fight against the atmosphere of crisis in France. The public report they continue to go to shows to feel emotion and experience exceptional moments to share.”

A similar study by the Centre national de la chanson, des variétés et du jazz (CNV), Centre d’information et de ressources pour les musiques actuelles (Irma) and collection society Sacem, Barofest 2016, found the “attractiveness of festivals in France is stronger than ever”.


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