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How festival ticket sales are holding up in 2023

TicketSellers CEO Phil Hayes discusses the impact the current economic climate is having on festival ticket sales

10 Feb 2023

Phil Hayes, CEO of UK-based ticket agent TicketSellers, gave a presentation to delegates at the Association of Independent Festivals’ 2023 Festival Congress in early February. Here, he discusses the impact of the current economic climate on festival ticket sales…

Rent, mortgages, heating, food… as people’s finances are squeezed during what is a very difficult cost of living crisis and a crippling recession, many are having to prioritise their spending, with less for entertainment and luxuries. It would be sensible to predict, then, that festival ticket sales will be negatively affected this year by the current economic climate.

At TicketSellers, we’ve got a lot of data on people who buy tickets, so I decided to find out just how much of an impact the current crisis is having. To do this, I took 30 representative festivals and looked at the first 60 days of their tickets being on sale for summer 2023 compared to the same period last year.

The headlines were that the total number of ticket sales across these 30 festivals was indeed down by around 4%. We may see this correct itself as the festival season draws nearer but, at the moment, fewer people are buying tickets. However, the total revenue taken by these festivals was actually up 14% year-on-year. Congratulations! Festival organisers have put their prices up and people are still willing to buy tickets, even at a slightly higher price point.

“On the club side of TicketSellers’ business, we’re seeing around 25% of people who have bought tickets not bothering to turn up on the night”

Overall, it’s good news financially, but organisers need to make sure that sales actually translate into as many people passing through the turnstiles as possible. On the club side of TicketSellers’ business, we’re seeing around 25% of people who have bought tickets not bothering to turn up on the night.

Festivals are more expensive, of course, so people are more likely to attend. However, last year, 65% of TicketSellers’ customer support emails were related to refunds. As a comparison: that figure was at just 16% during the last proper festival season we had.

Customers have learned that, if they complain enough, they can get a refund. And, if that fails, they can use the chargeback protection that comes with credit, debit and charge cards. For promoters, this can cause real problems – and not just financial ones. For any event using self-service or self-payment systems, a wave of refund requests can be really tricky to deal with in a purely logistical sense. So, how might we lower the burden for festival lovers, help them pay for their ticket and hold on to them until the event itself during a challenging economic time?

I also looked at consumers who use payment plans for festival tickets, specifically everyone who’d engaged with a payment plan last year, compared to everyone who has used one so far in 2023. Generally speaking, we are seeing more people engage with payment plans this year, with a 33% increase in engagement YoY overall.

“Payment plans are a great way of helping consumers attend your festival during the difficult economic climate”

Zeroing in on specific age brackets, engagement has increased from 4% to 6% among people born in the early ’80s; and from 5% to 8% among people born in the early ’90s. The biggest increase in payment plan uptake comes from those around the age of 24 (from 5% to 9.5%)

When it comes to the very young demographic – between the ages of around 18-22, last year we saw a 7% engagement, which hasn’t been matched yet, but I fully expect to see the above trend continue and the gap increase even more as members of that generation commit to summer plans.

So, payment plans are a great way of helping consumers attend your festival during the difficult economic climate and becoming more popular. And there are different ways of structuring payment plan offerings to be even more flexible still. For example, we’re seeing payment plans being offered over longer periods of up to around 10 months; and allowing ticket-holders to pay off their balance as and when it suits them up to a deadline, rather than through set recurring monthly payments, is another approach that has worked well with our clients.

If you do want to try and get people on to payment plans to help ease them through that slightly higher ticket price, don’t market heavily to the older demographic – particularly anyone who is in the 40+ bracket. It’s younger people that you need to pitch payment plans to, but be aware that many on the younger end may not commit just yet.

The good news then: despite all the squeezes on music fans’ money, they still want to come to festivals and many are willing to pay a bit extra to do so. Indeed, it seems that sell out festivals are still selling out, as they have established themselves as permanent annual fixtures on peoples’ calendars. For every other event below that top tier, offering consumers flexibility about how and when they pay for their ticket (and having the necessary infrastructure in place to deal with problems) is only becoming more important when it comes to getting people through the gates.


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