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Festival trends for 2018

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.

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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Eventbrite’s ‘A New Dawn’ looks at the future of UK nightlife

Wednesday night (6 September) saw the launch of a new documentary by Eventbrite, A New Dawn: Meet the Future of UK Nightlife, with which the ticketing/technology company aims to shine a light on the evolution of, and challenges faced by, contemporary nightlife in Britain.

The screening in London was followed by panel session, chaired by journalist/DJ Kate Hutchison, featuring four important figures from the UK’s night-time industries: Alan D. Miller, chairman of the Night Time Industries Association; Johnno Burgess of party/festival brands Bugged Out, Mighty Hoopla and Field Day; Time Out’s music and nightlife editor, Oliver Keens; and Hannah Ross of Manchester DIY collective Partisan.

“What was really great about the film was that it really shows that things aren’t appalling,” said Keens. “There’s still fun to be had in the big cities in the UK and I’m really hopeful we can stress that as much as possible.”

All four panelists, however, agreed there are major challenges for the nightlife industry to overcome. The prohibitive cost of events for budget-conscious young people was a recurring concern, as was the lack of suitable spaces in major cities, and how festival exclusivity periods make it hard for promoters to deliver bills that will attract audiences.

Burgess noted the shift towards daytime raving and special events, while Ross added the slow-moving bureaucracy of licensing is also problematic. Partisan operates under a temporary events notice which limits the venue to just 21 days of events per year – and one under which any event which runs past midnight counts as two days of their allowance.

Keens was eager to emphasise that the rise of food events in nightlife shouldn’t change the essence of the experience. “There’s an art to clubbing or nightlife that shouldn’t be forgotten about,” he stated. “My worry is that we lose all of that expression and it gets subsumed by the very professional industry that is catering, which is very economically driven.”

“Venues should have ownership and freeholds of the spaces, not just leases, so they don’t become victims of their own success”

Miller agreed with this point. He reflected that scenes such as acid house were often driven by people eager to experiment, innovate and take risks. A larger, corporate business, he said, wouldn’t generate the same atmosphere as a DIY initiative with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Miller argued that nightlife should be more pivotal in the planning of urban policy-makers. Every aspect of city life – eg police, licensing, environment and transport – has an impact upon the night scene, but their differing needs often make for frustrating contradictions for clubs.

One of Miller’s suggestions was for huge investment in affordable housing for young people, which would make city life more affordable while also providing cheaper rents for venues. That would be complemented by ensuring that clubs which add to the wealth and ambience of a location shouldn’t subsequently be priced out. “We should campaign that venues should have ownership and freeholds of the spaces, not just leases, so they don’t become victims of their own success in places like Brixton, Peckham and Hackney,” he said.

Despite the challenges, everyone was eager to assert what they’re excited about in the UK clubbing scene: from Bristol’s Al Fresco Disco to creative communities such as the Islington Mill in Salford, and even the hook-them-in-early appeal of baby raves.

Most importantly, however, Miller asserted that people need to stand up for what they believe in.

“We have to have a collective conversation,” he affirmed. “I really don’t think it’s up to people in policy or just the people who are running clubs. I think people who are clubbers and who go out and care about what they want to see should be involved in that conversation. I can’t overestimate how much influence ordinary people can have on that.”


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