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What can the live sector learn from Glastonbury life through a TikTok lens?

Will Franklin, director of music and events at round, discusses how TikTok and user-generated content can bring the true essence of events to a global audience

05 Jul 2024

Since its first live Glastonbury broadcast in 1997, the BBC has been the go-to source for fans either wallowing in their FOMO, having missed out on those elusive tickets yet again, or for viewers more than happy to experience the festival from the comfort of their sofas. The BBC’s mammoth programme of highlights and live coverage provide alternative access to the festival, showcasing the music and magic of Glastonbury.

This year, as part of its longstanding commitment to the festival, the BBC added a second Glastonbury channel featuring a rolling line-up of highlights and talking points, hoping to engage and involve more people in this phenomenal cultural moment. The BBC’s record viewing figures from last year showed that Glastonbury 2023 content was viewed over 50.3 million times on BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds, a massive increase of 49% on 2022.

In a fast-evolving media landscape, where user-generated content (UGC) increasingly serves as a cultural barometer, the BBC coverage is still critical to the success and international profile of Glastonbury and its artists. But the kaleidoscopic lens of UGC, directly sourced from fans on the grounds of the iconic festival, brings its own value that live events need as much as the polished direction of a BBC crew.

Even if this year’s BBC viewing figures were to double, they would still fall short of TikTok’s numbers

The top 1,000 TikTok videos related to the 2024 Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts have gained over 177 million views (and counting). In comparison, even if this year’s BBC viewing figures were to double, they would still fall short of TikTok’s numbers. While some TikTok views come from the BBC’s channels and those of other official publications, excluding views from entities like ITV, Daily Mail and Glastonbury’s official account, there are still over 150 million views from unofficial sources. The top 1,000 videos surfaced this year from just 456 different accounts.

In other words, less than 0.3% of attendees are defining the Glastonbury experience for the hundreds of millions viewing this content – an incredible sway of influence for a tiny group of people who are moulding the way the festival is seen and understood around the world.

The top-performing posts on TikTok largely follow a trend we have seen across festival content in recent years: experience over music. The top content filmed by attendees this year focuses more on the festival experience than the music itself. TikTok viewers are driven by curiosity about what Glastonbury is really like; top videos are wholesome and diverse, emphasising the on the ground, first person experience. For example, ‘mum-fluencer’ @oliviaclairem’s posts about traversing Glastonbury with a toddler have amassed over 10 million views, while travel influencer @travelsbytash’s video of a mass ‘Assembly songs’ sing-along racked up three million views.

UGC content offers an intimate, authentic behind-the-scenes view of live music

These TikToks and influencers on the ground bring the authentic Glastonbury experience to life, showcasing the festival through the lens of real people living genuine moments far beyond the curated showreels seen on the BBC. UGC content offers an intimate, authentic behind-the-scenes view of live music, reminding us that festivals are more than just the artists on stage; it is the sense of community among fans and the shared experiences that define these events. With its rich history and enduring spirit, Glastonbury exemplifies this better than any other festival. Glastonbury’s diverse mix of people and cultures shapes its narrative, creating a vibrant tapestry of memories and voices. TikTok emphasises this communal aspect, bringing the essence of the festival closer to fans worldwide.

By contrast, BBC’s broadcast content tends to be relatively one-dimensional, their license fee resources and tighter briefs having to be more selective, driven by mass appeal. Over the weekend, highlights included headliners Coldplay bringing out Michael J. Fox and Dua Lipa’s set – moments prominently shared across the BBC’s core broadcast channel accounts (BBC Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 1Xtra, and Radio 6), leading to a 6% follower growth.

TikTok has emerged as the most influential promotional platform in contemporary culture

TikTok offers scope for, and delivers, a more diverse representation of artists in its top-performing posts. Our proprietary data shows that the most popular videos on the BBC’s TikTok accounts feature a much wider range of performers, including K-pop band Seventeen, Burna Boy, Ayra Starr, D-Block Europe, Tems and Dave’s cameo, all contributing millions of views. This increased diversity better showcases the breadth of the festival’s musical reach, giving a platform to a variety of artists and underrepresented genres.

So what should we take away from all this? TikTok has emerged as the most influential promotional platform in contemporary culture. Both large and small live events can and should be harnessing UGC to craft narratives that tell the real story behind the authentic experience they offer. This is what live events offer fans that they can’t get elsewhere. Reaching the festival fans of tomorrow means showing them what they are missing.

It is communities that bring to life the magic of a festival and TikTok is the messenger, bringing the true essence of events to a global audience.


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