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Five takeaways from the International Festival Forum

Sage advice and crystal ball gazing from world-renowned festival professionals and booking agents in attendance at IFF 2022

By IQ on 04 Oct 2022

Gordon Masson, Rauha Kyyrö, Chris Payne

Gordon Masson, Rauha Kyyrö, Chris Payne

image © James Drury

A record 800 delegates from 40 countries flocked to the eighth edition of the International Festival Forum (IFF) in London, last week.

With the world’s best-known festival professionals and booking agents in attendance, IQ has compiled some key takeaways from this year’s event.

Play it safe and route your tours selectively
During the panel Festivals & Agents: Happier than ever? Chris Payne (WME, UK) voiced concerns about the viability of club shows, both for the fans and the touring industry.

“I don’t know that the next generation is going to want to go to a club in their town, be it Bedford or Coventry. They will go online. I’m worried about clubs generally because the ticket price is very expensive, and bands can’t afford to tour for anything less than £1,200–1,500 [per night] but then we’re missing a gap [in the touring ecosystem]. We can’t just skip straight to 800 capacity venues”

Payne also said that agents will need to be selective about which markets their artists play in 2023 in order to curb losses.

“You know your major markets will likely sell,” he said. “The ticket prices are going to be difficult… but it’s going to look better in your Londons or Amsterdams or Berlins than in a fifth market or a sixth market – I don’t think that’s [possible in] 2023. Forget those regional shows, if you’re not sure. There’s nothing worse than losing money on those one or two shows and then it wipes out your profit.”

Payne’s thoughts were echoed by One Finiix Live’s Jess Kinn during the New Kids on the Block panel, who said: “We need to make sure we’re not just putting an artist out there for the sake of it and really stick to the strategy of only touring at the right time, especially now,” she said. “Being able to pick and choose helps.”

Payne continued: “Next year will be about making safe bets. Personally, I won’t be trying to take a big bite out of the market next year, I just want to remain stable.”

“Even if it’s a partner I don’t like or a brand I hate, I have to start considering it”

Reconsider sponsorship offers in order to keep ticket prices down
Speaking during Festivals & Agents: Happier than ever? Cindy Castillo (Mad Cool, ES) said that festivals may have to be less fussy about their partners in order to secure much-needed cash and keep ticket prices down.

“We now need to adapt, as a festival, to things that we wouldn’t have done before in order to keep the prices affordable,” she said.

“For example, brands would come to us and say ‘Hey, I want to sponsor your festival’ and if it was not a brand that we share values with, I would have said no – it doesn’t matter the amount of money you put in. But now, even if it’s a partner I don’t like or a brand I hate, I have to start considering it. We have a business here and we need to keep it running and working.”

“People are going to have to choose whether they want to go on vacation or whether they want to do a festival as a holiday”

Be cheap or be unique to attract fans
With the projected increase in ticket prices and a decrease in fans’ disposable income, festival bosses are anticipating tough competition in 2023. During The Festival Season 2022 panel, Primary Talent’s Sally Dunstone ventured that destination festivals may come out on top if fans are forced to choose between a holiday or a festival.

“People have to be more careful with how they spend their money,” she explained. “So people are going to have to choose whether they want to go on vacation or whether they want to do a festival as a holiday.”

Detlef Kornett (DEAG, DE) added: “Recession is going to hit us and I think we will see people that left our industry return because logistics and retail and construction, all of them will suffer. Starting a new festival will be a big challenge. I like to say that next year is going to be about ‘be unique or be cheap’, but anything in the middle will be really difficult to get through.”

“There needs to be a way for us to keep people who can’t afford [festivals] the chance to see live music”

Be careful of pricing out certain groups of fans
During one of many discussions about ticket prices, Rauha Kyyrö (Fullsteam Agency, FI) said that increasing the cost for consumers could price out certain groups, making festivals less accessible for all.

“One real concern I have is that we’re making these events less and less inclusive,” she said. “We have to start thinking about ways to let people in for a very, very low price. I don’t know how we justify it, but there needs to be a way to allow people who can’t afford it the chance to see live music.

Nikolaj Thorenfeldt (Smash! Bang! Pow!, DK) added: “‘Inclusive’ is incredibly important. It’s the first word in our office when we discuss building a new event because they have to be for everybody. Everybody has to feel welcome. If you’re pricing out several customer groups, that is not the right direction.”

During The Festival Season 2022 Karolina Kozlowska (Live Nation, SE) said there had been a huge increase in VIP and platinum ticket sales, which could theoretically help subsidise cheaper tickets in the future.

“Some people are very willing to buy the more expensive ticket to get that extra comfortable experience,” said Kozlowska. “So you might not need to raise all your ticket prices – at least not by 20% – if you can make better experiences for the VIP or platinum guests which then allows the young kids an affordable ticket.”

“I think we’re going to see more and more questions about touring and how we tour”

Rethink the way you tour, to protect everyone’s mental health
With an increasing number of artists cancelling tours due to mental health concerns, James Wright (UTA, UK) was keen to remind the industry that it’s not just those on the stage that are at risk of burn out.

“It’s encouraging that [this issue] is getting the press coverage that it is because it’s been under-discussed in the public domain for a very long time. But it’s not just the artists who get the headlines; it’s the burnt-out tour manager or it’s the crew that are physically exhausted.

“We’re going to see more and more questions about touring and how we tour; length of tours, turnaround of shows more crew required and so. It’s a big topic.

“Going forward, a lot more needs to come from agents about how we route tours. There needs to be conversations with the artists and management ahead of time, to talk about how they want to tour and what their expectations are. And it’s the whole ecosystem that needs to work together.”

IFF returns to London from 26-28 September, 2023.


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