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Festival trends for 2018

Katie McPhee, head of marketing at Eventbrite UK and Ireland, considers the changes and innovations likely to impact this year's festival season

28 Mar 2018

Katie McPhee, Eventbrite

The festival experience is evolving, and 2018 looks set to be a time in which current trends gain significant traction. As the core demographic, millennials are the driving force behind the changing face of the modern festival.

The experience economy
As our recent research paper confirmed, millennials prioritise experiences over material goods. This will continue to have a significant and varied impact on the festival world this year. We’re already seeing innovation throughout the sector, for example, Camp Wildfire’s outdoor activities or mediaeval weapons training at Swordpunk. The desire to seek unique experiences is also inspiring the growth of experiential activation at festivals. At Festival №6, Old Mout (cider) solved two issues at once with a simple method: 1) Old Mout wanted to build awareness for the adventurous aspect of their brand, and 2) People don’t enjoy queuing at bars. The solution: They built an Old Mout slide that people could use to bypass the bar queue.

On a grander scale, interactive art installations are already common, and VR, AR and AI will eventually make such ideas bigger and more fantastical. As such, tech will become more common, and we’ll see more technology companies collaborate with both festival organisers and brands.

Wellness
The desire to seek out new experiences also ties into the current wellness trend. In our recent research, we’ve seen that old-school festival hedonism is changing. Young people are drinking less, eating better and aspire to achieve physical and mental wellbeing. Many wellness pursuits are experiences in their own right. Wilderness Festival hosted hip-hop yoga, qoya dancing and ommersion, which mixes Mongolian overtone chanting with a gong bath and aromatherapy, and is an experience to remember.

We’ll see wellness continue to grow throughout 2018, following the success of events like Morning Gloryville and Soul Circus. Wellness is a natural fit for a festival’s communal vibe. As Morning Gloryville’s Samantha Moyo said in our documentary A New Dawn: Meet the Future of UK Nightlife, “We really looked at all aspects of clubbing and partying and we were just like, how can we make the journey different for people who come so the experience is much more healthy, grounded and transformative?”

“The tried-and-tested festival format of bands supplemented by little more than a comedy or film tent is on its way out”

The combination of the above factors means that music festivals are becoming much more diverse, colourful and experiential. The tried-and-tested festival format of bands supplemented by little more than a comedy or film tent is on its way out. Independent festivals, which have the freedom and courage to experiment and innovate, will continue to be the main drivers behind this change, before it eventually permeates the entire industry.

Inconspicuous technology
Looking at event technology, we predict that the truly impactful innovation will continue to seem quite unspectacular – at least compared to headline-grabbing tech such as VR, AR and on-stage holograms.

One example of how technology will subtly help improve festivals is the next generation of RFID technology. Its benefits include rapid event entry, shorter queues and faster, cashless transactions. RFID can create a wealth of data that can help event creators better understand and optimise their festivals, making it much easier to convince potential sponsors to come on board.

An ever-evolving range and depth of distribution and integration partnerships between ticketing companies and platforms for entertainment (eg Eventbrite’s integrations with Spotify, Facebook, Bandsintown or Ents24) will also make it easier for consumers to find and buy tickets. In an era in which sales via mass email newsletters are in decline, independent organisers can now sell directly to consumers via this distributed form of sales, bypassing existing monopolies on customer data, and building their own base of fans for future campaigns.

All in all, festivals will change for the better in 2018. We can expect more diverse experiences, and new-and-improved technology will benefit both the industry and consumers, but for the most part it will be a subtle evolution, rather than a dramatic sea change.

Millennials will be the ones that demand this change, as they strive for new experiences and wellness. Flexible, innovative and independent festivals are best placed to deliver on this. We can’t wait to see what the year ahead will bring.

 


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