Female fans drive strong 2018 for Yourope festivals
European music festival association Yourope has published the results of its 2018 members’ survey, outlining trends in booking, accommodation, audience spread and ticket sales among its nearly 100 member events.
The survey, compiled between September and December 2018, reveals, among other things, that:
- The audience for European festivals is young, with the majority of festivalgoers in 2018 between 15–24 (25%) and 25–29 (48%) years old
- An average of 97 artists performed at Yourope events, with a median value of 70 performers
- More EU artists (54%) performed at Yourope festivals than non-EU (46%)
- 27% of events spent more than €100,000 on marketing, with a further 25% spending in excess of €250,000
- A majority (53%) of surveyed festivals received public funding
- Ticket sales are increasing, rising to an average of 4.8m – up 22% compared to 2014
This consistent increase in ticket sales (a further 100,000 tickets were sold in 2018 compared to the previous year, when the figure was 4.7m) among Yourope members contrasts with IQ’s European Festival Report 2018, which showed a slight fall in attendances accompanied by rising ticket prices – indicating that Yourope’s members are faring better than the European market as a whole.
Tallying with the results of a recent study by UK ticketing platform Skiddle, the Yourope survey also found that just 25% of festivals had more male visitors than female, with a majority of events attracting more women than men:
According to the report, the majority of festival promoters who are members of Yourope considered the 2018 festival season to be ‘good’, with only a minority of festivals below 80% capacity.
However, challenges remain, including increased competition, a lack of headliners, competition and severe weather, with artist fees and security expenses of particular concern, according to an internal opinion poll, as well as the challenging economic situation in much of Europe.
“Festivals have become a very meaningful cultural phenomenon in Europe”
Christof Huber, general secretary of the association, says the survey underlines the importance of music festivals to European cultural life. “In particular reference to the overall development in the number of events, festivals have become a very meaningful cultural phenomenon in Europe,” he says.
“Taking into consideration the fact that the main age group for festival attendees is between 25 and 29 years, it is clear that popular music festivals are supporting cultural exchange between young Europeans by providing essential stages and performance spaces for artists and their audiences.”
Yourope represents nearly 100 music festivals and associated members in 26 European countries, including Wacken Open Air (Germany), Sziget (Hungary), Rock Werchter (Belgium), Rock en Seine (France), Exit (Serbia), OpenAir St Gallen (Switzerland), Bilbao BBK Life (Spain) and Northside (Denmark).
The full report is available from www.yourope.org.
Rising prices and reduced attendance for EU festivals
Despite a seemingly successful year, IQ’s European Festival Report 2018 shows that a continuation of ticket price rises and event attendance reduction is a major concern for organisers of European music festivals in 2018.
Ticket prices for European festivals again rose last year, having stabilised over the 2017 festival season. Festivalgoers paid €178 on average for a 2018 festival ticket, a price hike of 8.3% and an increase well above inflation rates across the continent. Of the 105 festivals that disclosed pricing details, 44 froze prices from 2017 to 2018, 2 lowered prices, and 59 (56.2%) charged more.
The continuing escalation of artist fees, along with increasing production costs, are the main contributors to such increases. Eric van Eerdenburg of Dutch powerhouse Mojo Concerts says the “crisis in talent” is responsible for “pushing up the price that the consumer has to pay”, making it hard to attract a young crowd.
“We’re pricing ourselves out of the business by potentially alienating the next generation of fans and not enough people seem to care about that situation,” says Eerdenburg.
Indeed, in contrast to previous years, festivals reported a slight fall in average capacity last year. On average, events saw a decrease of 2.7% in attendance, from 40,575 in 2017 to 39,475 in 2018.
“We’re pricing ourselves out of the business by potentially alienating the next generation of fans and not enough people seem to care about that situation”
Fewer events sold out in 2018 than during the previous year, with 45% of events selling all tickets as opposed to 53% the year before. Of the surveyed festivals, 18% reported a downturn in ticket sales.
Organisers gave a wide-ranging list of reasons for reduced attendance and ticket sales, citing market saturation, competition from new, small festivals, unfavourable weather, lack of headliners, fear of terror attacks and uncertainties surrounding Brexit.
A record number of 130 events took part in the European Festival Report 2018, reflecting the continual expansion of the European festival market which, despite challenges, shows no signs of slowing down.
Get the full lowdown on Europe’s festival summer, including insights into capacity and attendance, staffing, ticketing and pricing, overseas attendance, VIP options, major improvements and more, in the European Festival Report 2018.
European Festival Report 2018
Compared to recent years, where weather and terrorism had massive impacts on Europe’s festival business, 2018 was infinitely more calm, with few cancellations and promoters across the continent pretty much reporting healthy visitor numbers.
But the hangover of such drama has had a lasting affect, with organisers still citing the events of previous years as hitting their overall business during the most recent festival season.
Unsurprisingly, security at large-scale events has become a major consideration, as noted by one of the continent’s biggest festival organisations, FKP Scorpio, whose Jasper Barendregt states, “Due to fear of threats, the authorities planned to check all personnel working at our festivals, in order to [identify any] individuals with terrorist ties, by feeding the names into national security databases. Due to GDPR regulations and public awareness of them, this became a huge project, binding great resources within the company and the festival structure.
And FKP are not alone. Finland suffered its first ever terror attack in 2017 and Mikko Niemelä, production manager at Ruisrock Festival, tells IQ, “[We made] a lot of investment into security solutions with more security personnel and technical solutions. One interesting pilot project this year was an airport-style camera device that was able to see if a person had any objects hidden under their clothes.”
My main worry is the crisis in talent which is inevitably pushing up the price that the consumer has to pay and that makes attracting new, young consumers very tricky
Undoubtedly, investment in safety and security measures has stepped up in the past couple of years, while some event managers who filled in this year’s European Festival Report survey voiced fears over a lack of trained security personnel in the future. Indeed, at this year’s E3S conference in London, where the industry’s top security leaders gathered to debate the current state of the sector, that very point was made time and time again, with tales of even the largest companies having to beg, borrow and steal personnel from rivals in order to fulfil staffing quotas at festivals and concerts.
Eric van Eerdenburg, from Dutch powerhouse Mojo Concerts, tells IQ that the 2018 season could scarcely have been healthier for the company’s portfolio of festivals, but he is gravely concerned by the long term future. “For us everything went as well as we could hope for: Lowlands was sold out with 60,000 people, Down the Rabbit Hole sold out for the first time with 35,000 people and elsewhere North Sea Jazz did very well and our new hip-hop festival Woo Hah! sold out, so it was a terrific season.”
But he warns of storm clouds on the horizon. “My main worry is the crisis in talent which is inevitably pushing up the price that the consumer has to pay and that makes attracting new, young consumers very tricky,” he states. “We’re pricing ourselves out of the business by potentially alienating the next generation of fans and not enough people seem to care about that situation.”
Another trend to emerge from this year’s report is the festival community’s desire to operate in the most environmentally friendly ways possible. This is summed up by Boomtown, one of Europe’s big success stories. Having grown from 1,000-capacity to 66,000 in just a decade, organisers of the UK festival are under no illusion about the challenges this entails.
In Germany, there are far too many festivals and the competition is big, the most important thing is to be really individual and creative
“Protecting the planet and ensuring we reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible is the driving force behind Chapter 11: A Radial City,” Boomtown says of one of its latest site additions. “The festival will continue to implement initiatives and policies to raise awareness of sustainability whilst at the same time look to educate the public to encourage them to protect Boomtown and the land it inhabits – and to take those lessons home and implement them across their normal lives so that collectively we can make a bigger impact protecting the future of our planet.”
Highlighting the seemingly ever-expanding festival market, 130 events took part in this year’s survey – a record number for IQ’s European Festival Report. And while the following pages track some of the trends and quantitative measures of the business as a whole across the continent, on a territory-by-territory basis, there are many issues to take into account.
In the remote Faroe Islands, Fred Ruddick, creative director at G! Festival comments, “As as an organisation in the Faroe Islands we are central to the music business and projection of the country’s music, so we have our own struggles that are in many ways probably quite unique to us.” That observation underlines the vital importance of many events to their local scenes, and Ruddick adds, “We’re a very small event, 3,850 tickets in 2018, but we do receive a fair amount of press attention due to our unique location.”
In Europe’s biggest live music market, Germany, the experience is very different. “The season was challenging for many,” notes Lollapalooza Berlin’s Fruzsina Szép. “The ones who thought they would sell out did not sell out. In Germany, there are far too many festivals and the competition is big. But the most important thing is to be really individual and creative and crazy enough to create special places, venues and spaces at your festivals that are outstanding and have the WOW effect for visitors. It’s crucial to be the first with new ideas and not to copy others.”
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